Arrest and prosecute the suppliers of fake fertiliser

Some Kenyans are so obsessed with illicit gains that they have no scruples even about endangering the others in their selfish pursuits. They include the crooks who have taken advantage of the well-intended government fertiliser subsidy programme to supply fake inputs.

Reports of farmers around the country opening their bags of fertilisers only to finding pebbles instead are disconcerting. But, perhaps, these crooks have been allowed too much room to carry out their fraudulent schemes.

What these people have done amounts to sabotage of a government initiative and it must never be condoned. Quite early in his tenure following the August 2022 elections, President William Ruto unveiled this fertiliser subsidy that slashed the price of a 50kg bag by half to about Sh3,000 to boost agriculture.

The first recipients of the clean fertilisers have reported extremely good yields of food and cash crops. They include the staple maize that helps to keep away hunger from households. A crooked trader who cons farmers by supplying them with fake fertilisers and other inputs deserves stern punishment.

The senators’ call to have those behind the fertiliser scandal arrested is, indeed, commendable. Besides, police and administration officials have moved swiftly and impounded some of the fake products.

The senators want the government officials who allowed the fake fertilisers to be supplied to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots and distributed to farmers prosecuted. They have also called out staff and managers of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) officials for criminal and deadly laxity.

The lawmakers want those found culpable to refund the money paid by the farmers who bought the fake or substandard fertilisers. Indeed, the Senate Agriculture Committee has summoned Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi to appear before it this week to shed light on this latest public scandal.

Farmers should not suffer loss due to the negligence of government officials and managers of various agencies. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations should move quickly to apprehend and arraign the masterminds behind the fake fertilisers.