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By Franklin Alli
Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has faulted the slow take-off of the Cement Technology Institute being proposed by the Federal Government and Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, CMAN.

Government had set aside the levy on cement import to build the institute which is to be the fulcrum for the positioning of Nigeria as a net exporter of cement.

Also CMAN's Technical Committee on Cement has been revived.  The Committee which is the internal forum for cement manufacturers in the country was inactive for more than ten years.

However, the Director General of SON, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, while addressing members of the Technical Committee in Lagos, flayed the duo for the slow take off of the technology Institute eight months after  the Board of Trustee  and the Project Implementation Team was inaugurated by the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga.

(The Board is currently chaired by the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote ,while the Project Implementation Team is headed by Alhaji Lateef Salami, Director, Industrial Development department in the Ministry of Trade and Investment.)

Represented by Engr. John Achukwu, Director Testing Services, Odumodu noted that countries like India and China have robust cement institutes, stressing:  'I think that is where we should aim. What is the problem here; is it capital, land or enabling acts?  SON being the government agency is ready to support CMAN in any area that we can help in the establishment of the Institute.'

Vipul Agrawal, Chairman of the Technical Committee on Cement, said: 'The Institute will see the light of the day very soon.  The structure is in place. The good thing is we are walking the talk. We are not just talking, we are putting things together.'

On the technical committee's meeting on cement, he explained: 'This kind of meeting was happening in Nigeria 10-15 years ago and was sponsored by WAPCO and Benue Cement but along the line, it stopped. We have revived it a year ago and we are now meeting regularly, engaging ourselves in development activities.

As you have seen, when it comes to development there is no differences even though we are competitors in the market - Dangote, Lafarge, Unicem, etc. CMAN decided to set up the committee to work on products development and having the right quality standard. We cannot sell cement in the country without SON certification. That is the first step - supply goes with international standard.'

Joe Hudson, Managing Director Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc, gave further insight into the essence of the meeting:  'This meeting is all about bringing the great minds in the industry together to really talk about standards and products diversification, quality consistency, etc.

The bigger issue is, now that we have availability of cement -what next? Cement par capital consumption in Nigeria is less than 100 kilos compared with Egypt's 400 kilos. So there is need for product diversification in order to properly satisfy the market.

As you know cement is used for construction of houses but we need to look at specific products for specific purposes. For example, Last year, we came up with a new product called Elephant Supersat which is tailored specifically for block makers.'

Engr. Charles Ikechukwu Okoro, Director of Standard, SON, said: 'When we finish the meeting with the technical committee, we will come up with so many things that will be used to enlighten the public on cement usage. Our plan is to ensure that CMAN produces quality cement, and ensure that they are enough to saturate the economy; we also want to ensure that they diversify to other areas of cement usages.'