ABDUL SAMAD RABIU’S NEW DRIVE ON CEMENT PRODUCTION AND IMPLICATIONS FOR THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY

 

He is not a man of many words. Ever since he delved into the cement manufacturing business about fourteen years ago, he has consistently indicated his desire to ensure that Nigeria becomes self-sufficient in the product. According to Abdul Samad Rabiu, the Chairman of BUA group the target is to meet the ever growing demand for cement in Nigeria with regional exports also in focus while making the product not just available but also affordable. The vision, as captured in several fora is to support the government infrastructure agenda by ensuring at BUA uses locally available materials to produce cement here in Nigeria.

This vision he has consistently pursued and protected since the first move in 2008. In the past six years, BUA Cement  has shot its total production capacity to 11million metric tonnes. This has been realised with the completion of two plants in Obu, Edo State as well as two in Sokoto. These recent activities added to the earlier acquisitions and plants also initiated by BUA.

Three aspects of his new drive for the nation’s cement industry however stand out in the speech that was presented in Sokoto at the Commissioning of the BUA Cement Factory Line 4 recently.  First is the company’s decision to depart from the norm and pursue clean energy utilisation moving away from charcoal to gas. The second is  the organisation’s growing number of workers and the socio-economic effect it has on the Northwest zone of Nigeria and Nigeria at large. The third and perhaps most national is the overall effect of increased production of cement, meeting the needs of those in the construction industry while also forcing down the price.

One of the things that has stood out in the BUA Cement activities recently has been the use of clean energy. Indeed, in normal climes advocates of clean energy would have been celebrating the BUA Group for its commitment to environmental sustainability. As revealed in the speech made by the BUA Chairman, Abdul Samad Rabiu at the signing of an agreement with Finnish Company, Wartsilla OY for a 70mw Gas plant in November 2021, BUA is committed to utilizing cleaner, more efficient energy sources for its cement operations rather than relying on coal or heavy fuels.

According to the Chairman BUA Group, the 70MW gas-powered plant ordered by BUA for its Obu Line 3 cement plant will ensure that the company remains very efficient in its energy utilization in the cement production process.  He stated further that “Currently, we have phased out the use of coal across our factories and are shifting to gas powered plants. As we ramp up our capacity, there is need to complement it with efficient power supply and Wartsila’s technology has been found to be durable and uniquely aligned with our vision for more efficient power generation at all our production locations,”

This move, he further stressed during the Sokoto 3 commissioning when he revealed that “Our power plants are now running on 100% LNG leading to reduced carbon emissions. This is the first of its kind at any cement factory in Nigeria. What this means also, is that as soon as the AKK gas project comes on stream, we are ready to be one of the first off-takers to

satisfy our energy needs. This will also encourage further industrialization within the region, open new industries and ensure greater development and prosperity for this region and the nation in general.”

Put in global context, the effort by BUA to ensure that it’s activities especially production follows best practices and indeed environment friendly trend which the world is gradually grappling with is not a small feat. It would be recalled that at the Climate Change Summit which took place in Scotland November 2021, world leaders as usual harped on reducing emissions which have been affecting the climate. Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari was one of hose who attended the conference and spoke of the need to take the issue of climate change due to our environmental activities seriously.  The cement industry is one major sector where a lot of energy is expended but the BUA Group has blazed the trail that it is practicable to use more environment-friendly source of energy hence the application of Wartsilla’s Technology.

Ultimately, when environmentalists speak, they will always look back and point out the trail- blazing BUA experience in this regard in other to show other African industrialists that reduced carbon emissions in Nigeria and indeed the continent is doable.

Apart from the environmental impact of the BUA Chairman’s new initiative, there is also the social impact. As corroborated in his presentation, the BUA Group is the leading private employer of labour in the North West of Nigeria. This same region has a large population of unemployed and by inference, despondent youths.

A private initiative, taking thousands of these unemployed youths off the streets means more than just providing meals and shelter. It touches the real fibre of the society and is a major kick against the current social crisis as witnessed by insecurity in the Northwest of Nigeria. By the time many youths become gainfully employed, the lure of crime, banditry will definitely be reduced. This may sound like a long journey into the future. But that is stuff that nations are made of and that is exactly where the BUA new agenda is taking the zone. Hopefully by the time the new expansion of 3million Metric Tonnes, on which work is ongoing, is completed, many more will be gainfully employed and many more dreams would be fulfilled. Affiliate jobs arising from location of industries touch lives in communities where industries are located, generate a trickle-down effect than many can comprehend, from people who sell food to workers, to drivers and artisans who patronize factories on account of large labour concentration.

The need for other industrialists to follow suit, and lift up the zone thus helping in fighting he current hopelessness which is driving the youths into crime cannot be overemphasized. The overall impact of sustained social engagement for youths through employment is one thing many nations do not take for granted and when many more Nigerians gain employment in industries located in their communities they definitely feel a sense of belonging.

Ultimately, it is the aim of bringing the price of cement down, and making it affordable and available that would be the biggest achievement of the new BUA drive on

the cement industry. Unlike other players in the sector, the BUA Chairman has not hidden his desire to ensure that the price of cement comes down. Indeed, he has assiduously worked towards this. But with the present situation in which local factories can hardly meet the needs of the construction industry, price is driven up by high demand.

Hopefully, by the time the Sokoto Line 5 and Obu Line 4 come in full stream, and production capacity of BUA Cement is jerked up to 17million Metric Tonnes, from its present 11 Million Tonnes, the desired change would gradually become reality. He has also pointed out the need for more incentives on the part of the Government which is a key to operating seamlessly.

The cement industry is important to the nation’s economy. It has its own challenges and many of these, BUA Cement has faced head-long. Projections for 2022-2023 by the BUA Chairman, Abdul Samad Rabiu should therefore gladden the hearts of not only those who depend on the industry but also environmentalists as well as Nigerians at large. The trail blazing move of reduced carbon emissions from cement industries which contributes a large chunk of environmental hazard, reduced unemployment rate with more jobs for youths, and ultimate reduction in the price of cement when production level is increased are all what the BUA Group is bringing to the table, and these are ideals that other stakeholders have to emulate.

Bamidele Ogundana

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