The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, recently went on tour of some private industrial establishment the federal government considers economically strategic to its economic agenda. One of such visit was to 5-million tonnes per annum (mtpa) BUA cement factory Sokoto. At the cement venue Managing Director, BUA Cement Yusuf Binji had an interactive session with journalists. Excerpts
Is BUA Group afraid of competition?
BUA Group is not afraid of competition in local and international markets because of the significant investments made in the sectors of the economy and will continue to expand across the country. In October 2019, the BUA Group announced a merger of its two cement subsidiaries, the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria and Okpella Cement Company, in a bid to become the country’s second largest cement producer by volume by 2020. The deal was concluded in January as BUA Cement listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of N1.2 trillion ($3.3bn). The BUA Group has invested over $2 billion into its cement business over the last four years, which has helped to boost the company’s output. BUA will save Nigeria hundreds of millions of dollars. Cement production in Nigeria certainly need more players in order to satisfy the demand. The price of cement is N4,000, cement need to be made available at affordable price to Nigerians.
What impact will the visit of the honourable minister make on BUA Cement?
The visit of the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to BUA Cement in continuation of the tour of public and private sector projects across the country is quite appreciated by the BUA Group. As to the impact which the visit has left on the profile or rather the image of the company, one can say that it is a positive and applauding development as BUA Cement was counted as one the companies that are impacting positively on the lives of the Nigerian people. Commendably enough is that the minister’s tour was highlighted with about 30 journalists drawn from the print, electronic and social media, as well as from public and private media, and there was also a documentary team from the ministry. Without doubt, it is an indication of recognition of the company for being among companies that are uplifting Nigeria’s economy as it is contributing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The minister said that the favourable business environment provided by the Buhari administration has boosted BUA’s cement production by 300%. What is your take on that?
The minister’s assertion has not in any way differed from facts and figures we have in our repository. We agree with the minister’s information as the massive increase in production we’ve recorded so far, especially since 2015, was made possible by the conducive business environment provided by the Federal Government.
What are these conditions that have contributed to increase in production at BUA Cement factory?
The favourable conditions include the granting of Pioneer Status which enables BUA Cement to enjoy tax holiday, the ban on importation of cement, backward integration policy and the divestment of government shares from cement companies. I must say that with the enabling business environment spurred by the incentives that BUA Cement has recorded more than 300 per cent increase in production between 2015 and now. That’s from 3.5 million tonnes per annum in 2015 to 11million tonnes per annum now.
What economic impact has the increase in production on the nation’s economy generally?
The boost in production recorded by our Cement Company has positively impacted on the economy as our Sokoto Plant alone, for instance, has created 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, and has also been earning foreign exchange for the country as we continue to export our products to Niger; which is just 100 kilometres from the location of the plant, as well as Burkina Faso, especially during the raining season when construction work is at its lowest ebb in Nigeria. Let me assure you that the boost has not started as we have put adequate facilities on ground. For instance, we have in the last five years completed four new cement plants of similar capacity in Okpella Edo State and we are set to complete two more plants soon. With this, it is expected that total production for BUA Cement will amount to 17 million tonnes per annum by 2023. So, you can see that with what we have invested, more massive production is expected in a few years to come. In fact, the 3 million tonnes per annum line IV of the Sokoto Plant, which was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari in January this year, has taken the combined installed capacity of the factory’s Lines 2, 3 and 4 to 5 million tonnes per annum.
Much has been said about the Sokoto Plant in terms of its sophistication, can you once again throw insight to its technological features for the benefits of Nigerians, particularly your customers?
Without being exaggerative, the Sokoto Plant is one of the most modern cement plants anywhere, with gas analysers used in regulating carbon emissions released into the atmosphere; air purifying mechanisms set up to enhance the quality of air released from the cement manufacturing process and filters that are capable of capturing 99.9% of dust in order to make the environment healthy and conducive for the workers and customers alike. The Plant is the first cement plant in Nigeria to use Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to generate power, thereby replacing coal in its kiln, and in the same vein, the plant generates 50MW of electricity to power its production machinery. This has made the plant environmentally friendly to also curb climate change. I am sure when the AKK gas pipeline project is completed, it will drastically reduce the time and cost of transporting gas, which is currently being trucked from Port Harcourt to the plant. At least 20 trucks of LNG are brought here daily from Port Harcourt. Imagine the costs and the logistic challenges involved in this. The beauty of it all is that the Sokoto plant is operating at over 90 per cent of its installed capacity and loading between 250 and 270 trucks per day. The plant has a total of 700 trucks for cement distribution. Not only that, BUA Cement as is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) with a market capitalisation of N2.5 trillion, and it is the fourth-largest company on the NSE; the second largest cement producer in Nigeria with 25 per cent of the market and the largest cement producer in the country’s North West, South-South and South East. BUA Cement has also invested heavily in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and the company is involved in the provision of health services, scholarships for students, provision of housing, roads, electricity for host communities.
How committed is BUA Cement to impacting positively its operating environment?
As a responsible organisation, we are fully aware of the responsibilities and obligations attached with becoming market leaders in the construction sector. We have been harnessing local resources, investing in human capital development, setting up efficient industries and giving back to communities through various social impact /intervention programmes. We foresee a great Africa driven by determination and disruptive innovation in delivering quality products and services. – Hence our investments in strategic Ultra-modern Eco-friendly Cement Plants to lay the foundation for growth – and a supply network to reach our customers with ease. While constructing our Ultra-modern Cement producing facilities, we have taken the following proactive measures against; CO2 emissions, Noise and dust pollution. Our facilities come with Carbon emission gas analyzers monitored by our operators. Dust collectors installed around the cement facilities purify the air quality. Our product Portland- limestone cement is also environmentally friendly. Less fossil fuel is expended in the production of Portland limestone cement than the conventional Portland cement.
In executing its CSR strategy, BUA Group implements initiatives in line with the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), aimed to drive economic growth and encourage Human development capacity. Over the years, BUA Group has invested millions of dollars (through its respective subsidiaries) in extensive social impact projects towards the development of host communities by investing in Health care, Education, and Water & sanitation and other areas.