It appears Yardy is trying to convince Nigerians that he has their interests at heart. He is now reversing Obasanjo's ban on cement importation. According to Nigeria's Punch newspaper, Yardy approved the mass importation of cement into the country. Apparently, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Charles Ugwu, presented Yardy proposed the idea because the nation is experiencing a deficit of 13000 tonnes of cement necessary for various works. Ugwu said,
"we established that there is a shortfall with regards to supply and requested President Yar’Adua to approve, in accordance with the cement policy, the importation of the differential between demand and the established local production capacity.”He also went on to stress that this act was for the benefit of the Nigerian people.
For those that can remember, former President Obasanjo instituted a ban on cement importation in the hopes of boosting domestic cement manufacturing industry. This ban led to an increase in prices for cement during a construction boom. And in a nation where people prefer building their own homes to renting or other forms of home ownership, the price increase caused scarcity and a slow down in construction for individuals and companies.
However, it is alleged that Obasanjo's ban on importation had little to do with protecting Nigeria's cement manufacturing industry as much as it had to do with protecting the financial interests of himself and the Big Boys. Nigeria's premiere producer of cement is Dangote who, due to Obasanjo's ban, controlled access to and prices of cement. There are also rumors that Dangote, through Obasanjo, kept out a potential domestic competitor whose factory is now sitting idle.
Considering this information, one would assume that Yardy's lifting of the cement importation ban is clearly a means to benefit ordinary Nigerian citizens. That may be true. However, a very astute commenter on this blog once noted that it is very easy to reverse decisions made by formers rulers. I must say that I agree with that sentiment. This is not the first OBJ policy that Yardy has overturned, but this issue was likely placed before his desk in September and so it seemingly took a long time for this decision to be announced. I can't help but wonder if OBJ's connections to Dangote and Obajana Cement PLC has anything to do with the delay in helping the average citizen on this matter. In fact, just for education sake, let us all be aware that Obajana Cement PLC has received $75 million from the World bank, and is backed by Finland's Finnfund, Germany's DEG, Sweden's Sweedfund, Netherland's FMO, and the European Investment Bank.
This is simply the product of my overcreative, conspiracy loving mind, but wouldn't it be interesting to discover the following. OBJ and friends enjoyed a monopoly on the Nigerian cement industry but they knew that those days could come to an end with subsequently elected administrations. Thus, to make as much money as possible within a potentially short time frame, OBJ instituted a ban on cement importation. During that time, the Big Boys created Obajana (a Dangote owned company) and aligned it with as many foreign investors as possible to lower the possibility of its dissolution by any future regimes and ensure complete dominance of the cement industry.
Assuming that there is any truth to my thinking, overturning OBJ's ban on cement helps the Nigerian public by providing access to cement, but the act will definitely help Obajana Cement PLC and as such continue to fill the pockets of the Big Boys. As they say, "the rich get richer..."and in this case, they are all making money off the construction and cement industry.
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UPDATE (6/28): Nigeria's Federal Government has given permission/license to 6 domestic cement manufacturers to import cement in an effort to drop the price of cement from N2000 per bag to N1,150 within 3 weeks.
Related Article of Interest:
- Being Cynical About Cement, Nigeria & The IFC