The PZ area in Zaria, Kaduna State, is a hub of fertiliser trading. Farmers and traders from across northern Nigeria and beyond patronise this area because of the name it has earned for itself in both retail and wholesale of fertiliser for many decades.
However, an alarm raised by residents of Dala village of Zaria over alleged movement of trailers loaded with contaminated fertiliser has led to the arrest of one Muhammad Lawal Bashir, a fertiliser trader in PZ area. Bashir, as confirmed by the police, was alleged to have been engaged in the production of fake fertiliser in a farm located at the Dala village.
When Daily Trust visited the village, it was observed that Bashir and his group have converted what looked like an abandoned farmhouse on the farm into a plant for their illicit business of fertiliser contamination.
When our correspondent visited the place, however, there was nobody in the farm except some women who said they were the wives of the security man of the farm.
They said their husband, Adamu Bello, was arrested by the police in connection with the production of the fake fertiliser.
However, some residents of the village, who craved for anonymity, said they raised the alarm, because they have been noticing movement of trailers in and out of the farm.
One of them said; “We know that that place is a farm not a fertiliser factory. However, since the Federal Government started releasing its subsidised fertiliser, we have been noticing how trailers moved into the farm with fertiliser and after sometime, other sets of trailers would move out with the same fertiliser. This was how we became suspicious and alerted the relevant authorities.”
Daily Trust discovered that the farmhouse at the centre of the production of the fake fertiliser has no heavy duty machines in it.
What the fertiliser adulterators did was to bring in the fertiliser released by the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI), mixed it with sand and repackage it for onward distribution and sale to unsuspecting farmers, one of the residents alleged.
“What they do is to mix one bag of Urea fertiliser with five bags of sand, thereby making six bags. They have workers who do this dirty work for them. They have knitting machines that make the bags of the fake fertiliser look similar to the ones produced by PFI. I think they also have connection with those that produce sacks for the Federal Government, because it would be difficult for one to differentiate the original from the fake sack. This is why it becomes necessary for the Federal Government to interrogate those producing its sacks,” one of the sources said.
Speaking with our correspondent, the Zaria Police Area Commander, Abdullahi Ibrahim, said they have so far intercepted over 1,000 bags of the fake fertiliser.
He said both the owner of the fake factory and the seized bags of adulterated fertiliser have been taken to the police command’s headquarters in Kaduna for further investigation.
“We have recovered many materials used in perpetrating the nefarious act and our suspicion, for now, is that they were attempting to scuttle the Federal Government’s Presidential Fertiliser Initiative,” ACP Ibrahim said.
Similarly, the chairman of the fertiliser traders of PZ, Zaria, Alhaji Sani ASD Danmarke, said the producer of the fake fertiliser was one of the bad eggs within their midst. He said they have internal mechanism of checking those types of notorious behaviours and assured farmers that the PZ fertiliser traders would continue to expose and expel bad eggs like suspect.
When contacted, the national secretary of the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, Ahmed Kwa, confirmed the incident, saying the Kaduna State government has launched investigation into the matter.
He said Fertiliser Producers and Supplies Association of Nigeria, anchoring the project, had taken steps to enlightening members of the public through radio jingles on how to identify fake fertiliser and report same to relevant authorities for necessary action.