By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to go after those sabotaging the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative by selling the NPK products above the government recommended prices.
This is as the National Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, has said that it plans to raise and invest over 200 million dollars in Nigeria’s health sector.
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Authority, Uche Orji, disclosed this at the weekly ministerial briefing organized by the Presidential Media Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said that the planned investment of over $200 million was targeted at injecting major investments in pharmaceutical infrastructure, including the manufacture of essential drugs, vaccines and construction of cancer centres in the nation’s healthcare sector.
He explained that the investment plan was to break the nation’s huge dependence on foreign logistics, adding that it was targeted towards raising the said amount in collaboration with some interested investors.
Fielding questions on whether there was any mechanism put in place by NSIA to monitor pricing and distribution of fertilizer all over the country especially as the NPK products and MOP were said to be sold above the government recommended prices in some parts of Southeast, he said that the President had directed the EFCC to go after the racketeers and bring them to book.
He said, “let me speak to something very quickly. You talk about MOP. You are not supposed to buy MOP from us. We do NPK 20 1010. So anybody that does not buy an NPK 20 1010 is buying a specialised products.
“NPK 20 1010 was recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture as the base product for all Nigerian farmers. Any other blend, any other mix is not what we produce.
“So I can only speak on NPK 20 1010, which was designed as a core product for fertiliser across the country. So if you’re doing something special and you need something different, that’s a whole different conversation between you and whoever is telling you to import.
“But there is a whistleblower number that is monitored by fertiliser producer supply association of Nigeria.
“You should call them we used to monitor those but since we’ve added it to the industry, the industry is now in charge of ensuring that there’s no racketeering.
“So if you have one or two areas where people are trying to racketeer do let us know. But in the main, we monitor what’s going on in the industry, because our job now is being in raw materials, but we make sure that it’s not being abused.
“And so if that is happening, to let us know, report to FEFSON, I believe on the bag of fertiliser, there should be a whistleblower number to report that somebody is racketeering.
“But also be very careful about anybody who’s trying to adulterate or do things like. I was very pleased to see what Ebonyi State did two days ago, they rounded up some people who are trying to do things like that.
“This is not right, the President took a lot of personal initiative in negotiating discounts with Morocco, discounts with Russia to bring the raw materials we don’t have, it is not for one or two persons to try and racketeer, that will be regarded as economic sabotage.
“And let me also remind you all the President has ordered EFCC to look into these things. So clear directive, so please report any sabotage because the EFCC has been directed and mandated to make sure that they are actually investigating these matters.”
Expressing optimism that something unique would be done this year, Orji said, “In NSIA, we can sponsor, we can co-develop and we can just invest. We are looking at all three options; the more difficult ones, we will do ourselves and the easier ones we will look at some companies that already have existing infrastructure and work with them.
“Some of these infrastructures are just so archaic and so far behind and it is better to just build them brand new, like we did with the Cancer centre in Lagos University Teaching Hospital, we just demolished it and started afresh. So these are all things we need to do but we have established the fact that it is important, we will do that and I am certain we will complete something in healthcare this year.
“We are trying to raise a $200 million fund; not just us, there are other investors that have indicate interest so the documentation for getting the third party funds is ongoing”, he said.
Orji disclosed that so far, the NSIA has been able to do three major things in the health sector through its Healthcare Investment Company.
“There are three things we have done in healthcare. First of all, the NSIA has a Healthcare Investment Company, through which we initially wanted to tackle all the challenges in the health sector but we realized that if you take it all at once, you are probably not going to succeed.
“So, we decided to do two things, first of all, you showcase an area that is of interest to Nigerians and we took cancer and we went to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and said can we take over your cancer centre and rebuild it?
“Secondly, we now built two world-class diagnostic and radiology centres in Kano and Umuahia.
“I am happy to report that those centres have been successful. Initially, we hired a management team from South Africa, it didn’t work, we fired them and built our own management team.
“At the moment all these are working well; the health company, LUTH cancer centre and the diagnostic centres,” he said.
The NSIA Chief Executive Officer also announced that the organization will soon build 20 cancer centres across the country.
He listed the Lagos-Ibadan and the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressways as well as the second Niger bridge as the main areas the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was making intervention.
He said that all projects carried out by the NSIA were the President’s legacy projects and the inauguration of many of them would be done next year.
He stated that the Lagos-Shagamu stretch of the Lagos-Ibadan Highway was about 70 per cent completed and should be delivered by July 2022, adding that the cost of construction of the entire 127 kilometre stands at around N311 billion.
He said, “In terms of the footprints of our investment through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), these are the President’s legacy projects and we are just there as mangers of those projects.
“The PIDF was set up in 2018 with an objective of attacking certain areas where we have been stuck as a country.
“There were some projects that have been on the drawing board for 40 or 50 years, no movement.
“So, the President decided to isolate them form the current process and create a new funding mechanism to make those projects move faster.
“Second Niger Bridge, for example, has been on the drawing board since 1976 and there was no movement on that project until the PIDF was effectively set up; Lagos-Ibadan expressway faced a similar type of circumstances; Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road, these are projects that have been stuck, Mambila hydropower project us also there, everybody knows that we need to redo them to make sure that we drive economic activity a bit more effectively.
“So PIDF was set up as a mechanism that creates a vehicle that takes government contribution, NSIA’s contribution and opens the door for investors to come in as a way to make sure we finish these roads on time and the progress has been quite impressive”, he said.
He said the NSIA will manage a tolling system on major highways across the country, including the ongoing Lagos-Ibadan Expressway when concessioning arrangements are completed, explaining that the new arrangement is to enable government get appropriate value for investments made on road projects.