During Ramadan, many Muslims fast and pray, and try to avoid the midday heat by resting in shady, cool places. However, this year during Ramadan, Abubakar Jibrin took several trips on his bicycle in the hot sun to a distribution point in Kembu. The young farmer from Kumo town, in northern Nigeria’s Gombe State, travelled to try to pick up two bags of government-subsidised fertilizer.
Mr. Jibrin plants rice, maize, millet and groundnuts on two hectares of land. These crops require about six 50 kilogram bags of fertilizer per season. At the market price of 6,000 naira ($38 US) per bag, it would cost him 36,000 naira ($228 US) to buy the required amount.
Mr. Jibrin had registered for a federal government fertilizer subsidy scheme, the Growth Enhancement Support (GES), which would enable him buy two bags at 2,750 naira each ($17 US). But he got no fertilizer even after undertaking the twelve kilometre round-trip three times.
Frustrated, he stopped going to Kembu for fertilizer and was forced to buy a few bags locally at market price. He says, “Even when they [did] come to distribute, they don’t follow the queue. They will just be giving the fertilizer to people outside the queue….even if they are not registered farmers.”
Babajide Awoyelu, a farmer from Kajola Ijesha in Osun State, south-western Nigeria, had a similar experience. In February, he registered for GES.
Mr. Awoyelu says, “They promised to give us two bags of fertilizers, vegetables seedlings and chemicals but they kept on saying the items have not been brought to them. I stopped going because I saw they were deceiving us.”
Federal government and state governments are expected to subsidize fertilizer through GES so that farmers could purchase it at half the market price. Each farmer is supposed to get two bags of fertiliser at the subsidised rate, along with a free bag of either improved maize or rice.
When launching the programme in 2011, Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina said it was designed to tackle corruption in the fertiliser distribution system. Much of it was being diverted by officials and passed to well-connected politicians or sold. The government lost nearly five billion US dollars between 1980 and 2010.
In theory, the GES scheme aims to cut out middle men, bypass fraudulent officials and sell fertilizer directly to farmers. The government licensed a process under which dealers sell inputs to registered farmers.
Osho Akinbolawa is the director in charge of GES for the federal government. He says, “I am definitely sure that we have crossed even over 80 per cent, in terms of reaching our target.”
A recent investigation found that none of the registered centres were selling at the subsidized price. Farmers across the country were asked to pay more, with officials telling them that the additional amount is to take care of transport and storage.
In spite of the challenges the GES scheme has faced, however, some farmers say the new system is far better than the previous method of fertilizer distribution as it is far more efficient and less corrupt.
Abdullahi Sule is a physically challenged farmer from Bauchi State who benefitted from the GES scheme. He was full of praise for the federal government for introducing it. Mr. Sule says: “I am extremely happy to get this support, and we thank the government for subsidising fertilizer for us to use. I came all the way from our village to get these fertilizers after receiving a text message from the official.”