Cement is one of the most important components of building materials, as a result, whatever affects it, affects not just the cost of housing alone, but the life of the average Nigerian.
Its importance cannot be overemphasized as it is used in the construction of major engineering structures such as bridges, culverts, dams, tunnels, water tanks, docks, is a binding material, used in filling cracks, fencing posts, footpaths, water-tight floors, construction of wells, the list goes on and on.
But the significant rise in the price of the commodity has no doubt been having noticeable effects on all stakeholders.
Notwithstanding, Members of the National Association of Block Moulders Association of Nigeria (NABMON) believe that, both the federal and state governments can control the price of the essential commodity.
Time was in the construction industry, when the general complaints or sing-songs among practitioners and stakeholders was that the government should encourage local content, by way of ensuring the manufacturing of basic raw materials in the sector, especially cement, which is a major component of construction in Nigeria.
With the much-trumpeted attempts by the government at providing low income housing for its citizenry and bridging the wide housing gap, there are fears in some quarters that the current price of cement might make nonsense of the policy. This, according to some concerned individuals, is in addition to the tendency for project abandonment.
Some members of NABMON who spoke to DAILY INDEPENDENT disclosed that some of their members are really not finding the current price of cement funny at all, as it has seriously impacted on their volume of production as well as livelihoods.
According to them, the Mber months are basically the season when they get volumes of jobs to do, but that currently, the story is different. They even suggested that those who want to build now should suspend building until the crisis is over.
An undisclosed member noted that an interface with some of the major manufacturers revealed that the pandemic contributed in no small measure to the hike in price as some of their expatriates were forced to leave the country. This affected their machine output as the local technicians have limited capacity to work on the machines.
“After three to four months of lockdown when they came back to check on their systems, they discovered that the systems on their own developed some viruses that they knew nothing about. Incidentally, the local technicians available were not capable of handling it.
Adesegun Bamijoko, national president of NABMON, who also lamented the situation, noted that their businesses have been badly affected as the prices of the moulded blocks have increased. The market, he said, is very poor right now, construction work is slow and business dull.
He remarked that there is a lot the government can do in the areas of petroleum products and electricity tariff, which have gone up. He also emphasised that the cost of living, which has pushed the middlemen in the cement distribution chain that want to meet up with their financial commitments to increase prices, can be handled by governments because they are the chief security officers of the nation.
“This is a season when we sell very well, but because of the high price of cement, demand is low and when the demand is low, our profit is affected. So, those who want to build now may have to wait for some other times until the crisis is over or if possible, they can continue to build.”
Otunba Rashid Aleshiloye, the Lagos chapter chairman of NABMON pointed out that personally, as the chairman, that he does not even have cement to do his daily production right now.
While calling on the press to assist in speaking to the government, he highlighted thus: “We have called stakeholders of the cement factories (Lafarge, Dangote, Bua), they are all giving us the same response, that the scarcity was as a result of the corona virus.”
Recently, Falo’omo Arike, the vice chairman of Cement Sellers Association decried that since the government stopped importation of the products, that it has been a case of up and down movement of prices as manufacturers have been increasing prices at will. Hence, her suggestion below:
“They have turned it into an increase in price. I am now up to 25 years in the business. There was a time when cement was sold at between N150 and N200 a bag. We are begging the government to see to the situation. Government should remove the ban on importation of cement to crash the price and allow room for more competition.” Daily Independent