President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called for increased private sector investment in the country, assuring that his administration would continue to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Buhari also addressed the security challenges confronting the country and said his administration was committed to ensuring that peace reigned in every nook and cranny of the country.
The president spoke in Sokoto, at the inauguration of an ultra-modern three million metric tonnes per annum BUA Cement Sokoto line four factory. He expressed delight in his administration’s policies on economic diversification, job creation, and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, saying they are working.
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in his address at the ceremony, urged manufacturers in the country to urgently control the rising prices of cement and other building materials.
In his remarks, Founder and Chairman of BUA Group, Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu, disclosed that his company was targeting to ramp up its total production capacity to 17 million metric tonnes of cement per annum next year.
Buhari pledged that his administration would continue to support serious investors to set up businesses that would take advantage of the huge reservoir of resources in different parts of the country.
The president said, “As you all know, one of the key economic pillars of our administration has been to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. This is necessary for job creation and, indeed, for our economy and national security.
“In the past few weeks, I visited Ogun and Kaduna states, where I observed many private sector investments in action. And today, I am here in Sokoto to commission this multi-billion Naira project.
“It is, therefore, very clear for all to see that our policies are working. Progress is gradually being made in all parts of the country.”
He emphasised his commitment to peace and stability in all parts of Nigeria, listing a raft of measures undertaken by this administration to ensure that normalcy returned to troubled areas.
According to Buhari, “We continue to recruit and equip security personnel while expanding our social investment programmes to support the youth and some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.
“You should all be reassured that we will win this battle against the criminal elements looking to destabilise our nation by hindering the progress of our economy.”
Buhari thanked Rabiu and the entire team for the great work they were doing in supporting the government’s economic diversification and job creation agenda. He noted that the company, which had completed four new cement plants of similar capacity in the last five years in different parts of the country and was set to complete two more plants soon, had shown through these investments that they believed in Nigeria and its potential.
Commending BUA and other entrepreneurs for making Nigeria self-sufficient in cement and a net exporter of the strategic product, the president said, “I am pleased that through these investments, BUA Cement has created employment opportunities for our citizens. Today, BUA is the largest employer of labour in the North-west region.
“I always remind Nigerians that every region, indeed, every state, in Nigeria sits on huge reserves of resources. For example, in this area, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara can boast of rice production, gold and other precious metals development and, of course, heavy industries like cement manufacturing.
“As a government, we introduced policies and mechanisms to support such investments in a legal, ethical and inclusive manner. For example, we have the National Food Security Council on Food Security Matters and the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative to develop local artisanal gold mining and ensure health and safety of mining workers and protect the environment.
“We remain prepared to support serious investors to set up businesses that will take advantage of these opportunities through value addition so as to take advantage of the huge market here, as well as in the greater African region and the world at large.”
Highlighting other efforts to bring even development to all parts of the country, Buhari expressed confidence that the Ajaokuta–Kaduna–Kano (AKK) gas project, when completed, will bring gas for domestic and industrial purposes from the South-south to the South-east, North-central, and North-west geopolitical zones. He said the AKK project would significantly reduce the cost of operation for industries in the regions.
The president also reassured Nigerians that his government would continue to invest heavily in roads and rails to ease movement of people, goods and services, with a view to facilitating trade, while lowering logistics costs associated with the inefficiencies of bad roads and bridges.
He stated, “I want to now call on all entrepreneurs and businesses to emulate what is being done here. The task of nation building requires all hands to be on deck. The public and private sectors must collaborate if we are to achieve our aim of collective peace and prosperity across the entire nation.”
Speaking earlier, Emefiele urged manufacturers to urgently address the rising prices of building materials, including cement.
Nigerians have continued to lament the soaring price of cement in recent times and urge the government to intervene.
Emefiele stressed that manufacturers must first strive to satisfy the local market to help make cement affordable before exporting the product to external markets.
He said, “Indeed, there has recently been calls by construction companies urging our steel and cement manufacturers to do something about the sky-rocketing of these two essential items in the construction industry.”
Emefiele said the cement industry remained key to solving the country’s unemployment challenges as well as boosting growth.
He added, “We are aware that some of our cement manufacturers are producing for both the domestic and export markets, but we urge them to pay more attention to satisfying the domestic needs so as to bring down prices.”
Emefiele reiterated the apex bank’s commitment to providing needed support for importation of spares, plants and equipment needed to increase the production capacities of cement plants in the country. While calling on prospective investors to take advantage of the current incentives provided by government to boost the sector, he said the CBN was ready to provide the needed financing for both current and new investors in the industrial sector for the importation of requisite machinery.
He pointed out that as part of the efforts by the current administration to drive productivity in the industrial sector and conserve foreign exchange, a decision was taken by the government in 2015 to restrict access to foreign exchange for imports of 43 items, which could be produced in Nigeria, but for which billions of US Dollars were being expended annually on imports.
The CBN governor said cement was one of the restricted items, adding that in making the decision, government was aware that the key raw material required for the production of cement is limestone, which is readily available across the country. He said the decision of the apex bank to ban cement importation had yielded great results, pointing out that the country’s cement production capacity has since more than doubled from 30 MTPA in 2014 to 60 MTPA in 2021.
The CBN governor said no dollar had been spent from the country’s reserves on cement importation in the past seven years following the restriction placed on the importation of the commodity.
He said, “Our nation has been able to conserve billions of dollars, as no dollar from our external reserves has been spent on imports of cement into the country in the last seven years.”
He said the investments had saved and created several thousands of jobs across multiple sectors.
Emefiele pointed out that the achievements so far recorded in the cement sector were not a coincidence but a reflection of the success of the backward integration policy of the Buhari administration.
The CBN governor said with significant opportunities in housing, construction and related industries, there were still sufficient room for additional investments in the sector. He urged potential investors to take advantage of these opportunities.
He also assured current and prospective investors in the industrial sector that the apex bank was ready to collaborate with stakeholders to facilitate the development of a viable manufacturing sector in Nigeria.
Emefiele said, “For those who are willing to invest in new Greenfields or existing Brownfield projects, the CBN will provide all the support needed both in naira and dollars to import plant and equipment to actualise your dreams.”
He said the CBN’s stance was in harmony with the apex bank’s resolve to create a professional and people-oriented central bank to act as financial catalyst for job creation and inclusive growth in Nigeria.
Emefiele said, “I am particularly delighted to see that the painstaking efforts and ingenuity of Nigeria’s private sector are yielding bountiful fruits in broad daylight.
“These efforts, such as the one being displayed here today by the BUA Group, are critical complementary ingredients to reducing unemployment and boosting production activities in our country.
“Not least, also, these investments help to support the CBN’s mandate of promoting stable macro-economic growth in the country.
“I would, therefore, like to congratulate the BUA Group led by its inspirational and imitable Group CEO, Alhaji Adbul Samad Rabiu, for this investment.”
Emefiele stated further, “The BUA Group’s investment in Sokoto and in other parts of Nigeria reflects their belief in our country, and in the immense opportunities available in the industrial sector, given the abundance of human and natural resources in Nigeria.
“I am aware that this facility, which cost millions of US Dollars, was fully funded by equity contributions of the BUA Group without resorting to any source of external finance…
“Following implementation of this new directive, I am pleased to note that the production capacity of the cement industry in Nigeria has doubled from 30 million tonnes in 2014 to about 60m tonnes in 2021.”
In his welcome address, Rabiu recalled that Buhari inaugurated the second line of the cement company’s plant in 1985 when he was Head of State.
The industrialist pointed out that in the past six years, “We have completed four plants – two in Obu, Edo State and two in Sokoto (of which this Sokoto line 4 is the fourth) with BUA’s total production capacity now standing at 11 million tonnes with the completion of this plant.”
He disclosed that next year, BUA Group intended to complete the construction of two new plants of three million metric tonnes each, saying construction is already on-going – one in Edo and the other in Sokoto.
“We expect these plants to be completed next year, which will bring our total production capacity to 17million metric tonnes,” he said. “We look forward to Your Excellency coming to commission them by the first quarter of 2023,” he added.
Rabiu pledged that BUA would continue to invest in the cement industry until Nigeria became self-sufficient and cement was made available, accessible, and affordable for all Nigerians.
He stated, “Mr. President, there are many reasons one can attribute to the important nature of this plant. The attendant effect of these investments in new factories goes beyond the community and the state. It extends to the region and the entire country.
“From a job creation and economic standpoint, the Sokoto plant continues to be the largest private sector employer of labour in the North-western part of Nigeria.
“Also, by adding value to resources mined in Nigeria, Nigeria is being saved billions of US dollars in foreign exchange that would have been spent on importation, whilst also ensuring product availability.
“In fact, 95 per cent of all the raw materials used in our cement manufacturing process are sourced locally. In addition to this, and our investment in social impact and CSR programmes for the community and Sokoto State at all levels, we are also committed to environmental sustainability.
“We have diversified our energy sources by introducing greener alternatives – in this case, LNG – to power the kiln and 48 megawatts power plant. Our power plants are now running on 100 per cent LNG, leading to reduced carbon emissions. This is the first of its kind at any cement factory in Nigeria.”
Rabiu said this meant also that as soon as the AKK gas project came on stream, BUA would be ready to be one of the first off-takers.
This would also encourage further industrialisation within the region, open new industries and ensure greater development and prosperity for this region and the country in general.
“Mr President, Sir, all of this will not have been possible without your support and commitment to the development of the Nigerian economy,” Rabiu told Buhari.
He added, “As a proudly Nigerian company, we will do our best to continue to support those efforts. The support of the CBN and its governor in setting up this gigantic project is also worthy of mention.
“So far, we have invested over a billion dollars in the past four years and we urge the CBN to continue to support industries like ours that use locally sourced raw materials to add value because, as mentioned earlier, these industries potentially save the country billions of dollars yearly and also ensure products are readily available across the length and breadth of the country.”