By Franklin Alli and Naomi Uzoh
President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Alhaji Bashir Borodo, believes most problems plaguing the Nigerian industrial landscape are as a result of what he calls â€œpolitical entrepreneurs, predators and rent seekers.â€
He made this observation during the 37th annual general meeting of the group, held in Lagos recently. He blamed the collapse of the more than 820 manufacturing industries between 2000 and 2008, on this class of influential Nigerians masquerading as entrepreneurs.
The MAN President stated that since the return of democracy in 1999, the country has witnessed the emergence of political entrepreneurs and predators who have acquired political influence to direct and control economic policies and this has brought practically the closure of about 820 manufacturing firms in the country.
â€œIn the process, they became predators; destroying the industrial sector. They are not pro-industry and have succeeded in destroying major industrial sub-sectors, particularly the textiles, tyres, paper and vegetable oil. Now their next target is the cement industry. Their tactics are to influence government policy to allow unrestricted imports through waivers. They create strong cartels for smuggling under the watchful eyes of government agencies,â€ he lamented.
According to him, Cotonou, in Benin Republic, is the hub of smugglers, and the prosperity enjoyed by that country is based on the parallel Nigerian economy created by smugglers aided and abetted by government agencies in Nigeria and Benin Republic and the net result of these smuggles, he added, is that the stronger the Benin Republic gets, the weaker the Nigerian economy becomes.
However, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), believes short-term or temporary importation of bagged cement is necessary so as to bring the price down, create availability and regular supplies at fair prices to consumers.
NACCIMA President, Dr. Simon Chukwuemeka Okolo, said the association believes government had better see importation as a temporary measure to shore up adequate supply and to crash the high price of the item in the market. â€œImportation will help bring down the price of cement and make it affordable to the average Nigerian, and government should also consider opening up importation of burnt bricks for people to use in building their homes, as this might help to bring down the price of cement and save Nigerians from further hardships,â€ he stated.
Local cement supply, he added, does not in any way meet the demand, resulting in high cost of cement in the country and this has hampered lots of Nigerians who wish to build and own homes from doing so. Also scores of businessmen who wish to erect new structures to either start or expand their business, experience severe difficulty in achieving this due to high cost of cement and other building materialsâ€.
Okolo, further urged relevant government agencies at the ports to be vigilant and thoroughly inspect the imported brands of cement to make sure substandard ones are not dumped on the country, and that government should also intensify effort towards addressing the issues that resulted to high cost of production for cement manufacturer which have forced lot of them out of business, namely, inconsistent policies, electric power problem, among others.
Acting Managing Director, Benue Cement (BCC) Plc, Mr. Thiermoorthy Sukumar, a subsidiary of Dangote Group, enjoined the Federal Government not to allow few people to destroy the cement industry.
According to him, BCC, for instance, is the only huge factory in the Benue State that could employ thousands of skilled and unskilled workers saying that government should discourage policy that can lead to the closure of local cement factories.
Sukumar said that Dangote Group has spent over N42 billion in upgrading facilities and infrastructure at the BCC since acquiring a majority stake in the company. He said that the company was determined to hit the three million tonnes mark in the very near future.
He assured that the company would continue to maintain its leading market share of about 60 per cent of the nationâ€™s cement supply.
The CEO said the company would continue to invest in various communities by funding projects and programmes to uplift the social and economic lives of people in its host community as part of its corporate social responsibility. â€œThis will ensure a mutually beneficial relationship between the community and the company as we work toward bringing BCC back to its enviable position as one of the foremost manufacturing concerns in Africa,â€ he said.
Sukumar noted that the company has expanded its corporate social responsibility in the communities through various initiatives such as electricity, water and construction of new classrooms.
He recalled that Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State recently commissioned education projects valued at N84 million developed in Mbayion, Yandev and Ipay communities by the company.
He said the projects included the construction of 13 classroom blocks and one examination block in primary and secondary schools located in the 13 communities. â€œWe are committed to supporting the needs of our host communities and these classrooms will provide vital facilities for up to 2,000 students.
â€œEducation is one of the key components of our corporate social responsibility programmes and one of the most important contributors to national development,â€ he said.
A community spokesman, Mr Saapara Timgia, commended Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group, for having revived the company and urged other wealthy Nigerians to emulate him by investing in the countryâ€™s economy. â€œDangote is indeed a wealthy man who has used his resources to provide succour for many Nigerians through job creation and the distribution of wealth and goodwill,â€ Timgia said.
He added that, â€œWe are surprised that at the rate the BCC has bounced back and gone far beyond its installed capacityâ€.
The spokesman said that community has also received from the company N10 million for annual scholarship awards to indigenes of the host communities in universities and other tertiary institutions.
In addition, he said that the on-going electrification project valued at N75 million to supply electricity to about 60,000 persons in various settlements around the company was almost at the completion stage adding it would be completed before the end of the year.
â€œWe are aware that the company soon construct a 20-bed health centre valued at N100 million for the companyâ€™s neighbouring communities, while a dam and a water-treatment plant are also being constructed,â€ he said.