By Jude Njoku & Favour Nnabugwu
POOr maintenance culture has often be adduced as the major reason for the collapse of Nigeria’s 195,400 kilometers of roads infrastructure. Against this backdrop, construction experts and cement manufacturers who brainstormed on “Exploring cement based option for sustainable road construction in Nigeria,” about a year ago, canvassed the use of concrete in road pavements in view of its durability and cost-effectiveness.
In making the call, the the experts noted that prior to this time, all road constructions in Nigeria were done with asphalt or plain laterite for rural roads because cement was relatively scarce and expensive. They further noted that with the installed capacity of local cement companies increasing from 3,000 metric tonnes per annum in 2003 to 28mtpa, the country has moved from the previous position of the world’s leading importer of the product in 2006, to a position of self-sufficiency, hence the need to start using cement in roads pavement.
The Chairman of Cement Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, CMAN, Mr Joseph Makoju, an engineer, explained that “benchmarking against international practice, about 40 percent of the roads in the developed countries like USA and Germany are made of cement concrete whereas it is only about two percent in emerging economies countries like India and less than 0.1 percent in Nigeria”.
The call by CMAN and construction experts appears to be yielding fruits faster than expected as the Federal Government last week, promised to collaborate with CMAN to test run the use of cement in road pavements.
The cement manufacturers the government plans to collaborate with include Dangote Cement PLC, Lafarge WAPCO Nigeria PLC, Cement Company of Northern Nigeria, Askaka Cement and United Cement Company UniCem, Calabar.
The Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, an architect, disclosed this when he received in audience the management of Lafarge WAPCO Cement led by the company’s Managing Director, Mr Guillaume Roux in Abuja.
The Minister explained that as part of the ongoing process of identifying good solutions for Federal roads in the country, the Ministry of Works would start an experimentation on rigid pavements which is another name for cement concrete surfacing..
“We want to know what the manufacturers are bringing to make the projects realistic. We have identified cement companies as one source of the excessive overloading of our roads. We would carry out laboratory test on the products to ensure that they are good as we prepare to begin the construction of rigid pavement carriageway in Nigeria.
We have identified major road works where we want to experiment rigid pavement design. Consultants were commissioned and they told me that one of those roads is the Kachie-Ajie road to connect the Federal Capital Territory to Baro Port in Niger state”.
The second one is the Ikorodu-Shagamu road. We have completed the design of the rigid pavement and commenced procurement for the two roads. Once the 2014 budget is approved, the projects will come on stream.
“They are projects where you have to showcase cement for road works, we are looking forward to collaborating with your organisation in bringing that experimentation to a successful end.
We believe there are certain terrains in our country that are unfriendly to asphaltic concrete, so we have to design this solution for those terrains so that they can last longer,”.
He spoke on the advantages and disadvantages of using cement in roads pavements.
“It is well known that while the design life of concrete roads is between 35 to 50 years as against 20-25 years for flexible asphalt pavement, the cost of concrete roads is considerably high. On the other hand, flexible asphalt pavements lend themselves more easily to stage construction and also initial cost of construction is lower than concrete pavement but requires more frequent maintenance,” he said.
On the damage to roads due to overloading by cement companies, the Minister said ministry will collaborate with cement companies to determine what tonnage of trucks should leave their factories at any point in time.
Earlier, Mr Guillaume Roux said the local cement industry is capable of producing far more than the country consumes. He called for other valuable applications to be generated for cement.
The Lafarge WAPCO boss disclosed that his company hashigh quality cement for road works and solution. The company currently has nine plants and intends to increase it to 17 at the end of 2014. Introducing rigid pavements, he said, would help roads to last longer
He added that the company’s decision to have more than one cement brand was informed by the need to provide customers with a range of alternative cement brands to select from.
“We are leading the required differentiation in the cement market and will continue to deliver value to our customers and stakeholders through our innovative products and services,” he said, adding that . The company had invested a substantial amount of money in the provision of its other products, aimed at providing products and services to building contractors in need of large volumes of already mixed concrete to ensure faster and quality execution of products.
On the Lafarge Readymix Nigeria Ltd, a subsidiary of the company, he said the company decided to introduce the Readymix concrete into the market because of the huge opportunities for such products. According to him, a model of Readymix is already operational in some African countries like South Africa, Zambia and Morocco.
His words: “Our ReadyMix business has become a preferred solution in the concrete sector in Nigeria. We are expanding with three new plants across the nation. Lafarge Powermax has also been launched, an innovative 42.5AL high quality performance cement, that is used for large construction projects like bridges, high rise structures, slabs and beams, spun pipes, garden paths and driveways and so on.
The company is building plants across Nigeria, starting from Lagos to Abuja and Port Harcourt. The aim is to provide commercial Readymix concrete products, targeted at providing products and services to building contractors who need large volumes of already mixed concrete to ensure faster and quality execution of jobs”.