COLLINS NNABUIFE, in this interview, discusses the Growth Enhancement Scheme Agrodealers Association of Nigeria (GESAAN)’s partnership with federal government to make farm inputs available to farmers, with the National Chairman of the association, Kabiru Fara.
What is the main objective of your association?
We are mandated in the past to distribute farm inputs, fertilizers, chemicals, seeds to farmers, that’s why the association was formed. To assist the government in distributing inputs to farmers in the grassroots, which we did but fortunately because of change of government, payment have not been effected for the intervention, the farmers paid their money, but the intervention from the government for 24 months have not been paid, we are happy that the present administration accepted the liability and they have started paying, though payment have not been completed, we want to thank them and we hope that the government will in Ernest complete the payment so that our businesses will continue to prosper.
How did the GES affect the Nigerian farmers?
During the programme of the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme, it has for the first time given farmers the opportunity to know that the government belongs to them and they can access inputs with little money.
In the past, when it was supply issue, you find out that in a particular local government, one bag of fertilizer will go for 10 farmers, but now, all the farmers registered about 10 million of them, they were entitled to two bags of fertilizer each, we are talking about small farmers, and that two bags, they pay for one bag and take one bag free, they take seeds originally free, later they charged 10 per cent of the seed the following year.
In the nutshell, you find out that 2014 and 2015 farming season yielded more result that any other time in this country. Food items were at affordable prices and an ordinary worker will understand that their salary did not increase and farm products is also stable and that keeps the inflation rate low.
It has really touched the lives of Nigerians, in fact at a point you don’t even know if a particular farm product is seasonal or not.
We are aware that the ministry said it has paid N20 billion out of the N37 billion being owed, what is your take on that?
The payment issue is more of interest to us because we are the ones suffering, most of us could not continue with our business because our money have been tied down, Federal government have agreed to pay but the payment have not come. The N20 billion is part of the payment, the total bill is over N61 billion, there are contributions for the state, the state government need to contribute their own quota, so that the money will be added together with the N37 billion of the Federal Government to pay up.
Now what we are begging the ministry to realise is that we work directly for Federal Government, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with state governments is between Federal government and state government. The Federal Government should pay us first, most of these states are crying to pay salaries, how do you now force them to pay for the work we have done two years ago.
If the Federal Government wants to help us so that agriculture will take shape properly, they should look at the total cost of the pending payment, they should pay us and later they collect their money for the state government.
What do you have to say about the corruption allegedly found in the GES where real farmers were not captured?
When you say real farmers, you need to understand how the GES works. Every local government, every ward in Nigeria, farmers were registered and there was a particular organisation called Cellulant with their E-Wallet company, they were using their platform, once you are a registered, your name will be captured and for you to get subsidy, there is a cut for every farmer his phone number, if you don’t have phone number, they will use the phone number of your district Head of that village, so once you are activated they will see alert in Abuja before you will be given the subsidy.
Now, when they say corruption, I don’t really understand what is corruption, there are what we call special GES. Special GES is not the same with the GES we are talking about, special GES is where people were given some allocations in some states to do additional GES outside the normal one we find, and if that is what they call corruption, we wouldn’t comment on that but our own GES that we know that everybody survive, every farmer, Mr President himself was given cut before he became the President, in Daura, people were given subsidies, there is no state that that the Governor didn’t confirm that subsidies is distributed.
So, in any system, you cannot be 100 per cent perfect, but we were sure that 80 to 85 per cent of the GES was corruption free and the farmers are happy, the farmers testified. They were so happy with the production when this GES was on.
If you are paid the balance of what you are owed will you recommence GES?
We will commence 100 per cent, now the Ministry of Agriculture through the Ministry of Finance have stated paying us, if the fertilizer is available we will continue, but the problem now is that we don’t even have fertilizer because the banks could not release the money to the suppliers, and the suppliers could not bring in the fertilizer. But if we the fertilizer now as they have started making payments, some will receive 35 to 40 per cent payment, we will start, but the question now is that the payment have not been completed. We look at the availability of these products because there is ban on urea, so you cannot bring urea and because you can bring urea, you cannot have enough fertilizer in the market, so the government need to look at the economic side of the security issue.