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Cement manufacturers taking advantage of dollar rise – Minister

Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ahmed Dangiwa, has accused cement manufacturers of taking advantage of the Nigerian currency fall against the dollar to hike…

Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ahmed Dangiwa, has accused cement manufacturers of taking advantage of the Nigerian currency fall against the dollar to hike cement prices.

Daily Trust reports that on Monday, naira plummeted further against the United States dollar across both the official and unofficial markets.

According to data published on the FMDQ website, the local currency closed at N1,598.54/$1 at the official market on Monday as against N1,537.96 recorded in the previous market last Friday.

Monday’s rate represents a 3.94 per cent depreciation from the previous market rate last Friday.

The naira experienced an intraday high of N1,100/$1 and a dip of N1,712.00 before the market settled at N1,598.54 at the close of business on Monday.

Speaking Tuesday in Abuja, during a meeting with cement manufacturers, the minister described the escalating cement prices as a crisis for housing delivery and the construction industry in the country.

The meeting held barely 24 hours after the manufacturers agreed that the price of cement across the country should be between between N7,000 and N8,000.

The resolution was reached on Monday, following a meeting between the Minister of Works, Sen. David Umahi, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite as well as manufacturers of BUA Cement, Dangote Cement, Lafarge and Cement Producers Association.

Addressing the manufacturers during Tuesday’s meeting, Dangiwa said: “The gas supply that constitutes a chunk percentage of cement manufacturers production costs, is produced in Nigeria, but may not be enough. But some of the manufacturers will just go behind that and take advantage of it.

“The mining equipment is bought and used for years. Maybe it was bought at a lower price, but because now the dollar is high, that is used as a reason.

“The government stopped the importation of cements in order to empower local producers to produce more. If the government opens the borders for mass importation of cement, the price will crash. There will be no business for the local manufacturers and at the same time, the prices will go down.”

Executive Secretary of Cement Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (CMAN), James Salako, said the association does not have control over prices.

“In CMAN, we have a cardinal principle not to discuss price. We must not discuss it because of competition law. We are conscious about it. So when it comes to the issue of pricing, it is individual companies that have their own policies,” he said.

Rabiu Umar, group chief commercial officer at Dangote Industries, said: “We are willing to see what we can do in terms of putting some mechanics to control the prices which in reality are not purely within our control but we are willing to work with the government.”

There was an outcry when cement price rose to between N10,000 and N15,000 per 50kg bag.