By Crusoe Osagie and Shola Oyeyipo
Nigeria moved closer to achieving self-sufficiency in cement production Monday with the inauguration of an expanded production line at Dangote Cement, Obajana, Kogi State that has raised its production capacity by 5.25 million tonnes a year.
The inauguration of the third production line at the cement factory by President Goodluck Jonathan has raised its capacity to 10.25 million tonnes a year.
While inaugurating the production line, Jonathan renewed his call on cement manufacturers to double efforts to crash the price of the commodity in the country as a way of effectively transferring the success of the cement backward integration policy of the Federal Government, which has led to increased local cement production, to consumers.
“The future remains very bright with the use and application of cement in the construction of roads and now that cement is going to be relatively cheap, it will lead to infrastructure development and more affordable homes for Nigerians,” he said.
The president, who also broke the ground for the construction of another three-million-metric-tonne capacity cement plant at the Obajana plant, announced plans to set up a N20-billion Cement Technology Institute that would push Nigeria towards becoming a net exporter of cement in Africa.
He said the institute, a joint venture between the Federal Government and the Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (CMAN), would be chaired by President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
“Riding on the success of the backward integration policy in the cement sector, we are now poised to introduce the policy in the automobile, textile, sugar and rice industry,” he added.
Jonathan commended the Dangote Group for its investment and industrial activities that had boosted economic development and created jobs for many Nigerians.
The president also recalled that though he was castigated for taking the decision to confer the national award of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on Dangote, it was a wise decision.
Jonathan said many beneficiaries of the award in the past had contributed only five per cent of what Dangote has contributed to the development of Nigeria.
He described Dangote as a worthy ambassador, whose business activities were sparking development in the country, adding that with his $5.86 million, he has created two million jobs for Nigerians across the country. He called on investors to emulate Dangote by investing in the country.
Dangote, who also doubles as Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Cement Plc, said with the right policies in place, the group would replicate its success story in the cement industry in its sugar, salt, fruit juice and steel ventures.
He also announced plans by the Dangote Group to end the importation of cement in the country, adding that the group would soon lay the foundation for another cement factory in the South-south in the next three months
It will also inaugurate its Senegalese factory in July, which would bring the group’s total cement production in Africa to 60 million metric tonnes per year.
Dangote said: “When the fourth cement production line, which will also be built by the Chinese firm Sinoma is completed and commissioned in 2014, we will have an additional capacity of three million tonnes in this location.”
According to him, Monday’s inauguration of the third production line at the cement factory would make Obajana the largest cement plant not only in Nigeria but biggest on the African continent and one of the largest in the world, with a total capacity of 13.25 million metric tonnes per annum.
He added that the location of the factory in Obajana was unique because all the raw materials required for cement manufacturing are available in the same mines complex, except the mineral gypsum, that uses up only 3.5 per cent of the cement grinding process.
As part of the company’s corporate social responsibility, he also promised that Dangote Cement would rebuild the dilapidated 45km Obajana-Kabba Road.
Speaking on the prospects of the company, he said by 2015, the Dangote cement division would have achieved an installed capacity of about 50 million metric tonnes a year.
“We are even planning to export cement to neighbouring African countries like Niger, Benin, Togo and Cameroon in the very near future, after meeting cement demands of Nigeria.
“Our cement division has already planned two more production lines at Ibese. Prospecting of limestone and other raw materials is going on in the Calabar region and other locations,” he added.
Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Wada, described the ceremony as “one of the several success stories in the life of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan”.
He commended Dangote for embarking on a “silent economic revolution in the whole of Africa” and urged other investors to cash in on the state’s abundant mineral resources and investment-friendly climate to site industries in the state.