June 16, 2016
By Kashim Bello
The Federal Government says it has paid N20 billion out of the N38 billion being owed agricultural input suppliers who participated in the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES) in the 2014 farming season, it has been gathered.
The Director, Farm Input of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ohiare Jatto, who confirmed the payment, said the balance would soon be defrayed.
“Yes the money has been paid to the agro dealers and no one is being sidelined. We have assured them that they would all be paid very soon,” he said.
However, some agro dealers have raised concern over the modalities of payment, alleging that government cleared off the debt of a certain category of people at the expense of others.
An agro dealer, who craved anonymity, said: “The initial plan was for government to clear the debt in three phases, now what government has done was to clear debt owed to certain agro dealers and told others to wait until further notice.”
A source in the ministry explained that the reason for the delay in payment was because state governments were not forthcoming in offsetting their counterpart funds, adding that “the idea behind the GES programme by the previous administration was for the state governments to pay 25 per cent, the Federal Government 25 per cent while the farmers pay the rest 50 per cent for a bag of fertilizer.”
He said since the debt was inherited, the state governments had been so unwilling to offset their percentage, leaving the entire debt burden for the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, a source at the Ministry of Agriculture has given revealed something startling, saying N17 billion of the N66 billion debt was fraudulent and is being investigated.
He added that the ministry had set aside N20 billion to pay part of the debt on a pro-rata basis but refused to confirm if the sum was coming from the ministry’s capital budget of about N44 billion.
Also, contrary to insinuations that government may not embark on the scheme for farmers this year, an official of Cellulant has, however, said that the the programme would be kicked off next month.
He hinted that his company, which handles the Electronic Wallet Scheme, has kicked start training of all state directors for a hitch-free take-off.
In the meantime, stakeholders have called for the removal of subsidy on fertiliser, saying government could transfer the waiver on farm inputs to other things like providing farmers with access to market, finance at a single digit interest rate among others.
They contended that the subsidy regime only benefits the contractors and not the ordinary farmers.