By NBF News
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The sudden surge in price of cement is bad news to Nigeria's housing sector already battling a 16 million deficit. The increase from N1, 400 to between N1900 to N2,000 for a bag of cement, can only frustrate efforts to increase housing supply and delay delivery of critical infrastructure like bridges and drainages in the country.

Investigations have revealed that the skyrocketing price of cement is a fallout of inadequate supply. Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Mrs Josephine Tapgun, who confirmed the shortage recently, attributed it to short supply of Liquefied Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO) to cement manufacturers across the country. The shortage is expected to ease this week with the commencement of supply of the oil from the Kaduna Refinery.

High cost and instability in price of cement is a big problem to the construction sector in Nigeria. It is a threat to timely delivery of critical projects as contractors cannot guarantee the cost of cement at anytime during construction.

Unfortunately, efforts to import the product to reduce the shortfall are resolutely resisted by local mainfacturers who thrive on a monopoly of its supply. Shortage and high cost of cement constitute a serious problem to contractors and individuals who have building projects. They are also a serious threat to government's plan for mass housing delivery.

The problem must be put under focus because availability of reasonably priced cement is necessary if Nigeria is to attain the housing component of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Beyond meeting the goals, however, is the grave impact of housing shortage on rents. As long as we do not have enough houses for the people, rents will continue to soar and construction contracts will continue to fail on account of great variations in quoted prices.

Soaring rents will exacerbate the plight of both the poor and middle-income earners as it will seriously increase cost of living and reduce income available for food, health, education and other necessities. It is good to hear that cement manufacturers, led by Engineer Joseph Makoju, have promised to flood the market with the product with the commencement of supply of LPFO from Kaduna Refinery. We expect the manufacturers to fulfill this promise expeditiously. Middlemen and retailers of cement, who took advantage of the scarcity to increase prices should also reciprocate the expected massive supply of the product to the market with immediate reduction in their prices.

The surge in price cement should not become permanent.

We urge all stakeholders in the industry to work hard to make the product available at a reasonable price. Even at N1400 per bag, the price of cement is too high. It has made home ownership impossible for low-income earners. The relevant authorities and manufacturers should do more to reduce the cost to make it possible for more Nigerians to access housing at a cheaper rate.

There is also need to increase productivity in this sector if we are serious about the plan to boost manufacturing. Neglect of cement manufacturing and the housing sector can only contribute to homelessness and increase in the number of street children, with their attendant social vices. We commend the Federal Government for the quick response to the surge in cement prices. Let this result in cheaper cement prices so that more people can build their own houses to improve Nigeria's chances of attaining the MDGs in this sector.