By AGRA Content Hub

After 17 years of political processes, advocating by governmental and non governmental organizations and business entities with different interests, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has finally signed the National Fertilizer Quality Control Act into law on 16 October 2019, and AGRA is proud to have catalyzed the process.

The Bill, whose drafting began in 2002 when farmers pressurized the Federal Government of Nigeria to establish an agency for fertilizer regulation and control has since gone through several stages as required by the law, the President’s desk in 2004. However, it died on arrival because the government did not have appetite to create new agencies, despite several fake fertilizers curtails that rocked the country by then.

It was later revived in 2012. Three years later, AGRA engaged the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) to intensify the advocacy and sensitization. The draft Fertilizer Bill reached first and second reading stages of National Assembly in 2014 but it was not enacted into law.

The Fertilizer Quality control bill went in the House of Representatives through first reading on 10 December 2015, second reading on 19 January 2016 and third reading and passage on 2 June 2016.  The House of Representatives passed the Bill to Senate but it took almost another nine months for Senate to pass it for first reading.

The Fertilizer Quality Control Bill went through first reading in the senate on the 22 March 2017 and was listed by the Committee on Rules and Business for second reading four times from June to July 2017.

The Fertilizer Quality Control Bill in the Senate successfully went through second reading in the Senate on 27 September 2017 and Committee Stage Public hearing on 14 November 2017. The Bill was finally laid on Tuesday 17 July 2018 but it was not approved. Senate members suggested an amendment to the section on penalties for defaulters.

At this stage, AGRA complemented its previous design support and invested in advocacy, sensitization and awareness creation with focus on the value of the Bill, informing the public of how important it was to smallholder farmers, the private sector and the whole agricultural sector in Nigeria.

The President signed the National Fertilizer Quality Control Act into law on October 16, 2019.

Advocacy was done in all the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria and also through mainstream and social media platforms. This raised the profile of the Bill, for members of the public to be able to engage with their parliamentarians, to make them understand the value of this Bill and why it needed to be passed.

Dr Joseph Rusike a Senior Program Officer for Policy and Advocacy at AGRA gave his reflections on the Bill, moments after the President’s signature. Below are his excerpts.

 Q. How important is this Bill for Nigeria?

A.The Bill is extremely important because it provides a legal foundation for setting up a competitive fertilizer industry that can supply farmers with quality products at affordable prices.

The reason is that in the market, the fertilizer sellers may be tempted to sell counterfeit or fake products as fertilizers. At the point of purchase farmers have no means to know whether what they are buying is genuine or fake. If a farmer buys such products, it can only be later in the season that they will realize that they bought fake products.

In such an event, the farmer will definitely get poor yields because they have lost the opportunity time. Using this Bill, such unscrupulous traders will be rooted out and prosecuted, imprisoned or fined.

If you look at the development of agriculture in any given country, it is dependent on farmers buying and using products that offer the benefits that the sellers claim the product will provide.

So the law is particularly useful in reducing the counterfeit or fake fertilizers and therefore protects the farmers and everyone in the fertilizer supply chain, including fertilizer manufacturers, blenders, distributers, agro-dealers among others.

Q. How rampant is fertilizer counterfeiting in Africa?

A. Studies have been done in a number of African countries and they show that the problem is endemic and rampant on the continent.

So what we need is control measures and standards for example, before the fertilizers are sold, we must know the composition of Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, moisture content, and the fertilizers must not have heavy metals that can lead to health complications.

Q. What role did AGRA play to influence the passing of the legislation?

A.AGRA provided technical assistance and backstopping in form of a grant to government and private sector organizations to help with the process of generating the evidence so as to achieve the consensus; that there was an urgent need for the law.

Secondly, AGRA looked at policy options that were available to the government, so as to do a technical economic impact assessment in order to identify the best solutions that the government could pursue. We also looked at the legal analysis to make sure that the proposed legislation is consistent with the laws of the country and other regionaltreaties that Nigeria is a signatory to.

Q. What challenges did the Bill encounter before it was signed into law?

A.The Bill had to deal with the political economy of the country. There were several organizations that were involved in the fertilizer regulation. Some of them stood to win, and others stood to lose from the reforms. So, some of these organizations could sponsor Bills to go through the House of Representatives secretly without knowledge of other players.

The other challenge is that the Bill got caught up in a political quagmire as the country was going through electoral reform process.

Q. What lessons did AGRA learn from this process?

A.One major lesson is that there is always need to have technical analysis of the issues and legal analysis that is politically neutral and unbiased. Providing that in a timely fashion to the decision making process is what we really need in order to shield the process of making laws from political manipulations and interests of parties.

Q. Do you think the law will be fully implemented to protect farmers in Nigeria?

A.In this particular case, immediately the process of drafting the Bill started, the process of making regulations to operationalize the Bill also began. This involved increasing awareness by key stakeholders and the audit of institutions that were mandated to implement the Bill.

And now that the Bill has been signed into law, the regulations will be reviewed at national stakeholder meetings after which they will be endorsed and presented to the minister of agriculture for signing.

Q. What does this achievement mean for AGRA

A. It was a learning process and in particular, we feel it has catalyzed a process in which the benefits of the reform process far exceed the cost. These lessons can be transferred to other countries. For example, work is now starting in Kenya about supporting the implementation of the recently amended fertilizer Act throughsetting up of a Fertilizer Regulatory Board, and the regulations to operationalize the Act.

We need to strengthen these legal underpinnings of the fertilizer industry in all African countries so as to achieve a green revolution on the continent.

We also need to understand that it was not just AGRA. The success should also be attributed to unwavering support and collaboration with partners, not limited to Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA). This is a unique strategic partnership launched in 2017 that enables African agriculture actors to do business differently as they support leaders to drive an inclusive agricultural transformation.

PIATA members include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ.