By IFEANYI CHUKWU NWANNA & MARYAM MUSA
A Can of worms surrounding the Zamfara State fertilizer contract has been opened, fingering some government officials and government contractors in the unholy deal of supplying adulterated fertilizer to the state government which was sold to innocent farmers.
DESERT HERALD can confirm that the lingering fertilizer scandal involving close associates of Governor Abdul’aziz Yari as suppliers of the controversial and highly inflated fertilizer has reduced the cordial relationship between the state government and the farmers to a lot of questions about the sincerity of Yari and questioned his promise to revive agriculture in the state.
Further investigation by this reporter reveals that the adulterated/substandard fertilizer has affected the production capacity of many farmers in the state and that its poisonous nature has caused serious health implication to the helpless users that patronize the sales due to its relative low price not knowing that the standard and quality of the fertilizer was compromised by the government supplies. Some insiders even alleged that behind the scene, Mr. Yari is the actual suppliers of the controversial fertilizer and the highest beneficiary of the scam that involves billions of Zamfara state tax payer’s money.
A dependable source who preferred not to be mentioned confided in DESERT HERALD that the contractors in collaboration with the store keepers at the state Farmers Agricultural Supply Company (FASCOM) usually evacuate all the original fertilizers in the government stores and sold them to businessmen while it would be replaced by the adulterated fertilizer made in Yankara, Katsina State. “In some instances and even before supply they will use one original bag of fertilizer to produce five or even ten bags out of it for their fraudulent supply to the government”, he revealed.
The authoritative source further told DESERT HERALD that there are instances of adulterated fertilizer that got their ways to the government owned stores through the collaboration of the contractors and the officials of the state Farmers Agricultural Supply Company. He said the original fertilizers are found in different markets while the fake ones are sold to the farmers without minding the consequences of such action.
One of such instances as exclusively gathered by this reporter was when the state Hisbah operatives apprehended one full trailer of adulterated fertilizer belonging to one of the contractors, Alhaji Ibrahim Agege which the Hisbah Chairman, Mallam Aminu Aliyu Modibbo said arrests were made but what surprise and as an indication of government alleged culpability in the deal, the offenders were released on bail.
The Hisbah boss further gave another instance where the peasant farmers in Gummi Local Government area of the state protested when they discovered that the fertilizers that were being supplied to them were adulterated. Modibbo said they protested and Governor Abdul’aziz Yari had to order the stoppage of the sales in Gummi because of the glaring public anger but not the desire to punish the culprits that the contractor should not be paid his balance.
The implication of Mr. Yari’s suspicious order is that he has willingly accepted that the contractor had shortchanged the government by supplying fake and adulterated fertilizer and that he will not do anything to prosecute and get back government’s money from his choice supplier.
Lamenting his frustration, the Hisbah Chaiman said that when the trailer of fake fertilizer belonging to Agege was arrested, the Hisbah Commission invited the state Ministry of Agriculture and handed over the adulterated fertilizer to the officials of the Ministry who assured that the fertilizers would be taken to agricultural institute Zaria for examination to verify the level of adulteration and that the report would be sent to Hisbah Commission but lamented that up till the time he was speaking with DESERT HERALD the government of Mr. Yari did not take any action and that no report has been sent to the commission from the Ministry and it is now more than three months.
One of the leaders of Zamfara State Farmers Forum, Alhaji Ibrahim Hamisu told this reporter that his forum paid for five trailers of fertilizer to the Ministry of Agriculture but on noticing the influx of adulterated fertilizer into the state, the forum mounted pressure on the state Ministry of Agriculture for original fertilizer or to pay its money back.
The farmers spokesman said that as a result of putting some much pressure on the ministry insisting on only original fertilizer and knowing full well that it (the ministry) cannot supply original fertilizer they the (ministry) took offense of the Farmers Forum’s demand for the original product and refund their money which they said was not in fully N3.6 million to them. The refund has however generated a lot of tension as the farmers forum said the Ministry has deliberately short paid them to the tune of N850, 000.
Some of the farmers interviewed told DESERT HERALD that the fertilizer they bought from the government did not satisfy their need that they had to be forced into the markets for original ones. They said that the issue of the fertilizer has created a gap between the farmers and the Yari’s administration.
One of the farmers who do not want his name in print told our reporter that Zamfara State has a population of over 3.5 million with over 80 percent working adults solely depending on agriculture as a means of livelihood. He noted that agricultural production is controlled by the peasant farmers cultivating between 2-3 hectares of land but regretted the lackluster attitude of Mr. Yari’s administration towards sanitizing the supply and distribution of fertilizer and lamented why government is not taking action on contractors that clearly defrauded her.
All efforts by our reporter to get in touch with the chief contractor and arguably the man behind the fertilizer scam, Rilwanu Milo who is believed by many to be very close to the governor proved abortive as he did not respond to several phone calls by this reporter.
It was revealed that because of the bitter experience over the fertilizer, the farmers in the governor’s home town of Talata Mafara and Gummi rejected their own slot of Federal fertilizer meant for agricultural transformation agenda of President Jonathan. The farmers said they rejected the fertilizer based on their knowledge of adulterated fertilizer from the state government.
However, the State Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Musa Raji confirmed the rejection based on their experience of state government fertilizer, saying that the fertilizer from the Federal Government is genuine and not like that of the state government and that it is not adulterated as alleged.
As a result of the rampant cases of fake fertilizers supplied by the state government, the MBBS Tag Agro Company responsible for the supply of Federal Government fertilizers aimed at the agricultural transformations agenda is battling seriously to redeem its image and to assure the public that its product is genuine and original. The Managing Director of the company, Mr. Bello Misbau said he has got the reports of the contractors responsible for using his company’s sacks to supply fake fertilizers to the State Government and the farmers who are ignorant of the fraudulent activities.
He confirm that Notore, spring and MBBS Tag Agro that were accredited by the Federal Government were rejected in Talata Mafara and Gummi based on their experiences of the State Government fertilizer supply to the farmers, believing that they are the same adulterated fertilizers supplied to farmers by Zamfara State Government.
He said the company has reported the case to the security agencies who are still investigating the matter, adding that his company has not reached any agreement with the State Government or the State Government contractors on the supply of fertilizer. Mr. Misbau said that the contractors used his company’s bag to re-bag the fake fertilizer which he said the State Government foolishly accepted without inquiry and investigation. According to him, the observations of the company concerning the adulterated fertilizers have been communicated to the state government but the state government dismissed the observations refusing to agree with it.
He noted that his company brought two fertilizer trucks to Talata Mafara and Gummi for sample which he said one of the trucks were opened and some bags of fertilizers were given to the farmers free of charge to taste the difference between the Federal Government and State Government fertilizer, saying that his company came back with one full truck of fertilizer. Though some of the contractors claimed that their fertilizers came from Port Harcourt in Rivers State but investigation carried out by this paper revealed that the fertilizers were re-bagged in Kano axis with MBBS Tag Agro sacks.
DESERT HERALD findings also show that the pegging of N1,000 for a bag of fertilizer by the state government is too cheap and could not satisfy the selfish interest of the contractors who went to Kano to adulterate the fertilizer to maximize their profits. It is also gathered that the contractors made a profit of N200 for each bag of fertilizer supplied to the State Government which seemed so little for them.
DESERT HERALD findings also revealed that the contractors involved in the alleged fertilizer scam are Abubakar Dabawa, Rilwanu Milo who is described as the chief contractor of Zamfara State Government, Alhaji Ibrahim Agege whose truck of adulterated fertilizer was apprehended by the state Hisbah Commission and Senator Sa’idu Dansadau who was given the contract to supply to the State Government superphosphate fertilizer. All of them sources reveal have made millions at the mercy of poor farmers. Many others they said are also involved in the fertilizer deal.
When contacted by DESERT HERALD, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Malami Aliyu `Yandoto confirmed the presence of adulterated fertilizers in the state. He said that the adulterated fertilizers are packed in one of the ginneries in Gusau but refuted the claim that his store managers were involved in the deal. He noted that his ministry monitored the fertilizers from Port Harcourt in Rivers State to its destination in Gusau.
The commissioner refuted the claim of the Zamfara Farmers Forum, saying that the forum was supplied with five trucks of fertilizers but on learning that three of the trucks were sold to businessmen, his ministry decided to dishonour the earlier agreement with the forum hence their balance of N3.6 million was refunded to them through cheques.
He however admitted that the Hisbah Commission seized a trailer full of adulterated fertilizers for distribution which he said is presently in the care of his ministry but could not explain why investigation about the adulterated fertilizer was not done in view of the gravity of the offence.
It would be recalled that the Zamfara state government under Mr. Yari decided to give out a contract for the supply of 907 trucks of fertilizers to the so called contractors and capitalists oriented businessmen which the Governor said would be sold at the rate of N1,000 per bag to small scale farmers while the large scale farmers would purchase the same fertilizer at the rate of N3,750 per bag but the whole policy as viable as it is turned out to be a total failure on the part of the government’s insincerity, corrupt tendencies and its policy of favouring contractors and cronies above the interest of the common people that have continued to suffer untold poverty, joblessness and diseases under Mr. Yari who promised them total reform and departure from corrupt, insensitive and irresponsible leadership that characterized past administrations in the state.
The situation in Zamfara today under Mr. Yari and having spent less than two years as governor is described by the impoverished people of the state and irrespective of political party affiliation as unarguably the most corrupt and insensitive government ever in the history of the state.
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