James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono yesterday launched the National Fertiliser Quality (Control) Act, 2019, which stipulates a term of imprisonment of at least five years without an option of fine for an offender who distributes fertilizer that is deficient in plant nutrient as specified in the act.
The Act, among other things, regulates the manufacturing, importation, sales/distribution as well as quality control of fertilizers in the country.
Speaking during the launch, the minister said the new regulation seeks to achieve sanity in the fertilizer industry, which had been smeared by several allegations of corruption in recent times.
The sanction also affects anyone who imports, exports or distributes unbranded or misbranded fertilizer and condemns the sale of condemned fertilizer, flouts a stop-sale order as well as diverts or converts the commodity.
There are also financial sanctions on form of fines ranging between N200,000.00 to N10 million for violators of various sections of the act.
Nanono commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the quick assent to the fertilizer act, which according to him demonstrated the importance and commitment the president attaches to the agricultural sector and his desire to help protect the investments of the teeming farmers.
He said Buhari had further demonstrated his commitment to revitalising agriculture through the provision of the fertilizer regulatory framework aimed at guaranteeing the supply and distribution of quality fertilizers and other farm inputs to farmers across the country “at their doorsteps, at the right time, right place and right prices.”
According to him, operating or carrying on fertilizer business as a manufacturer, blender, importer or distributor of fertilizer in on the country with an expired permit or certificate of registration is punishable under the act going forward.
He said selling any fertiliser supplement that contains destructive ingredients or properties harmful to plant growth when used according to the accompanying instructions or in accordance with the instructions contained on the label of the package in which the fertiliser or the fertiliser supplement is contained will also attract punishment.
The act also stipulates sanctions for obstructing, hindering or preventing a duly authorised officer of the prescribed authority (farm inputs support services department of the ministry) from carrying out his/her duties and responsibilities assigned to him/her under the act or regulations made pursuant to this act.
He vowed that the law will be implemented to the letter and expressed hope that stakeholders in the fertiliser business will warmly welcome the new framework.
The minister noted that the journey for the establishment of fertilizer regulatory system for the country started as far back as 2002 and passed through several processes and suffered many defeats but was finally actualised in the current administration.
He said the aspiration for the establishment of the regulatory framework followed a fertilizer study that revealed high prevalence of low quality fertilizers in the country.
Nanono stressed that the fertilizer Act was enacted into law to safeguard and protect the interest of the entire fertilizer value chain players namely as manufacturers, producers, blenders, importers, distributors and the end user farmers.
He said:”For the farmers, they are to be protected against access to nutrient-deficient and adulterated fertilizers as well as short-weight bags of fertilizers. This is to ensure that farmers get value for every kobo spent on buying fertilizers for the farming.
“It is important at this point to emphasise that the fertilizer industry plays an important role in nutrient cycle and therefore controls the accessibility (price and presence) and quality (composition) of the fertilizers. This Act therefore seeks to ensure that maximum benefits are derived from each Kg of fertilizer bought and used by the farmers in terms of nutrients composition and levels.”
“For the manufacturers, producers, blenders, importers and distributors, the act would provide an enabling environment for fertiliser enterprises to grow, including protecting investments in the sector.”
He said there is the growing concern about protecting the natural environment from harmful elements in fertilizers including heavy metals which can be harmful to both soils and the humans.
Nevertheless, the minister said the act has prescribed roles and responsibilities for the stakeholders in the public and private sector in order to ensure compliance/popular participation for the smooth and effective implementation of the framework to achieve sanity in the fertiliser industry.
He said the supply of fertilizers and other farm inputs in the right quantity and quality at the right time and place at an affordable price backed with proper management practices would go a long way in increasing farmers’ productivity, enhance household incomes and by extension guarantee food security at national levels.
He said going forward, emphasis will be on proper documentation and licensing of all the players in the fertilizer value chain from the manufacturers, producers, blenders, importers, distributors to the end user farmers to ensure traceability and accountability in the fertiliser delivery process.
He said the new policy also calls for deployment and re-training of more fertilizer quality control inspectors to add to the already trained over 150 officers to ensure proper monitoring and enforcement of the provisions of the act and the regulations among other initiatives to ensure that the commodity meet the required set standards in terms of quantity and quality and are properly kept in check.
“With the law in place now, individuals and corporate entities involved in fertilizer business are expected to be friends so that unnecessary litigations and conflicts would be avoided. Remember the law maxim that ‘law is made for man” and not ‘Man for the law’. I, therefore call upon all the umbrella associations of the fertilizer industry players such as FEPSAN and NAIDA to put in place proper mechanism for self-regulation as this will create a healthy working environment for the enforcement of the act.
He urged all stakeholders to be well acquainted with the regulation as “ignorance of the law is not an excuse”.