Posted by From Ndubuisi Ugah and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin on
President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday hinted that farmers in the country would soon heave a sigh of relief as the now privatised Nigeria Fertiliser Company (NAFCON).....
President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday hinted that farmers in the country would soon heave a sigh of relief as the now privatised Nigeria Fertiliser Company (NAFCON), Onne, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, would soon commence fertiliser production by March, next year.
President Obasanjo, who disclosed this at an interactive session with a cross-section of the masses, at the Presidential Lodge, Ilorin, in continuation of his two-day state visit to Kwara State, said the report which the management of the company gave him was a sign that fertiliser production would soon commence by March, next year.
Speaking against the backdrop of the growing concern being expressed by farmers, particularly in Kwara State as a result of the problems associated with fertiliser purchase, the President said:"it is unfortunate that this problem still persist. A fertiliser company was established in Port Harcourt when I was the then Head of State but it was mismanaged. The same was established in Kaduna but that of Kaduna has assured me that by next year March (2007), it will begin operations and that is a good development".
Apparently irked by the recurring problem of fertiliser acquisition, the President explained that government was not relenting in its efforts at ensuring that farmers in the country are availed with the purchase and supply of fertiliser across the country.
According to him, "I called for a fertiliser summit where I expected us to work together and determine what to do because in Asia, they use about 120 kg of fertiliser per hectre but here in Nigeria, we use about 13kg per hectre, which is very poor".
Consequently, he revealed that efforts were being made to improve on the standard, particularly in ensuring that "by next three or four years, which is by 2010, we want it to raise the standard to 50kg per hectre".
President Obasanjo, who expressed regret at the recurring state of fertiliser procurement in the country, added that the Federal Government was still subsidising the sale of fertiliser, despite importing it at a very high cost.
Said he:"We import 250 metric tonnes of fertiliser and we hope to increase that by 500 metric tonnes. We know that some states too are importing and where we sell to some at less than 25 per cent of the cost of what we import then you can all see the role of government even though government will not go beyond the 25 per cent subsidising rate because we still subsidise other things like tractors and others".
On the gas project being canvassed by the state government to ease of the production stress of fertliser production in the state, the President noted that such a project was capital intensive particularly with the huge financial involvement of the project.
"For us to establish the gas project, it will cost us about $500million which is rather expensive.This is where private sector operators should come in. However,if we take it from Sagamu, it is very costly talkless of taking it from Ewekoro to Abeokuta which will cost us about $25 million. And even, if we are to use hydro-electric power,it will cost us a lot of money from Osogbo to Ilorin. This is the p[roblem we are having right now. The generating set are very important too".
While reacting to the issue of areas owed local contractors, the President said the process of offseting these arears has commenced.
He added that, local contractors owed areas of below N100,000,000 are been paid now, while those who are owed in the region of N100,000,000 million and above would soon be paid.
"We are not forgeting local contrators as we have started paying them since yesterday (Monday) because this areas we met when we came in 1999. Those being owed N100,000,000 million below are paid, while those above N100,000,000 million will be paid later". For pensioners, the President said pensioners areas amounted to N75 billion and assured that all this would be paid.
"Government will pay all the arears and myself I am still being owed my pension and my chief of staff too is a pensioner. The arears is about N75 billion and we will pay it. This is why we are looking at the contributive pension scheme, which is going on very well. After the payment of the local contractors, the implementation of the pension scheme would be next.",
On the transport loan scheme embarked upon by the state government, President Obasanjo said the effort was a joint move between the state and the Federal Government, stating that what the scheme was expected to achieve was to alleviate the problem of transport system in the state.
"I know that you are all happy because the transport scheme is working because it is a joint effort. Government is involved with the N100 million given to the scheme to complement the transport situation.
Again, I must tell us that those who acquired the loan should make sure that they pay back the loans so that others looking for such priviliges are not deprived of such and like we all know, this stalls government efforts in that direction",President Obasanjo stressed.
On the N1.5 billion loan procurement for the Zimbabwean farmers, which the state government guaranteed for the farmers, the President assured that the cheque for the loan would be paid soonest, which would enable the farmers carry out some of its projects.
For women empowerment, the President commended the state government for recognising the role of women, particularly in the appointment of elective positions in the state executive council in the state.
"I call on the menfolk to assist women and allow them in government position and activities that affect women empowerment", he reiterated.
While urging Nigerians to continue to propagate the ideals of the country, the president hinted that except all hand are on deck, the tasks of moving the nation would remain defeated.
According to him, "I want us to see our mother tongue as a very important issue and this must be taken into consideration wherever we go and whatevcer we do".