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Rumpus over fertilizer contract

Posted by By LUCKY NWANKWERE, Abuja on 2008/03/24 | Views: 414 |

Rumpus over fertilizer contract


Even as the country is yet to recover from the shocking revelations at the on-going public hearing on the power sector where mind-boggling amounts of money were expended by the last administration, another scandal is brewing at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Abuja over fertilizer deal.

Even as the country is yet to recover from the shocking revelations at the on-going public hearing on the power sector where mind-boggling amounts of money were expended by the last administration, another scandal is brewing at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Abuja over fertilizer deal.

A highly placed source confirmed that the ministry is enmeshed in a N63 billion scandal involving a total of 650,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer earmarked for this year’s farming season across the country. The contract is said to have been awarded, at worrisome terms, to three companies out of the over 30 that handled same in the past.

Besides the fact that the three companies (name withheld) are said to lack the capacity to execute such a huge contract and meet the 90-day deadline given for the supply of the commodity, the ministry was said to have inflated the prices.

Daily Sun gathered that the Presidency had been briefed on how the first company was awarded 290,000 metric tonnes of urea at N96,000 per metric tonne, as against N68,000 per metric tonne which government paid for it last year, while the second company got a total of 210,000 metric tonnes of NPK 15-15-15 and NPK 20-10-10 at N104,000 as against last year’s price of N63,000.

The third company was awarded 150,000 metric tonnes of SSP 18% at N84,000 per metric tonne, as against last year’s price of N48,000, which sources in the ministry describe as scandalous.
A number of companies with necessary capacity and proved track records in the business, which also bidded for the contract, are said to be ready and willing to supply the commodity at much more reduced prices.

More disturbing is the revelation that two of the companies that got the huge contract are owned and operated by the same person, while the other is said to be owned by a Greek.
Investigation revealed that the three companies, which have always been involved in fertilizer supply in the past few years, were only able to deliver collectively 48,000 metric tonnes in the two years.

A source said: “Considering that these companies have only 90 days to supply 650,000 metric tonnes, if the farmers are to get it in good time by April, May or June, these companies will have to move at least 250 trucks daily (loading and offloading inclusive) and must arrive their destinations within 24 hours.
“By this action, it is apparent that the ministry is jeopardizing the farmers’ means of livelihood and by extension the food security of our populous citizenry. The product is too important and sensitive to be left in the hands of few companies who do not have the capacity to deliver.”

This year’s handling of the supply took a worrisome dimension when, out of a total of 327 companies which responded to the ministry’s advertisement for contractors to bid for the supply of fertilizer, only 96 were said to have been adjudged pre-qualified with the figure further pruned down to 36.
The 36 companies were subjected for screening and verification at the Protea Hotel, Asokoro by an 11-man verification team chaired by a top officer in the ministry.

According to the source: “The various companies presented their levels of readiness, which included Form M, stock in the warehouses, Bill of Laden, among others,” adding that some of the firms shut out of the supply already had the product in their warehouses, while others had started shipping in fertilizers from abroad.
“Surprisingly, rather than continue on the path of transparency by recommending as has been the practice in the past, the ministry, with the endorsement of the minister selected only three companies,” the source said.

However, the matter is yet to receive the approval of the Federal Executive Council because it is yet to be tabled before it by the minister.
Contacted on the development, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Sayyadi Abba-Ruma, said the companies involved in the fertilizer business in the past lacked the competence to do so and were not certified to carry out the supply of fertilizers in the country.

He described as malicious the allegation that his ministry chose only three companies to supply 560,000 metric tonnes of fertilizers for the 2008 farming season for any reason other than the good of the country.
Although the shortlisted companies are yet to be ratified by the Federal Executive Council, the ministry, he explained, decided to trim down the figure of fertilizer suppliers to a manageable level to ensure efficiency and eliminate corruption in the system.
The pre-qualification exercise that was carried out by his ministry, according to him, was designed to block all loopholes through which several billions of tax payers’ money were siphoned by corrupt contractors.

“With what we have done, we have been able to save the government over N20 billion. The government before now has been losing over N50 billion and the Federal Government is happy with what we are doing. We are not bothered about what anybody is saying as long as we know we are doing the right thing,” the minister stated.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.