The President of Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), Mr Thomas Etuh has narrated how he rebuffed an invitation by President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss the advancement of fertiliser value chain in Nigeria.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Etuh narrated the funny conversation that ensued between him and the Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari who had called him to come for a meeting.
Etuh said that when the call came from Kyari inviting him, he thought it was fraudsters, and he vehemently told him off.
He explained that he rebuffed the call many times and advised the caller to go and get a job, not knowing that the call was genuine and was going to change the lot of farmers and fertiliser producers as well as suppliers.
“One weekend, I got a call from the chief of staff to the president, Alhaji Abba Kyari that they wanted to see me. I thought it was a joke. So, I said I wasn’t interested in looking for any appointment and I dropped the phone.
“A couple of minutes later, he called back and asked if I was Thomas Etuh, I said “Yes, I am”.
“We’ll like to see you”, he said. I said “Please! I have told you I am not looking for any appointment and I can hear your voice sounding like a very elderly person. So I think you should go and get a job to do and stop this 419”, then, I banged the phone.
“So while sitting with friends, we put the number on truecaller, and behold his name came up but I never bothered.
“About an hour or two later, he put a call through again; I picked it and naturally, I apologized. He kept laughing on the phone and saying that he understands and if I can come because they want to have a meeting with me.
“Eventually, I made the appointment for the meeting and the presidency was concerned about the price of fertiliser going up and what we can do to reduce the price.
“And that discussion translated into the President setting up this committee of Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI), which FEPSAN which I lead as a body was tasked to come back with a proposal and all hands were on deck,” he said.
He said that government had been a very dominant player in the fertiliser market and everybody was selling to the government.
Etuh explained that upon taking over about 10 years ago, he worked hard to create his own market away from government and sell to farmers directly.
“When this government came in, you all heard the problem of fertiliser all over the country and that was why I was called in for the meeting.
“Because this programme was in the heart of President Buhari, he domiciled it in his office which was coordinated by the chief of staff himself.
“We had the Governor of Jigawa as Chairman of the committee, we had the NNPC MD, we had the central bank Governor, we have the NSA himself, we had the Sovereign Wealth Fund in that committee and we had FEPSAN all serving in the committee which we work to coordinate this programme.
“Now what did we do in FEPSAN. We spoke to our members and said this is a win-win thing. Reduce your profit margin and work on volume. Whatever you are losing here, you gain it from the volume.
“The CBN governor brought a cost saving in terms of low cost of funds in single digits. Instead of us getting money at double digits, here we have money at single digits.
“That cost reduction in finance was also transferred to the farmer. So because our cost of running is low, the farmer also benefits in that. So everybody plays their own role.
“So what did we achieve with that? We had 6 plants working at 10 per cent capacity. Now with this initiative, in the first phase we had 11 plants. And today, there are 18 plants out of the 32 that are in this programme,” he said.