The federal government may finally scrap the 32.5 grade of cement and adopt the higher 42.5 grade as the minimum to be produced and distributed in the country, THISDAY has learnt.
This is coming on the heels of deliberations by the technical committee convened by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to review cement standardisation in the country.
The committee which sat in Lagos at the weekend had stakeholders polarised along two major groups. One group had Lafarge Cement WAPCO, Ashaka Cement and Unicem, clamouring for the sustenance of the 32.5 grade of cement with the explanation that it had no consequence on the integrity of buildings, while the other group had Dangote Cement, which said it was ready to make any further investment as long as it would make Nigerians safer.
THISDAY gathered that although Lafarge WAPCO possesses the capacity to produce the 42.5 grade of cement and above, their facilities are currently calibrated to produce 32.5 grade of cement to the tune of 80 percent of their capacity.
If the federal government goes ahead therefore to scrap the 32.5 grade of cement, it would mean that the cement company of French origin would have to make significant investment in the recalibration of its plants across the country to meet the new and higher standard.
THISDAY gathered that Dangote cement had already made the needed investment to produce the 42.5 higher cement grade and had also recently moved ahead to raise the standards by obtaining SON certification to produce the highest grade of 52.5.
At the technical committee meeting, the advocates the 32.5 grade made a strong case for the lower-strength cement to be kept in the market, seeking the help of experts of both local and international origins to put up spirited scientific arguments that building collapse cannot be caused by the use of the lower cement grade.
But sources at the meeting told THISDAY that majority of the technical committee members decided to vote for the higher grade, stating that it is always better to err on the side of caution and safety, rather than to take the chance of the possibility of future deaths from collapsed buildings.
Dangote cement has since declared that increase in cement strength and quality would not necessarily translate to increase in the price of the product, which dealt with the concern of many stakeholders in the technical committee over the possibility of price hike as a result of the standards enhancement.
THISDAY investigations revealed that the technical committee having concluded their deliberation, will make a presentation to the board and council of the SON and thereafter the position will be sent to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment for final ratification, a process which a source said would not take up to one month.