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N2.4bn Fertilizer Scam: Agric Ministry Debunks EFCC Allegation

The Guardian - July 12, 2014

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development yesterday cleared the air over an allegation by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) on the involvement of some of its officials in an attempt to swindle a N2.4billion fund meant for the procurement and distribution of fertilizer.

The EFCC in its Abuja office had quizzed the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, and other top official in the ministry over the controversial deal, alleging that some officials of the ministry connived with some agro dealers to cheat the government.

Odusote, in an interaction with some reporters in Abuja, denied the allegation, saying nothing of such happened; rather it was an attempt by the agro dealers to use the Growth Enhancement Support Programme (GES) as an avenue to defraud the government, and collect money for the fertilizer they did not supply to farmers.

She pointed out that through the platform created by the ministry to checkmate corruption in the fertilizer distribution system; they were able to discover intended fraud by three agro dealer companies who had collected loan from their banks for the GES programme.

She said: “When they presented their claims for the 50 per cent government subsidy, it was discovered that the quantity of fertilizer they presented as having given out to farmers did not match with what was in our system.

“They presented claim to collect N1.3b from the ministry where record showed that they were supposed to be given N844m, so we decided not to pay them such amount until they confirmed how they arrived at such figure, because we believe our IT-based system to be very factual which showed to us 844m is what the government of Nigeria needs to pay the dealers.

“We stepped down their payment and raised an alarm that there is something fishy happening at the GES programme, and the banks also raised the alarm with EFCC. The EFCC invited us for questioning in their office to confirm if we have paid the agro dealers, and we explained to them why we have not paid them. So we were told to go ahead with the payment of the N844,700,000. The payment is currently being processed and latest, by next tomorrow, the agro dealers would get their money.

Odusote said: “There is actually no truth in the said report, the GES programme is very transparent and it is not possible for any government official to defraud the government because it is a private sector led initiative.”

Reacting on how fertilizers meant for Nigerian farmers get to neighbouring countries, she said the ministry does not have fertilizer stored in its warehouse, rather the agro dealers should be blamed, adding that government only pays for the fertilizer collected by farmers registered on their data base.

“We have the records. Farmers are only entitled to two bags of subsidized fertilizer, so we count one by one how and where farmers redeem their fertilizers.”

She disclosed that the defaulting agro dealers have been suspended from further dealing with the ministry pending the resolution of their case.

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