•Says Nigeria has highest cement cost


From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

The House of Representatives Joint Committee on Solid Minerals, Industries, Commerce and Special Duties has given cement manufacturers a 14-day ultimatum to appear before it.

The committee gave the ultimatum after the cement manufacturers, including Dangote Cement, BUA, Lafarge, Eagle Cement, and Asaka Cement, failed to appear at an investigative hearing organised by the panel.

The committee also invited the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, to appear before it.

Chairman, House Committee on Solid  Minerals, Jonathan Gbefwi, who chaired the panel, expressed dismay over the absence of the companies.

Gbefwi said: “We are trying to see to the development of our country. Just as it was emphasised in the opening remarks, cement to building is what air is to each and every human being. Let me warn that the House of Representatives and the National Assembly are not in receipt of any court order restraining us from inviting anybody.

“And to this end, in the human nature of the House, because we owe them a duty of care, because they are equally Nigerians, we are giving them 14 days within which to make their submissions. If not, as we have sworn to uphold the constitution, we will use everything within our powers to make sure that Nigerians are not taken for granted or exploited. We will not sit back, while some companies daily declare billions in Naira and Dollars, and our people can barely afford to get a decent roof over their heads.

“We saw in Lagos where you have Nigerians living under the bridge and paying rent. Why? If these products were available, I do not believe we’d go to those lengths. Moreover, God has blessed us with these resources in abundance.”

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Gbefwi, earlier in his welcome address, said Nigeria has the highest cost of cement across the world, when compared with the exchange rate in each country.

He noted that the rising cost of cement was worrisome as it has inflicted more hardship on the citizens, especially as Nigeria has a deficit of about three million houses, as well as infrastructural deficit.

 “To close this gap, both the government and the private sector must be articulate and deliberate in how to put the right policies and parameters in place that can help promote, induce and or encourage development.

“Therefore, should the price of cement which is a major component of our infrastructural development continue to soar uncontrollably, the tendency to stifle life out of that sector is high and the consequences are  dire and detrimental.

“Our review of cement prices in other countries like Kenya, India and Zambia for 2021 alone shows that Nigeria has the highest price of cement using the official exchange rates for each country.

“Nigeria’s price of cement doubles that of India at a difference of 69 percent. Similarly, the price is 29 percent higher than that in Kenya and 39 percent higher in Zambia.  Hence, the need for us to come together and find out the reason, so as to bring succour to our citizens, while protecting investors alike.

“Our concern is for all legitimate businesses, especially cement production companies in Nigeria to thrive and deliver their objective and services to the people in such a manner that can foster development.”

The Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas, while declaring the hearing open, said the hearing was not a witch-hunt, but an avenue to deliberate for the good of the country.

“Let me assure you that the parliament is working hard to put the right legislation to help promote and encourage industrialisation, as well as small and medium scale enterprises in place. We are equally open and willing to work hand in hand with the manufacturers and the end users. This, in our belief, is the surest way to improve the quality of life and standard of living of the citizens.”