The flip side of Emefiele’s heroism for Nigerian farmers

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Godwin Emefiele

“Two out of every five people on Earth today owe their lives to the higher crop outputs that fertilizer has made possible” – Bill Gates.

Bull Gate’s famous quote on fertilizer would remind many a Nigerian farmer of an important component to what they know best – fertilizer. It will be pointless rehashing the tough odds confronting Nigerian farmers due to the scarcity of Urea brand of fertilizer. Beyond these too, economic experts have their eyes mainly on how this brilliant Emefiele-driven policy would impact on our national treasury by saving a whopping $3million every year and ultimately conserving Foreign Exchange.

The Dangote Fertilizer Plant, which got a major boost with CBN’s intervention is indeed a welcome development. This is moreso because once the farmers get unfettered access to badly-needed fertilizer, it helps maximum yields, thereby enhancing the global targets on food security.

Let us reflect on an important revelation on this matter by the CBN itself. Governor of the apex bank Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has months ago revealed that the Dangote Petroleum Refinery as well as its Fertiliser Plant would save the country $3 billion annually, thereby conserving scarce foreign exchange. Emefiele was specifically referring to the Urea brand.

Even the President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote echoed this disclosure by the apex bank’s helmsman. The business mogul too, stated that urea fertiliser from the Dangote Fertiliser Plant would be quite helpful to the economic fortunes of this nation once it hits the market.

Let us also not forget, that the two, separate relocations were both made during a tour of the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Plant in Lagos, alongside chief executive officers of First Bank Nigeria Limited, Access Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa and Zenith Bank Plc.

In an interaction with newsmen shortly after the tour, Emefiele made the revelation regarding the amount of foreign exchange the petroleum refinery and fertiliser plants were expected to save the country. Emefiele pointed out that importation of petroleum products alone makes about 25 per cent of the country’s import bill.
This, he explained was for petroleum alone. He then said that when fertiliser, which is another major item being imported in the country, wheat, milk and the rest were added, the bill would be quite burdensome.

Hear him: “So, 25 per cent of the value of our imports means that a lot of money is being spent on importation”.

He then hits the nail on the head our : “Imagine if this refinery comes to life hopefully by the first quarter of next year, where we have other by-products from petrochemicals, we will be saving about $3 billion worth of import annually”.

Those who were in attendance at that historic event succinctly captured the excitement on Emefiele’s face, given the level of work at the facility — which is expected to commence refining petroleum products. This means it will contribute significantly to the growth of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Hear Emefiele again: “Don’t forget that I keep asking what is the contribution of import to our GDP? The contribution of import to GDP is negative and if we can reduce our import by about $3 billion annually, imagine how our GDP will be growing.

“That is the science behind what we are doing. Reduce import and produce things that we can produce locally and consume them locally, thereby promoting solid import substitution as Mr. President usually says, that will help this country and grow the economy”.

The visit by the CBN Governor and other had offered an exclusive opportunity for carrying out final inspection of the fertiliser plant just as the company said it was preparing to commence sale of the product. It was heartwarming that Dangote was ready to now flood the Nigerian market with fertiliser, particularly the urea brand, and the original plan that the excess would go for export.

The fertiliser plant will be three million tones urea strong. Add to the existing capacity from Indorama, which is 1.5 million metric tones; Notore of maybe about 300 metric tons and Nigeria we would have close to five million metric tons of urea.

In fact, Nigeria needs barely one million and 1.5 million metric tons of urea is extramile. Consequently, there is the potential to export at least three million metric tons of urea in many countries around the globe.
Interestingly, Nigeria still ranks among the leading countries in the production of urea.

Hear Emefiele: “This, for me, is a story no one would have believed in Nigeria. We also saw the petrochemical and refinery plant. Dangote has also committed that mechanical commissioning would end by the end of this year and we are expecting that the refinery and petrochemical would kick-off by the end of first quarter of next.”

One takeaway from this historic unveiling was the fact that one of the key projects the CBN has nurtured together with the bankers : the $17 billion project where the foreign and local banks contributed close to $10 billion while the Dangote industries contributed the rest as equity is becoming a reality.

The prognosis on the gains of this investment in urea is that will be exported and even from Dangote alone, the product will bring about $2 billion to Nigeria’s foreign reserves, increase dollar liquidity in the market and save the dollar CBN would have used to fund the economy.

Another takeaway was the Dangote’s admission thus: “The urea that we actually went to see is a small percentage of the gas that we have been flaring in this country. It means that we alone, just this three million tons of urea, you are talking about bringing in over $1.2 billion into the country.

“So if that is the case you can imagine if Nigeria is to be importing urea, the port charges, the congestion in Apapa and Tin Can Island. It means that farmers, it wouldn’t even be possible for them to plant because to transport urea is not a joke.
And I think we must really thank you Mr. Governor and the bankers for making this possible.”
To keep up to speed, Dangote revealed that his company’s urea had gotten all the licenses from the National Security Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, NAFDAC and other relevant agencies.

CEO, Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe, said the fact that Nigerian banks could come together to support a Nigerian to create a word-class manufacturing plant in the country remains a major pride for every banker in the country.

The CBN has become a formidable driving force for agricultural revolution in today’s Nigeria. Furthermore it speaks volumes about the gains of innovative apex bank leadership, that has been masses-friendly for years.

Dambatta, a veteran journalist, writes via [email protected]*

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