IN March 2017, the Federal Government announced that Nigeria had attained self-sufficiency in cement production. Leading a team of officials to the Ibese, Ogun State plant of Dangote Cement, the immediate former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, had commended Dangote for spearheading the feat.
According to Fayemi (now Governor of Ekiti State): “We exported nearly 0.4MT (metric tonnes) into neighbouring countries and in doing so, we achieved a great milestone by transforming Nigeria into a net exporter of cement.
“This is a remarkable achievement, given that only five years ago, in 2011, Nigeria was one of the largest importers, buying 5.1MT of foreign cement at huge expense to our balance of payments”.
Nigeria’s frontline cement manufacturers, such as Dangote, BUA and Lafarge, have continued to experience annual growth, with Dangote given unfettered access to truck its products across closed borders and state boundaries during the coronavirus lockdown.
In spite of all these, however, there has been an astronomical rise of the retail price of cement throughout Nigeria. Ordinary Nigerians are complaining bitterly over the social media.
In 2011, which Fayemi referred to, imported cement averagely cost N1.900 per 50kg bag (retail) in most parts of Nigeria.
Today, despite our self-sufficiency, it has risen to between N3,500 and N5,000 amidst unprecedented profit windfalls by our manufacturers. However, Dangote Cement recently reacted to the outcries, saying that its factory prices are still between N2,450 and N2,510 per 50kg bag, VAT inclusive.
What is at play is more of cement racketeering among the middlemen who play a commanding role in moving cement from the factories to the masons who use them at the construction sites.
The increase in the cost of petroleum products, outright profiteering and other factors within our fractured economy may be major factors.
The steady rise in the cost of cement leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Many people struggling to build houses have been forced to either stop or resort to the lowering of standards which will put the people in danger of building collapse. The cost of housing is shooting through the roof as landlords have been handed additional reasons to hike rents in an economy bedevilled by dwindling incomes. Many government projects are bound to be abandoned.
Obviously, some elements in the cement supply chain are capitalising on the insatiable demand for cement in a population of over 200 million to fill their pockets.
This is where governance comes into play. The work of government is to make our cement sufficiency work for all Nigerians – from the manufacturers through the middlemen to the final consumers.
What Nigerians are going through is not merely the interplay of the forces of demand and supply. There is unbridled profiteering. Only government can save this situation.