Despite conversations around the importance of diversifying the economy, the federal government of Nigeria seems to have taken one step forward and two steps back. According to reports, Nigeria is owing local fertilizer suppliers an outstanding debt of N72 billion. This is indicative of a lackadaisical attitude towards agriculture and could result in food shortage for the whole country, which paints a pretty gloomy picture for the citizens, who are already suffering through a petroleum crisis and a lack of basic amenities. It may strike some as odd that fertilizer suppliers could actually have any serious impact on the nation’s food production. However, it is high time people are made aware of the importance of these individuals who rank really high on the chain of food production.

The duties of food fertilizer suppliers are found in the 1946 statement given by W.A. Minor, the Assistant to the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture at the time, during the First Annual Convention of the American Plant Food Council in June 1946. “The fertilizer industry, right now and historically, is in the business of saving lives, it is in the business of saving the soil, of raising the level of human nutrition and health.”

All over the world, food fertilizer suppliers are tasked with meeting world food demand and not just food but healthy food. By providing fertilizers which aid farmers in growing food, these individuals make sure that there is increased food production which is made available for the country’s consumption. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium play a vital role in ensuring the crops we are harvesting are good and healthy enough to consume.

The Fertilizers Producers and Fertilizers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) have dedicated their resources to ensuring the absence of indiscriminate use of fertilizers in the country. Just like their vision statement says: Attain improved productivity and environmental sustainability of Nigerian Agriculture through the balanced and judicious use of fertilizers.

The debt owed to FEPSAN, however, is an inherited one as it has been accumulating since 2014 from the past administration. Former president Goodluck Jonathan was accused of passing on the debt from his administration to the current Buhari administration.

In December last year, the minister of agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, raised alarm over this same debt, although at the time it was reportedly N42 billion. According to Ogbeh, the federal government was owing fertilizer suppliers about N42 billion, due to inability of states to meet their 25 percent counterpart funding of the fertilizer subsidy scheme. Although Barr. Moses Itie of the Farm Inputs Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FUISAN) said the amount owed to the fertilizer suppliers is N52 billion. “The amount outstanding to date, being the subsidy portion of Federal and State Governments for which payment is yet to be paid to fertilizer suppliers is about N52 billion (Fifty Two Billion Naira),” he said.

If faced with a food crisis, we can be sure that the country will also battle with social vices. In his 2002 journal on food crisis, Zakariya D. Goshit said inadequate nutrition, which is a consequence of food shortage, always results in lawlessness. “Food problems have forced some Nigerians to engage in activities which have a negative impact on the nation. These social vices include ethnic-religious conflicts, armed robbery, prostitution, child- trafficking, corruption, etc. A hungry man is an easy target for selfish members of the bourgeoisie who would buy their services for a price to foment anarchy within the society,” he writes.

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