Fertiliser fraudsters risk five-year jail term as the Federal Government on Tuesday unveiled the National Fertiliser Quality (Control) Act, 2019.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development while unveiling the Act in Abuja, said the passage and signing into law of the National Fertiliser Quality(Control) Act was a major breakthrough.
The Act among other provisions stipulates that a person, who manufactures, blends, imports or distributes fertiliser that is deficient in plant nutrient is liable on conviction to at least five years without an option of fine.
Other offences that attract the same punishment are manufacture, blending, importation, or distribution of unbranded or misbranded fertiliser as well as import, export or distribution of adulterated fertiliser.
Others are the sale of underweight or condemned fertiliser, diversion or conversion of fertiliser or flouting a stop-sale order.
Nanono in his remarks warned people involved in all manner of fraudulent practice in the subsector to desist henceforth, saying the law would take its full course upon conviction of any offender to serve as a deterrent.
He lamented that among other concerns that warranted the passage and signing into law of the fertiliser bill was its use for locally made explosives by criminals.
He said, “I feel privileged standing before you today for the public presentation and unveiling of this much-desired National Fertiliser Quality (Control) Act for the regulation of the manufacture, importation, sales, distribution and quality control of fertilisers.
“As you may be aware, the journey for the establishment of Fertiliser Regulatory System for this country started as far back as 2002.
“It passed through several processes and suffered many defeats but finally actualised in this current administration.
“The aspiration for the establishment of the Regulatory framework followed a fertiliser study that revealed a high prevalence of low-quality fertilisers in the country,” he said.
The minister said the law was enacted to protect the interest of the entire fertiliser value chain players such as manufacturers, producers, blenders, importers, distributors and farmers.
He said, for the manufacturers, producers, blenders, importers and distributors, the Act would provide enabling environment for fertiliser enterprises to grow, including protecting investments in the sector.
He added that for farmers, they would be protected against access to nutrient-deficient and adulterated fertilisers as well as short-weight bags of fertilisers, to ensure they got value for money.
“This Act seeks to ensure that maximum benefits are derived from each Kilogramme of fertiliser bought and used by the farmers in terms of nutrient composition and level.
“There is also the growing concern about protecting our natural environment from harmful elements in fertilisers such as heavy metals which can be harmful to both soil and humans.
On implementation process, Nanono said “The Act has prescribed roles and responsibilities for the stakeholders in the public and private sector in order to ensure compliance and proper participation for smooth and effective implementation.
“Such responsibilities are captured in the sections of the Act on prohibited activities such as selling any fertiliser supplement that contains destructive ingredients.
“Other areas of the Act requires that an authorised officer of the Farm Inputs Support Services Department of the Ministry of Agriculture or a person duly authorised by the prescribed authority can seize and detain any fertiliser stakeholder in violation of the Act.
The minister assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would ensure fertilisers being produced, distributed and sold to farmers, met set standards in terms of quantity and quality.
He further noted that policy measures including proper documentation and licensing of all players’ value chain would be taken to ensure traceability and accountability in the fertiliser delivery process.
He pointed out that there would be deployment and re-training of more Fertiliser Quality Control inspectors to add to the over 150 already trained to ensure proper monitoring and enforcement of provisions of the Act.
Nanono also said service standards and complaint mechanism would be re-activated to ensure services and feedback were timely provided to the vendors while mobility would be adequately provided to Quality Control inspectors.
He further said, the National Fertiliser Development Center (NFDC), Kaduna and the collaborating Zonal Research Institutes’ laboratories would be upgraded and equipped to ensure timely rendering of product evaluation results.
He urged all stakeholders to cooperate with officials of the ministry to create a conducive working environment where the interest of all the players in the fertiliser sector would be guaranteed and protected.
“With the law in place now, individuals and corporate entities involved in fertiliser business are expected to be friends so that unnecessary litigations and conflicts would be avoided.”
The minister thanked President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly and other stakeholders for making the law a reality.
News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that the public presentation was graced with dignitaries from various security agencies, government agencies and international organisations as well as private stakeholders and Civil Society Organisations(CSOs). (NAN)