Thursday January 27, 2022 would remain evergreen in the minds of the Kalambaina Community in Sokoto State, North West of Nigeria. It was a day, the who-is-who in the political, business and traditional community in the country gathered there. Led by President Muhammadu Buhari, they had come to witness the inauguration of the Line 4 of the Cement Manufacturing plant of BUA Cement, an arm of one of Nigeria’s leading domestic conglomerates, the BUA Group, founded and Chaired by AbdulSamad Rabiu. GEOFFREY EKENNA, who was there reports
The list of dignitaries at the event spanned from business moguls, political leaders, traditional leaders and men and women from all hues of the society and beyond.
The Line 4 of the Cement factory is a 3 million metric Tonnes per annum venture, which has added to the existing three lines, while the company also began the construction of the fifth line, which is supposed to be inaugurated in 2023, along with another 3million tonnes per annum line at the Obu plant of the company in Edo State.
Currently, with the Line 4 coming into operation, BUA now has a combined capacity of 11million Metric tonnes of cement production per annum in both Obu and the Sokoto plants.
According to Rabiu, the figure will get to 17 million metric tonnes by 2023, when the Line 5 and the one in Obu plant are completed. He said: “Mr. President, a little over four and half years ago, shortly after the commissioning of BUA’s first greenfield cement complex – the 3million metric tonnes per annum BUA Cement Obu Line 1 by His Excellency, the Vice President, we continued our audacious yet structured expansion programme to meet the ever-growing demand for cement in Nigeria with regional exports also in focus.
“We had a vision to support your government’s infrastructure agenda by ensuring we use locally available raw materials to produce cement here in Nigeria. “In the past 6 years, we have completed 4 plants – two in Obu, Edo State and two in Sokoto (of which this Sokoto line 4 is the fourth) with BUA’s total production capacity now standing at 11million tonnes with the completion of this plant.”
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He added: “Next year, we intend to complete the construction of two new plants of 3 million metric tonnes each for which construction is ongoing – one in Edo and the other here in Sokoto.
We expect these plants to be completed next year which will bring our total production capacity to 17million metric tonnes. “Mr. President, there are many reasons one can attribute to the important nature of this plant.
The attendant effect of these investments in new factories go beyond the community and the state. It extends to the region and the entire country. From a job creation and economic standpoint, the Sokoto plant continues to be the largest private sector employer of labour in the North-Western part of Nigeria.
Also, by adding value to resources mined in Nigeria, Nigeria is being saved billions of US dollars in foreign exchange that would have been spent on importation, whilst also ensuring product availability. In fact, 95% of all the raw materials used in our cement manufacturing process are sourced locally.
“In addition to this, and our investment in social impact and CSR programmes for the community and Sokoto State at all levels, we are also committed to environmental sustainability.
We have diversified our energy sources by introducing greener alternatives – in this case, LNG – to power the kiln and 48 megawatts power plant. Our power plants are now running on 100 per cent LNG leading to reduced carbon emissions.
This is the first of its kind at any cement factory in Nigeria. “What this means also, is that as soon as the AKK gas project comes on stream, we are ready to be one of the first off-takers to satisfy our energy needs.
This will also encourage further industrialization within the region, open new industries and ensure greater development and prosperity for this region and the nation in general. “Mr President Sir, all of this will not have been possible without your support and commitment to the development of the Nigerian economy.
In his own speech, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, told Cement manufacturers in the country to work towards reducing the prices of their products.
He said that contractors and Nigerians were complaining about the rising prices of Cement. Emefiele, who acknowledged that the painstaking efforts and ingenuity of Nigeria’s private sector was yielding fruits, said such efforts by the BUA Group were critical complementary ingredients to reducing unemployment and boosting production activities in the country.
He added that it was also promoting the CBN’s mandate of promoting stable macro-economic growth in the country. However, the CBN Governor pointed out that it was important for manufacturers to focus on reducing the prices of Cement and steel in the country before thinking of exporting to outside.
He said: “Your excellency sir, before I conclude my remarks, please permit me to seize this opportunity to appeal to our manufacturers in the construction sector to take urgent action in bringing down the price of building materials in Nigeria.
“Indeed, there have recently been calls by construction companies, urging Cement and steel manufacturers to do something about the skyrocketing prices of these two essential items in the construction sector.
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.
On our part, the CBN wishes to reiterate its determination to provide needed support for importation of spares, plants and equipment needed to increase production capacities of our cement plants in the country.”
He said it was important that Nigerians such as the founder and Chairman of BUA Group, Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu, believed in the country strongly, hence, their investments in different parts of the country.
He pointed out that it was in pursuance of Buhari’s vision for a less import dependent economy that the CBN took the decision to ban the importation of 43 items, where the country expended huge foreign resources. Cement was one of such. According to Emefiele: “I am pleased to note that the production capacity of the cement industry in Nigeria has doubled from 30 million tonnes in 2014 to about 60million tonnes in 2021.”
He said that has saved the country some huge foreign currency. Emefiele said: “Over the past 7 years, significant efforts have been made by the government under the visionary leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, to steer our economy from its dependence on imports, towards one that is self-reliant, and that which enables Nigerians to produce what they consume and eat what they produce.
As part of the efforts of this administration to drive productivity in the industrial sector and to conserve our foreign exchange reserves, a decision was taken by the Government in 2015 to restrict access to foreign exchange for imports of 43 items which could be produced in Nigeria, but for which billions of US Dollars were being expended annually on imports.
One of the restricted items was cement. In making this decision, we were aware that the key raw material required for the production of cement is limestone, which is readily available across the country.
“It is important to note that these gains are not a coincidence but are a reflection of the success of the backward integration policy of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
With significant opportunities in housing, construction and related industries, there still remains sufficient room for additional investments in the sector and I would like to urge potential investors to take advantage of these opportunities available right away.
“Let me assure current and prospective operators in the industrial sector that the Central Bank of Nigeria stands ready to continue to collaborate with you in enabling the development of a viable manufacturing sector in Nigeria.
For those who are willing to invest in new greenfield or existing brownfield projects, the CBN will provide all the support needed, both in Naira and dollars needed to import plants and equipment to actualize these investments.
This stance is directly in harmony with our resolve to create a professional and people-centred Central Bank that will act as a financial catalyst for job creation and inclusive economic growth in Nigeria.”
Buhari, who braved the weather in Sokoto to attend the event, said that his government was focused on creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and satisfy the needs of the people. He said investments by BUA and other Nigerians in the local industry were indications that the policies of the government were working.
He said: “BUA Group and others have shown that they have faith in Nigeria by creating employment. There is no doubt that every state in Nigeria has some potential minerals that can be mined to reduce unemployment across the country.”
The president added that it was in a bid to speed up industrialization that his government started that AKK Gas project that would take gas from the South South through the South East down to the North. He reiterated his commitment to bringing peace to Nigeria by fighting and decimating criminals across the country.
Speaking earlier, the Managing Director of BUA Cement, Engr. Yusuf Binji, recalled that the Sokoto Cement, which is now owned by BUA was started over 58 years ago by the late Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello.
He said the company has so much been transformed by BUA that it now has Zero emission and has all the raw materials sourced from Nigeria. He acknowledged the support of the Sokoto State government and said that the company would continue to work towards a better product for all stakeholders.
Also speaking, the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, commended BUA for its patriotism and said his state has put in both administrative and legal frameworks to help businesses in the state.
He said that was reflective in the state being ranked as second in the Ease of Doing Business by states. The ceremony attracted state governors, the Ooni of Ife, the Sultan of Sokoto, the Emirs of Kano, Bichi, among others.