RMRDC strategising to reduce cement price, create jobs

The Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) has revealed it is striving to boost cement production for infrastructural development, reduce its price and create unemployment in Nigeria. BINTA SHAMA reports.

The primary objective of promoting the establishment of mini cement plants in Nigeria is to reduce capital cost of cement industries establishment, reduce the price of cement and create job opportunities and wealth in the country.

Production of cement

Cement is a binding substance used in building and construction industries. It can withstand varying environmental conditions. About 75% of cement produced is used in the construction industry. The remaining 25% is used for paving road or in oil extraction. The most common type of cement is Portland cement which may be gray or white. The gray Portland cement is used in normal applications such as in structures, bridges, etc. The white cement is the aesthetic alternative of the gray and it is used in buildings that require aesthetic finishing.

The basic raw materials for cement production are calcium from limestone, silicon, aluminium, iron and gypsum. These raw materials include both naturally occurring materials such as limestone and clay and industrial by-products materials such as slag, and fly ash.

Limestone is the dominant component and mostly consists of 75% while clay and corrective raw materials make up the remaining 25% of the raw blend. Limestone occurs extensively in the sedimentary basins such as in the Benue Trough (Lower, Middle and Upper), Sokoto, Dahomey and Borno (Chad) Basins. It is a sedimentary rock composed largely of mineral calcite, dolomite or combination of the two with a fine to coarse grain crystalline texture. The limestone deposits in Benue Trough contain the largest and most economically viable limestone resources in Nigeria. The limestone formations cut across numerous States such as Abia, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Edo, Enugu, Imo, Ogun, Ondo and Sokoto states. Most of the limestone deposits in Nigeria are high in quality, generally containing over 80% CaCO3. The shallow water sediments of the albian around Mfammosing contain largest and purest deposit in Nigeria. It is about 50m thick at the quarry site. Over 170 million tonnes of limestone exist in Nkalagu area in Ebonyi State while over 35 million tonnes have been proved in Ewekoro. More than 80 deposits of clay have been reported in Nigeria. Clay is widely distributed in commercial quantities in Abia, Anambra, Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Gombe, Kaduna, Niger and Ondo states.

Cement industry saves Nigeria N210 billion annually in foreign exchange

The availability of mineral raw materials has influenced establishment of cement industries in Nigeria. Other factors such as a large population and large market are also contributory factors. The demand for cement increased rapidly and initially, all requirements were met with imports. The establishment of Nigercem, Ewekoro and Bendel Cement and the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria were all in response to increasing demand. Post war reconstruction also led to establishment of second generation cement plants such as Shagamu plant, Ashaka and Benue Cement Company. All these companies have government ownership and control.

Although controversies over pricing and imports have been an issue of concern, local cement output has increased at a remarkable rate in the past decade, largely due to the introduction of the Backward Integration Policy (BIP), which has helped drive up production capacity from 2m tonnes in 2002 to 50m tonnes at the end of 2019. The industry now employs around 2m people directly and indirectly and has attracted $6bn in investment. The policy is saving Nigeria around N210bn ($1.3bn) annually in foreign exchange equivalent.

Presently, the Nigerian Cement industry has three major players with Dangote Cement Plc having the major market share of 60.6% with an installed capacity of 29.3 million MT; Lafarge Africa Plc have 21.8% share with 10.5 Million MT and BUA Group accounts for 17.6% share with 8 million MT. There are also other small players like Purechem Industries with 900,000 MT. Today, the country exports cement although a small quantity is still being imported. The value of exports Portland cement, from Nigeria totalled $38 million in 2019 and this constituted 0.071% of total exports while the value of imports of Portland cement the same year was $4.58.

Major drivers increasing demand for cement

The major drivers increasing demand for cement in Nigeria is housing construction and infrastructure development. The crucial forces on the demand for residential housing are population pressure and the rent level. The housing deficit in Nigeria is estimated at 17 million new affordable homes. The major factors responsible for high cement prices are the cost of energy/power which is substantially high in Nigeria. The high initial setup capital and operating costs which have led to closure of companies such as Eastern Bulkcem and Ibeto Group. Also, the erratic power supply, poor state of infrastructure, cost of haulage of primary raw materials, the distribution cost of finished cement, technology inadequacies and foreign exchange instability are militating against optimal performance of the industry. Other militating factors are unfavourable government policies such as the privatization of previously government-controlled cement companies which led to their collapse due to underfunding, government’s ban and subsequent lifting on importation of cement and the imposition of multiple taxes. All these need to be looked into through favourable policy shift in order to realise the full potentials and vibrancy of the sector. Consequently, the policy on backward integration should be extended to other industrial sectors to motive increased capacity utilization in the sectors.

RMRDC intervention

The Council since inception has recognized the need for the development and utilization of Nigeria’s minerals resources for sustainable development. It is on record that as at 1992, there were only two solid minerals processing companies in Nigeria, namely Kavitex in Jos and F and G in Ikorodu, Lagos, despite the fact that the various surveys coordinated by the Council indicated abundant availability of a variety of minerals resources locally and in sustainable quantities. As a result, the Council convened a national investor’s forum to promote industrial processing of the minerals. Following the forum in Abuja and subsequent follow-up actions, some indigenous companies came on stream e.g. Purechem commissioned a mini cement plant in 1996. By 2006, about 35 solid minerals processing companies were established in various States of the Federation processing kaolin, calcite limestone, phosphate, barite, talc and dolomite.

As at 2002, the annual national demand for cement was over 10 MT, while local production was about 2 million MT. The short fall was met through importation of cement in bulk/bags. With the support and concerted efforts in promoting investments, Nigeria has achieved self-sufficiency in cement production with potential to exports. Today the country produces over 50 million MT/annum. Through the collaboration of RMRDC and Brewtech, some State governments such as Sokoto, Gombe, Kebbi are in the forefront to promote establishment of mini cement factories. These would have been realized if not for change in government. In addition, a number of private sector investors have also keyed into this initiative and mini cement will plants soon make its debut in Oyo, Ogun and Kwara states. The primary objective of promoting the establishment of mini cement plants in Nigeria is to reduce capital cost of cement industries establishment, reduce the price of cement and create job opportunities and wealth in the country.

To promote optimal use of local raw materials in the cement industry, the Council has assiduously worked on the development of limestone and gypsum minerals locally.

The Council’s efforts and those of other relevant MDA’s have led to the documentation and publication of both limestone and gypsum deposits in Nigeria. Most of these deposits have been characterised and classified. Other major areas RMRDC has contributed to the sustainable development of limestone in recent times is in the design, fabrication and installation of granulated limestone processing plant in Calabar, Cross River State; the development, fabrication and installation of hydrated lime production plant in Kwakuti, Niger state in collaboration with Bembu Mining and Engineering Services Ltd., and the development, fabrication and installation of hydrated lime production plant in National Research Institute of Chemical Technology (NARICT), Zaria. The Council in partnership with established a private entrepreneur went into a joint venture arrangement and incorporated a company named Finestones Processing Nigeria Ltd. Located in Calabar, Cross-River State, for the processing of granulated limestone for fertilizer blending purposes.