By Adelola Amihere
As part of measures to ensure a sustainable fertilizer quality control system in Nigeria which aims at safeguarding the interest of farmers and all players in the agricultural value chain, violators of the National Fertilizer Quality (Control) Act 2019 will face a stiff penalty of five years jail term with no option of fine.
According to the Act which was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2019, “Any person who manufactures, blends, imports or exports, sells adulterated fertilizer is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of at least five years without option of fine”.
It adds that “A person shall not sell any fertilizer or fertilizer supplement that contains destructive ingredients or properties harmful to plant growth”.
The Act further provides that: “A person shall not operate or carry on business as a manufacturer, blender, importer or distributor of fertilizer in Nigeria with an expired permit or certificate of registration”.
Speaking at the public presentation of the Act in Abuja on Tuesday, Prof Yemi Akinseye-George SAN, said such offences include manufacturing, blending, importing or distributing of deficient fertilizer, lacking in plant nutrient specified in the First Schedule to the Act.
Others are the manufacturing, blending, importing or distribution of unbranded or misbranded fertilizer; dealing in adulterated fertilizer; offers for sale fertilizer that is underweight; selling condemned fertilizer; and diverting or converting fertilizer, or flouting a stop sale order.
Akinseye-George, who introduced the Act to the public, said the fertilizer landscape has attracted new entrants in recent times including about 5000 to 6000 agro-input dealers in seeds, fertilizers and agro-chemicals serving millions of farmers.
He said a large majority of these agro-input dealers are unregistered and operate without license, adequate technical and entrepreneurial skills and as a result, most sell products they have no clue about and are unable to provide proper advice to farmers.
According to him, the expansion of fertilizer supply into the Nigerian fertilizer market without a functional legal and regulatory framework has exposed the farmers to the danger of increasing cases ofproduct adulteration, underweight bags and other malpractices by unscrupulous fertilizer manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers.
For him, the increasing cases of malpractices demand a proactive response by stakeholders through a proper implementation of the Fertilizer Quality Control Act and the regulations that will help to safeguard the interest of the farmers and Nigerians againstnutrient deficiencies,adulteration, misleading claims and short weight.
On his part, Minster of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono, who unveiled the Act at the event, said the quick assent to the Fertilizer Act by President Muhammadu Buhari shows the commitment of the present administration to the agricultural sector.
Nanono said it was the desire of the present administration to protect the investments of the teeming farmers in the country through the provision of this regulatory framework.
The Minister said framework is 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.
“As you may be aware, the journey for the establishment of Fertilizer Regulatory System for this country started as far back as 2002, passed through several processes and suffered many defeats but finally actualized in this current administration. The aspiration for the establishment of the Regulatory framework followed a fertilizer study that revealed high prevalence of low quality fertilizers in the country.
“It is important to note that the Fertilizer Act was enacted into law to safeguard and protect the interest of the entire fertilizer value chain players such as manufacturers, producers, blenders, importers, distributors and the end user farmers in the following ways: For the manufacturers, producers, blenders, importers and distributors, the Act would to provide enabling environment for fertilizer enterprises to grow, including protecting investments in the sector.
“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 emphasize 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.
“There is also the growing concern about protecting our natural environment from harmful elements in fertilizers such as heavy metals which can be harmful to both soils and the humans.” he said.
Abdulkadir Mu’azu, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture noted that promoting a sustainable regulatory system is critical to the development of the fertilizer industry and the Agriculture sector in general.
Mu’azu revealed that the agricultural sector which currently employs over 70 percent of the nation’s active population as well contributes a great deal to nation’s gdp, remains critical to the diversification agenda of the Buhari’s administration.
“Agriculture sector has been in the frontier to diversify the economy, the sector also holds the key to job creation and poverty alleviation in the country. Promoting this Act is key to us as a country, because fertilizer is crucial in crop production and ensuring its proper use will further increase our agricultural yield,” he said.