The Federal Government, on Monday, turned down a request by the Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to ban the importation of cement into the country.
It will be reacalled that the Federal Government, in a bid to bridge the gap between demand and supply of cement in the country, had last year granted licences for importation to some firms with a view to reducing the cost to end users.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Achike Udenwa, who played host to stakeholders in the cement industry in his office in Abuja, said inasmuch as it behoved the government to protect local industries, it had the responsibility to protect consumers against unfair prices.
Speaking on behalf of the cement manufacturers, Dr. Joe Makoju, described as unfair the action of government to open the country’s borders to indiscriminate importation after local producers had invested billion of dollars in building cement plants all over the country.
He said the present posture of government in granting licences to new entrants, who were largely speculators, would jeopardise the various investments in the industry.
Makoju said that Flour Mills, a major importer of cement, had partnered with Dangote Industries, Lafarge and Holcim to establish Unicem cement plant in Calabar, Rivers State, with investment of about US$800m.
He said it was unfortunate that government would fling open its gates at the point when some of the new plants had started to produce, with local production increased to 6Mt, representing 46 per cent of supply.
Makoju further said that to compound the dire situation of cement manufacturers in Nigeria, government also reduced duty on imported cement from 20 per to 10 per cent for bagged, and from 10 per cent to five per cent for bulk cement.
Describing the situation as inimical to the growth of the system, Makoju said, ”All over the world, countries with local cement manufacturing capacity do not encourage the entry of floating cement ships, as they are vessels for dumping cement at the lowest cost into any market.
“They have zero local content, and make zero investment in installation of terminals or employment of locals.”
He said that operators in the cement industry were not totally averse to importation, saying that what they frowned at was a situation whereby the country would be made a dumping ground, a situation which could kill local industries.