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Increase in cement prices is an all-important issue – Reps

…Summon Dangote, BUA, Lafarge, others over arbitrary cement price hike

 

The House of Representatives has emphasized that the issue of the increase in cement prices is an all-important issue that affects not just the building and construction industry but the economy and the generality of our citizens.

 

The Chairman House Committee on Solid Minerals, Rep. Gaza Gbefwi, gave the summon at a public hearing to investigate the arbitrary increase in the price of cement in Nigeria by cement manufacturers, organised by House Joint Committees on Commerce, Industry, Special Duties, and Solid Minerals on Tuesday in Abuja.

He stated: “Indeed, the recent events that led to the skyrocketing of the price of cement in Nigeria have been worrisome and of great concern as its inflicting untold hardship on Nigerians.

“To close this gap, both the government and the private sector must be articulate and deliberate in putting the right policies and parameters in place that can help promote, induce, or encourage development.

“Therefore, should price of cement, which is a major component of our infrastructural development, continue to soar uncontrollably, the tendency to stifle life in that sector is high, and the consequences are dire and detrimental.

“It is in light of this that the parliament resolved to have critical stakeholders like you discuss elaborately the causes of the high increase and the possible ways we can collectively navigate out to bring succour to our people.

“The Right Hon speaker, in his wisdom, did not only declare this event open but assured that this is not in any way a witch-hunt but an open discussion with a view to finding lasting solutions to our problem within the built environment”.

Recall that on March 13, 2024, the House moved a motion on the “arbitrary increase in the price of cement by cement manufacturers in Nigeria” and constituted the Joint Committee to investigate and report back.

However, the five main cement manufacturers in Nigeria, namely Dangote Cement, Bua Cement, Lafarge Cement, Asaka Cement, and Eagle Cement, failed to appear and did not send any representatives to make their submissions.

Speaking about the non-appearance of all the cement manufacturers, Rep. Gbefwi said the House and National Assembly is not in receipt of any court order restraining them from inviting anybody for an investigation.

The House of Representatives therefore issued a 14-day ultimatum to Dangote Cement, Bua Cement, Lafarge Cement, Asaka Cement, and Eagle Cement to appear before its joint committee and make their submissions on the arbitrary increment of cement prices in Nigeria.

Rep. Gbefwi said, “We are trying to see to the development of our country. Just as it was emphasised in the opening remarks, cement to building is what air is to each and every human being. Let me sound this warning: the House of Representatives and the National Assembly is not in receipt of any court order restraining us from inviting anybody.

“And to this end, in the human nature of the House, because we owe them a duty of care, because they are equally Nigerians, we are giving them 14 days in which to make their submissions; if not, as we have sworn to uphold the constitution, we will use everything within our powers to make sure that Nigerians, number one, are not taken for granted and number two, are not exploited.

“We will not sit back while some companies declare billions in naira and dollars every day and our people can barely afford to get a decent roof over their heads.

“We saw in Lagos where you have Nigerians under the bridge and paying rent. Why? If these products were available, I do not believe we’d have to go to those lengths. Moreover, God has blessed us with these resources in abundance.

“So, as it is the resolution of this joint committee, we are giving them 14 days from now, and not 14 working days, but 14 effective days to make sure that they make their submissions and appear before this House.”

Rep. Gbefwi said that Nigeria has a high housing deficit of about 3 million houses and a huge infrastructural deficit.

In his opening remarks, the Deputy Speaker of the House, Rep. Benjamin Kalu, assured that the House is actively working to establish appropriate legislation that promotes and encourages industrialization, as well as supports small and medium enterprises.

Kalu explained that the hearing is a result of the deep concern of the House for the people it represents and the need for transparent engagement with key stakeholders in the cement industry, particularly the manufacturers.

According to Kalu, the persistent increase in cement prices has had detrimental effect on the ‘built environment’ and Nigeria at large, which is evident in the huge housing deficit presently in Nigeria.

He said, “We are committed to collaborating with both cement manufacturers and end-users, believing this is the most effective way to improve the quality of life and standard of living for our citizens. We are also dedicated to enacting laws that prevent a recurrence of the factors that led to the current situation.

“Our goal is to inform Nigerians about the industry’s current state and collaboratively find solutions to navigate the challenges.

“The persistent rise in cement prices has had a detrimental impact not only on the built environment but also on the entire economy. Cement is a fundamental component used in construction projects like bridges, dams, houses, waterworks, and road infrastructure. This makes addressing this issue paramount.

“According to a study by researchers at the African Development Bank in the ‘Housing Market Dynamics in Africa’ book, there is a housing deficit of up to 16.9 million units. According to the World Bank, Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, and Abuja have a 20 percent rise in housing needs annually. The current total output in the formal housing sector is estimated at no more than 100,000 units.”.

The Deputy Speaker asserted that bridging this gap requires affordable and accessible cement prices for both the government and the private sector.

“While factors like exchange rates have contributed to the price increases across various commodities, it is encouraging to see the positive results of the “renewed hope” administration’s policies under the leadership of His Excellency, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Notably, the naira has shown remarkable strength against the dollar in recent weeks, and Fitch Ratings, a global credit rating agency, recently revised Nigeria’s credit outlook to positive from stable,” he added.

Other ministries, organisations expected to appear are the Ministry of Solid Minerals, Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Customs Service, Ministry of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Ministry of Environment, Bureau for Statistics, Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority, Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, and Nigeria Building Research Institute, and the Mines Cadastral Office.

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