Rising cost of cement: We can’t own houses again —Nigerians cry out

• The hardship is too much, we can’t continue to bear it —Residents

• Cement vendors decry poor patronage

Nigerians, especially the low and middle-income earners, have cried out over the present high cost of cement saying they will no longer be able to own their houses in the country. This is just as the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, REDAN, declared that unless a sustainable solution was found to the problem of high cost of cement and other building materials, Nigeria’s housing deficit will continue to rise.

Between December, 2023 and January, 2024 the price of a 50kg bag of cement sold for an average of N5, 000 and N6,000 in the open market. However, in a survey carried out by Vanguard within one week between February 11 and 22, 2024, the price of a 50kg bag of cement rose to between N10,500 and N13,000 in many parts of Lagos, Ogun and other states across Nigeria amidst rising inflation.

This prompted the Federal Government’s decision to meet with manufacturers and other stakeholders in an attempt to halt the slide. The Minister of Works, David Umahi was quoted as saying at the meeting that, “it is common knowledge that the manufacturers have their challenges, which we shall look into, but from our findings, the disparity between ex-factory price and the market price is wide. “We therefore need to look into the situation and other issues with a view to finding a common front.” After the meeting, major cement manufacturers such as Dangote and BUA agreed to bring the price to between N7,000 and N8,000 per 50kg. It was also agreed that government on its part would look into some of the grievances of the manufacturers. They had complained about bad roads, exchange rate, rising inflation among others.

The President of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), Dr. Aliyu Wamako, who spoke to Vanguard, in a telephone interview, in Abuja, on Thursday, was particularly worried, like most of his colleagues in the building industry, about the astronomical rise in the cost of cement, one of the basic materials used in the construction industry.

Dr Wamako explained that low and middle income earners will find it difficult, if not impossible, to build or own houses with the average cost of cement hovering around N12,000-N15,000 per 50kg bag.

He said, “The truth is that low and middle income earners will find it increasingly difficult to afford housing which is a basic need, not to even talk about those who don’t have sustainable or reliable income. “We understand government is doing the best it can on this issue but more need to be done.

“In fact, we heard about the threat by government to open the borders to allow import of finished cement products if that will help. “We think both government and indigenous manufacturers of cement can find a lasting solution to this problem if they decide to work together.”

* Residents, building contractors, sellers lament

A resident, Samuel Abayomi, who is currently building his house, lamented over the current price of cement, saying that the federal government wants to make it impossible for middle income earners to build their own houses. He said, “I had planned to finish my house latest by June according to my own budget. Although the price of cement had initially gone up this month, I was still able to adjust, but this current price is sickening and can kill someone before his time.

“How does the government want us to do it? Should we steal and kill before we have our own houses to ourselves? I fear for my country Nigeria. Everything is just going up, not only cement, we have not even talked about food, we are just trying to survive on a daily basis. “We are in a mess. If Tinubu doesn’t do something immediately, Nigeria will burn. I don’t think we can continue to bear this, the hardship is too much.”

An Abuja-based building contractor, Peter Ekondu, expressed shock about the astronomical rise in the cost of cement which he said has forced him to suspend work in one of the sites he was supervising.
He said, “It is distressing that not up to one week after one of my clients paid N5,500 expecting a supply of 100 bags of cement, he was told to add almost 50 percent or come for a refund. As we speak, I had to suspend work on the site because of this dispute. The young men on site who work and get paid on a daily basis have been sent home, it is that bad.”

Similarly, cement sellers have been complaining as they struggle to sell their products due to poor patronage as a result of skyrocketing prices. One of the cement sellers, who simply identified himself as Sanusi said, “The recent increase in prices of cement is not something we take lightly. Our aim has always been to provide high-quality cement at affordable prices to support the construction sector. However, rising cost beyond our control has forced us to adjust our pricing strategies.”

Another cement seller, Musa Adamu said that the primary factor responsible for the surge in cement prices is the exorbitant cost of raw materials. He also blamed transportation challenges they faced while distributing their products. He said, “We can’t be blamed for the increase in cement prices. We are not responsible for some of the factors that led to the increase. Let’s look at how much it takes for us to fuel our truck that will take us to where we will distribute the product to the consumers. Nigerians should not blame us, they should face this government, their policies are not working. Until they do something to fix it, everything will be expensive, nothing will be spared.”

One of the vendors in Abuja, Isaac Danjuma, said: “For now, what I sell is Dangote cement and it is sold for N10,000, the last I can give out is 9,900. I can’t say why it is increasing. It is when a company calls us that we will know what to sell. Truly, things are not easy for people but we can only wait and see those we voted for to change things.”

A vendor who simply identified herself as Amaka, shared her frustration with the situation, saying: “We are really struggling to sell our cement. The prices keep going up, but people are not willing to buy at these high costs. It’s been tough trying to make ends meet in this tough economic climate. “As cement vendors, we are feeling the impact of the rising cost of raw materials and transportation. We are doing our best to absorb some of these costs, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. Our customers are feeling the effects as well.”

Another vendor identified as Ugochukwu Ebube, said: “What I sell for a bag of BUA cement is N9,500 and that of Dangote is N10,000 and this may increase any time soon. I can’t say what the government is doing but I know all these problems started when the subsidy was removed. We depend on selling cement to support our families, but with the poor patronage and high prices, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a living.”

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