The Federal Government on Monday in Abuja said that a new cement policy for the country would soon be unveiled, indicating an end to the current operating policy of Backward Integration in the cement industry, which was adopted in 2002 by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, who disclosed this, however, said the government would review the Backward Integration Policy, with a view to consolidating on the success so far recorded,
He said during a meeting with stakeholders in the cement industry that a new policy would be unveiled soon.
In attendance at the meeting were the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Lafarge Cement Wapco Nigeria Plc, Mr. Joseph Hudson; Chairman, BUA Group, Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu; Group Managing Director, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, Chief Emmanuel Ukpabi; Chairman, Ibeto Group, Chief Cletus Ibeto; and Group Representative, Dangote Industries Limited, Mr. Isa Tata Yusuf.
In the past few weeks, the cement industry has had its fair share of politicking, especially as regards some key issues revolving around the commodityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s production, supply and pricing.
There had been an outcry in recent time by local manufacturers of cement, alerting the nation to the imminent shutdown of plants by two of the major producers, Dangote Cement and Lafarge Cement Wapco, on account of alleged glut brought about by unbridled importation by some importers of the commodity.
The development created a new dimension to the usual subtle but long-standing war between manufacturers and importers of the commodity in the industry. It assumed a crisis point some weeks ago, forcing the Federal Government to intervene.
At MondayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s meeting, Aganga said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Following the tremendous success recorded through the introduction and rigorous implementation of the Backward Integration Policy in the cement industry, we are planning to review the entire policy to consolidate on the gains so far recorded. We have achieved everything we set for ourselves 10 years ago when the Backward Integration Policy was introduced, and we want to thank all stakeholders and investors in the sector for the success story recorded so far.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hopefully, before the end of this week, the committee will be set up. There is no industrial policy that has been as successful as the BIP in the cement industry. So, we have a duty to make sure that we protect the sector and continue to see it grow.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The minister said the government would soon constitute a group of people who would look at the cement policy in details and come up with the policy response that needed to be put in place to take to make Nigeria a major exporter and user of cement in terms of consumption.
Aganga said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“In 2002, the major priority of the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Backward Integration Policy was about cement production from limestone. I am delighted to say that after 10 years of implementation of the BIP, the good news is that we started with two million metric tonnes capacity, but today, we have about 28 million metric tonnes capacity of cement or investment of about $6bn; which provides direct and indirect employment for about two million people. And because of what we have done together, we have been able to save the country foreign exchange of about N210bn per year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This means that we need to look at the overall structure, including the current pricing, availability and affordability, in addition to developing an export strategy for the sector.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The minister said his ministry would work with all the stakeholders in the sector to ensure sustainable growth and development.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is the key message that I want to pass across in terms of where we are today and what our plans are in terms of where we want to be, going forward. I want to carry everyone along in terms of what we are looking at and incorporate your inputs into what we are planning to do so that at the end of the day, it will be a win-win situation for all the manufacturers, consumers and the Nigerian economy at large,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.