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Buhari targets fertilizer sufficiency, job creation through $1.3bn plant

By Idowu Abdullahi

President Muhammadu Buhari has assured that Nigeria would soon become a regional and global fertilizer powerhouse after commissioning a new basic chemicals platform worth $1.3b that would produce ammonia and fertilizers in Nigeria.

Buhari added that when completed, the new plant would complement the existing Dangote and Indorama Chemicals facilities which produce urea, ammonia, and other industrial raw materials.

The president said that the plants that would be eady for commissioning in the coming months, would be built in partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco.

Speaking at an audience with Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), Buhari said that the move would improve the balance of trade between Nigeria and Morocco.

‘‘His Majesty, the King of Morocco and I, have agreed to extend the current Phosphate supply agreement between the Kingdom of Morocco and Nigeria. We both believe that to consolidate and expand on the successes recorded thus far, we must secure raw material supplies to our blenders.

‘‘Furthermore, to improve the balance of trade between Nigeria and Morocco, the two countries have signed an agreement to develop a $1.3 billion Basic Chemicals Platform in Nigeria that will produce Ammonia, Phosphoric Acid, Sulphuric Acid, and various Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) and Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertilisers using Nigeria’s gas reserves.

‘‘When we combine these projects with the existing 44 blending plants, Nigeria will indeed become a regional and global fertiliser powerhouse,’’ Buhari was quoted to have said in a statement by his spokesman, Femi Adesina.

On the activities of the FEPSAN, Buhari expressed delight on the progress they have made over the past five years, saying that despite the country going through recessions during the period, investments in the fertiliser and agricultural inputs sector continued to grow.

‘‘Though many investors chose to take their monies out of Nigeria, you continued to invest. Today, we are seeing the fruits of your smart, long term and patriotic decisions. This is why all Nigerians should be proud of the personal commitments and sacrifices you all made in getting us to where we are today.

‘‘Another commendable trait worth mentioning is that all your investments have been balanced between urban and rural Nigeria. These are the types of investments needed to address the unemployment and security challenges our nation is facing today,’’ he said.

He assured them that the Federal Government would continue to ensure a conducive business environment for these investments to flourish.

On the issue of security, the president expressed concern that the lack of employment prospects and opportunities in most rural communities had remained a major contributor to insecurity.

He noted that for decades, previous government policies have focused on urban development at the expense of rural inclusion.

‘‘In the last four years, we have worked hard to bridge some of these economic imbalances through our various agricultural and financial policies to attract employment opportunities to rural areas. As we continue to expand our security operations to bring an end to these challenges, it is important to note that peace and prosperity can only be sustained if we collectively and actively support investments that take opportunities to our rural citizens.

‘‘I, therefore, urge our governors, bankers, investors, and entrepreneurs to look beyond our cities when it comes to investments. As we have seen from Nigeria’s 5-year fertiliser revolution, if investors are willing to endure the short-term ‘start-up’ pains, they will surely benefit from long-term sustainable and substantial gains,’’ he said.

Buhari commended Governor Muhammad Abubakar of Jigawa State, Thomas Etuh and his FEPSAN team, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, security and intelligence agencies, and all Federal and State Government agencies for their collaboration in making the project possible.

‘‘I will also use this opportunity, on behalf of Nigerians, to thank my brother and friend, His Majesty, the King of Morocco for being with us during this difficult but exciting journey. This mutually beneficial partnership between our two countries is a true example of how intra-Africa trade and partnership should work,’’ he said.

In his remarks, the FEPSAN President, Thomas Etuh, recounted that in their first meeting with the president five years ago, he gave the association a mission to reduce Nigeria’s reliance on import, enhance fertiliser availability and affordability and create jobs over a four-year period.

Etuh told the Ppesident that from 3 blending plants operating at 40 per cent capacity in 2016, Nigeria now has 44 blending plants most of which are operating at full capacity.

‘‘From focusing on one fertiliser blend (NPK20:10:10) in 2017, today, we have countless numbers of crop specific blends coming up across the country. From being reliant on imports, today over 60 per cent of raw materials used in fertiliser production are locally sourced.

‘‘From having fertiliser scarcity which led to rationing, today any farmer can buy as many bags as he or she wants.
‘‘As a matter of fact, some farmer associations even give customised orders for their specific crops. On behalf of the Nigerian farmers we wish to thank Mr President for empowering them,’’ he said.

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