By OLAKUNLE OLAFIOYE
OKPELLA community in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State rolled out the drums on Sunday, April 10, 2016, to celebrate Nigeria’s and Africa’s leading investor, Aliko Dangote, at the groundbreaking ceremony of his newest project, the $1 billion Okpella Cement Plc, sited in the community. The gesture was the community’s own way of showing solidarity and appreciation for the new cement plant in its midst.
In less than 26 months when the company is expected to commence full operation, no fewer than 4,500 households in the community and the entire state are expected to get a new lease of life, according to Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who described the business initiative as the most potent vote of confidence in his administration.
But beyond the immediate and direct benefit to the host community, the new cement plant is expected to significantly impact on the nation’s economy as it is projected to further increase the $3 billion Nigeria has been saving from import substitution in cement yearly.
The Okpella plant with a capacity to produce 6 million metric tons of cement per annum is coming on the heels of similar arrangement for another 6 million mtpa cement plant in Itori, Ogun State, where the company is currently running a 12 million mtpa cement plant at Ibese, in Yewa division of the state. By this investment, Dangote’s production capacity is estimated to go up further to 41m mtpa, in Nigeria alone.
The project, according the President and Chief Executive of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote is one of the group’s several successful projects presently going in parts of the country and in more than 16 other locations in various African countries, in line with the group’s Pan African investment strategy.
“Last year June, we commissioned our cement plant in Ethiopia, and in August of same year in Zambia and Cameroon. We commissioned our plant in Tanzania in October. We plan to commission very soon, some of our other African plants in Senegal, Congo Brazzaville and South Africa,” Dangote disclosed during the groundbreaking ceremony of Okpella cement plant.
Dangote group had last year in Lagos signed a deal valued at $4.34 billion with Sinoma International Engineering Company Limited for the construction of 10 additional cement plants across Africa including one in Nepal in Asia. These new plants are projected to churn out additional 25 million metric tons per annum.
“By the time all these new projects are completed in the next few years, we will have a total capacity of 81 million metric tonnes per annum. This will make us one of the top six cement companies in the world.
“We are currently consolidating our cement businesses across Africa in order to reap the benefits of scale. As a matter of fact, our operational offshore cement plants have started to make substantial contributions to our Group revenue.
“By the time we complete this plant, our esteemed customers in this locality would have greater access to supplies and the new plant here will reduce the distance and time in delivery of products and our customers would continue to enjoy various incentives on purchases as we have been doing. May I on this note express our deep appreciation to our customers for their loyalty and commitment to our Dangote Cement brand 3X,” Dangote disclosed further.
The coming onboard of Okpella Cement Plc, as the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi noted is an indication that the diversification programme of the Federal Government had begun to take shape.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, the minister said the new cement plant would serve as a model, which, according to him, would bring about positive changes in the nation’s solid minerals sector in the areas of job creation, foreign exchange earnings and local content promotion.
Fayemi who urged other Nigerians to take a cue from Dangote, said the mining sector currently contributes 0.34 per cent to the GDP, and adding that “the sector has potential to contribute over $25 million annually to the economy by 2025.”
Okechukwu Enelamah, the Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment, commended the expansion drive of Dangote Group through its commitment to liberate the country from cement importation, increased job creation and foreign exchange earnings.
The minister, who was represented by Hajia Abubakar, said the setting up of the new cement plant had given fillip to the belief that Nigeria could survive without depending on oil. He noted that the move was one of the major necessities for security.
“This event shows that Nigeria can survive without depending on oil. It is indeed an ingredient for security. Dangote remains the largest employer of labour second only to the Federal Government.”
For Edo State governor, the decision to site the new plant in the state is not only a demonstration of the confidence reposed in the current administration, but also a huge relief for the state especially as it is coming at a time states of the federation are grappling with the challenge of reduced allocations from the Federal Government.
Oshiomhole noted that the establishment of the cement plant in addition to increasing the state’s revenue base would also reduce its dependence on federal allocation from oil wealth.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Director, Dangote Group, Mr. Devakumar Edwin said the Okpella Cement Plc 6.0mmtpa when finally completed would bridge the gap between demand and supply of Nigeria.
“The location of Okpella Cement Plc is strategic to the transformation of the state. It will create direct and indirect employment opportunities for the people of the state,” he said.