By Bassey Udo
Concerned about the skyrocketing price of cement in the country in recent times, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Thursday enjoined domestic manufacturers to focus more on meeting local demand to force down prices.
The price of cement has risen to about N5000 per bag across the country in recent times despite that it was being produced locally.
But, speaking at the ofdicial commissioning of the ultra-modern 3 milion metric tons per annum capacity cement manufacturing plant by the BUA Group in
Sokoto, the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, urged cement manufacturers to something about the situation.
“This sector is one of the major sectors in the economy helping to create employment and boost growth in our country. We are aware that some of our Cement manufacturers are producing for both the domestic and exports market. But we urge them to pay more attention at satisfying the domestic needs so as to bring down prices,” he said.
He said the appeal to manufacturers in the construction sector to take urgent action to bring down the price of building materials in the country was informed by recent calls by construction companies for cement and steel manufacturers to check the skyrocketing prices of these two essential items in the construction sector.
Emefiele reiterated the determination of the CBN to provide the needed support for the importation of spares, plants and equipment needed to increase production capacities of the country’s cement plants in the country.
He expressed delight at the achievements of Nigeria’s private sector, as demonstrated by the BUA Group, describing it as a critical ingredient to complement the effort by the government to reduce unemployment and boost production activities in the country.
He said the investments by the private sector have supported the CBN’s mandate of promoting stable macro-economic growth in the country.
While congratulating BUA Group, led by its Group CEO, Adbul Rabiu, for the investment, the CBN governor said the establishment of the cement manufacturing plant in Sokoto and other parts of the country was a reflection of company’s belief in the country, and in the immense opportunities available in the industrial sector, particularly the abundance of human and natural resources.
He commended the company for its ingenuity, noting that the construction of the plant was fully funded by equity contributions of the BUA group without resorting to any external financing.
On the effort by the government to steer the country’s economy away from its dependence on imports towards self-reliance, to enable Nigerians to produce what they consume, and eat what they produce, Emefiele said over the past seven years government has been pursuing policies aimed at driving productivity in the industrial sector, to conserve the country’s foreign reserves.
He said the decision by the government in 2015 to restrict access to foreign exchange for imports of 43 items was aimed at boosting the capacity of Nigerians, to produce what they need in-country, to conserve the billions of dollars that were being expended annually on imports.
One of the restricted items, he said, was cement, which was included in the list in view of the fact that the key raw material required for its production (limestone) was readily available across the country.
Following the implementation of the new directive, he said the country’s cement industry production capacity has doubled, from 30 million tons in 2014 to about 60 million tonnes in 2021.
As a result of the investments by local businessmen in the cement manufacturing sector, he said the country has been able to conserve billions of dollars, as no dollar from the country’s external reserves have been spent on the importation of cement into the country in the last six years.
Also, the CBN governor said these private sector investments have not only saved the country huge foreign exchange, it has also created several thousands of jobs across multiple sectors of the economy.
These achievements, he noted, were not a coincidence, but reflections of the success of the backward integration policy of the present administration as highlighted in the significant opportunities in housing, construction and related industries.
In spite of these successes, he said there was still sufficient room for additional investments in the sector, adding that potential investors were encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities available to contribute their quota.
He assured existing and prospective operators in the industrial sector of the readiness of the CBN to continue to collaborate with them in creating the enabling environment for the development of a viable manufacturing sector in the country.
The CBN, he said, would work with those willing to invest in new greenfield or existing brownfield projects in the country, by providing all the support necessary, both in Naira and foreign currencies, needed to import plants and equipment to actualize these investments.
The support, he said, was directly in line with the CBN’s resolve to create a professional and people-centred apex bank that would act as a financial catalyst for job creation and inclusive economic growth in Nigeria.