Stories by Maduka Nweke, [email protected] 08034207864
Building experts have lamented the rising cost of building materials especially cement stressing it remained the missing link to the delivery of affordable home to low income earners. This is more so as most of the conventional building materials are often imported and come with huge duties and other levies associated with importation, that make cost of such materials quite expensive.
Cement alone constitutes about 40 per cent of the building materials component and local consumption of cement in 2009 alone was about 19 million tonnes when only 9.6 million tonnes were produced locally.
With a desire to deliver not less than 500,000 housing units by 2016, the Federal Government must chart a way forward in that direction. This emphasize the need to crash the price of building materials particularly cement for government to achieve its desire.
According to Chika Okanume, a project supervisor with one of the construction companies in Enugu, cement which is the major building material in construction of houses is already out of reach of the common man. He said that the inability of government to crash the price of cement and also liberalise the manufacture of the product will give more entrepreneurs the opportunity to enter into the building industry club.
He said that there are also calls from different quarters for use of burnt bricks and natural fibers drived from jute, coconut husks, pineapple, bagasse, elephant grass, bamboo and banana. All these could be used to manufacture fiber board composites as substitutes for plywood and medium density fiber board, panel and flush doors, partition boards, ceiling boards and roofing sheets for low cost housing needs.
“Although, processing the above materials could take time as most local fabricators and manufacturers may not be at home on how to harness these local raw materials to achieve the desired purpose, the fact that the materials are locally sourced gives the confidence that with time the use and the manufacturing would be mastered.
However, the desire to source these materials at home should also engender quality control measures that are not considered in the production of sand create blocks, bricks, plants and other wood products used in the building industry, “ Okanume said.
He warned that if the above are not taken into consideration, building collapse, high construction and maintenance would be the resultant effect.
This is why, Dangote’s $2 billion loan from Chinese Bank for two cement plants would go a long way in crashing cost of cement in Nigeria. Dangote Group last week signed a $2 billion loan deal with the Industrial Commercial Bank of China Ltd for two (2) cement plants. “The interest rate is okay, quite favorable with me,” Dangote said, without elaborating. He said, “It’s for my two cement companies that we are establishing in Nigeria.” He added that the deal included China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation adding that the loan when consummated would help in building two cement plants that would in turn help in dropping price of cement and therefore reduce the cost of owning a house.
Abandoned 2nd Niger Bridge: Stakeholders react
Stakeholders, mostly Easterners have risen in anger to decry the show of hatred of President Muhammadu Buhari over his silence on the continuation of the 2nd Niger Bridge started by the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Simon Okafor, a red cap Chief from Igbakwu, said that if Buhari had known, he would have mimed his hatred of the Igbo by continuing with the project. The fact that he stopped it and did not include it in the budget revealed his stance in the easterners.
Another Chief Okoye Simeon said, “We are not surprised because a chick does not get a favourable judgment in a court presided by a hawk. I am sure the Igbo have nothing to gain from Buhari administration.
This stance has ignited anger in the South East zone over the Buhari-led Federal Government’s abandonment of the N140 billion ($700 million) 2nd Niger Bridge aimed to open up the eastern part of Nigeria.
The company handling the project, Julius Berger Construction Company, has stopped work on the 2nd Niger Bridge which is being constructed under Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement since April 2015. Concerned citizens of Eastern Nigeria and other stakeholders are now appealing to President Buhari to direct the construction company to resume work on the project. After a private meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on August 26, 2015, the Director General of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Aminu Diko, had hinted that work on the vital bridge would be suspended.
Dikko said: “The communities around that area are clamouring that their lands have been taken and that they have not been compensated adequately. As a matter of fact, we got a letter from the Onitsha Traditional Rulers Council complaining that they have not been adequately represented in this transaction.”
As that was raging, the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, called on the former Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, to explain to Nigerians the whereabouts of the billions meant for the bridge as according to him, $700 million was drawn from the Sovereign Wealth Fund for the project.
The bridge’s contract was awarded by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan during the second term of former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi.
Onolememen had then assured Nigerians that the project would be completed before the expiration of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in 2015 as part of efforts to deliver on the campaign promises of that government. But Jonathan lost in the election and immediately the contractor left the site.
The bridge is said to have been reflected in this 2016 Budget with hope that something tangible would be done to construct the bridge.