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Fertilizer scam: Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, minister trade words

Posted by By Sun News Publishing on 2008/07/24 | Views: 1754 |

Fertilizer scam: Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, minister trade words


Immediate past minister of Agriculture, Mallam Adamu Bello and his successor, Dr. Abba Sayyadi Ruma, on Tuesday threw caution to the winds accusing each other of creating cartels that have taken over the importation and distribution of fertilizer and grains running into billions of naira into the country.

Immediate past minister of Agriculture, Mallam Adamu Bello and his successor, Dr. Abba Sayyadi Ruma, on Tuesday threw caution to the winds accusing each other of creating cartels that have taken over the importation and distribution of fertilizer and grains running into billions of naira into the country.

This is coming on the heels of accusation and counter-accusation at the on-going probe of the food crisis by the Senate Ad-hoc Committee where the two ministers have converted to battle ground to engage themselves in war of words over the creation and existence of a fertilizer cartel in the ministry of Agriculture.

This was even as it was revealed that the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent N25 billion in the procurement of fertilizer into the country with nothing tangible to show for it.

However, in spite of the poor performance in the agricultural sector, the Senate committee was told that Nigeria was not on the map of global hunger countries facing food crisis.
Mallam Bello, while replying to accusations of forming 65 cartels of contractors that have so far held the nation to ransom said that the present Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Ruma, merely succeeded in talking nonsense, saying that: "If 65 contractors got the supply of the product in 2007 and you reduced it to three in 2008, then if there is a cartel, the three are members of that cartel."
At this point, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr. Ademola Seriki, quickly took the microphone to raise objection to the comments of Mallam Bello saying: "I take exception to what the former minister said, I think I take exception to that."

At that stage, Chairman of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Food Crisis, Senator Idris Umar, had to direct Bello to withdraw the statement which he noted was derogatory saying, "try to mind your language and soften a bit."
But Bello who felt wounded by the allegations of Dr. Ruma last week would not bow to such pressure insisting that: "It is just that it does not make sense to me that 65 contractors were reduced to three and they call that eradication of cartel? The three contractors that were awarded the supply of fertilizer in 2008 were among those that have been supplying fertilizers to the ministry throughout Obasanjo’s administration," Bello stressed.

However, Sayyadi had described his predecessor as a shameless liar, saying that if anybody created a cartel, it was Bello.
Ruma told Daily Sun in a telephone interview that he had concrete evidence that Bello dispensed favour to his cronies and friends, alleging that the former minister could not account for N10 billion allocated as grains revolving fund.

Ruma further said he has saved over N20 billion that would have been lost if he had not succeeded in plugging the loopholes of the cartel formed by Bello, adding that the contractors that were denied such avenues are the ones using the media to create confusion.
"It is not possible for 65 contractors to import 500,000 tones of fertilizer. Most of them never imported anything and they know it. That was the reason we had scarcity. The three selected contractors are doing a better job," Dr. Ruma said.

As if that was not bad enough, the two main actors in the agricultural sector of the economy also disagreed vehemently on the reasons adduced for the poor supply of fertilizer that was reduced to 56 percent in 2007 as against 96 percent in 2006.

The disagreement arose from the insistence of Bello who said that the contractors who started supplying fertilizer before he left office were not paid by his successor. But minister of State countered by saying that the contractors were paid in December 2007.
Mallam Bello equally disagreed with a member of the committee on the level of hunger in the country despite the investment in the sector saying: "Nigeria is not among the country in the category of global hunger. The map produced by UN food agency indicates that the incidence of hunger in Nigeria is just 9 percent."

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