Renew Importation Licences to Crash Cement Prices, Delta Monarch Urges Tinubu

Sylvester Idowu in Warri

The Ovie of Idjerhe Kingdom, His Royal Majesty Monday Obukohwo Whiskey, Udurhie 1, has appealed to President Bola Tinubu to urgently renew import licenses to Cement New Entrants Forum of Nigeria (CNEFN) as part of measures to bring down the price and make the commodity available to Nigerians.

He attributed the spiraling prices of cement across the country to the nonrenewal of licenses for the importation of the product since 2008, 2009, to complement the local production of the commodity.

The monarch made the appeal yesterday while conducting journalists round abandoned multi-billion naira Madewell Portland Cement located in his kingdom after huge investment by an indigene, Prince David Iweta, the President of CNEFN.

Late President Umaru Yar’Adua had issued six companies representing each of the six geopolitical zones, three licences each, to bring the prices of cement down but had their licences revoked when immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan came into power after the sudden death of his boss.

He lamented that if the importation of cement had been sustained as espoused by previous governments most of the members of Cement New Entrants Forum of Nigeria would have been engaged in local production of cement by now and would have helped in lowering the prices as being experienced now.

He was particularly saddened that Madewell Portland Cement company which provided over 2,000 direct jobs for his subjects and 10,000 indirect jobs for Nigerians, when it was established is now lying fallow because of inconsistent policy of the previous administrations.

“You can see the massive plants put in place by Prince David Iweta, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Madewell Portland Cement company in Jesse wasting away. Is it the giant generating sets, the jetty built at the bank of River Ethiope and others we should talk about. The roofs of the plants are already being removed by vandals. It’s so annoying and despicable that previous governments abandoned the policy in favour of a few cabal in the industry.

“As a king of this kingdom, I feel pained seeing my subjects, particularly the youths idling away while a company that could keep them engaged is lying waste because of bad government policy. The cabal in the cement industry has really drawn us back. Look at the prices of cement today. It’s on the high side whereas if that cement importation policy has been sustained alongside with local production, we won’t be battling with astronomical prices now,” he lamented.

The royal father said further, “You can see, we are standing on the bank of the river. This is River Ethiope, one of the deepest rivers in Africa. I saw it 15 years ago or let’s say 12 years ago, when this project was brought down by Madewell in the cement industry. It already created over 2,000 direct jobs and over 10,000 indirect jobs to the Nigerian economy.

“As a king of this land, I feel pained and I believe that with the coming of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. A man who is business oriented, a man who is economically viable, who knows the importance of the cement sector to the Nigerian economy, he will revive this project and others to encourage the investors.”

The monarch recalled that Madewell Portland Cement was granted licence to import 500,000 metric tonnes between 2008 and 2009 but succeeded in bringing in only 50,000 metric tonnes while 450,000 metric tonnes were left in China at the time the policy was cancelled.

He commended Prince Iweta for not towing the path of other investors that took the federal government to court when the policy was cancelled, adding, “Some of them went to court. They collected huge amount of money from the federal government. But he didn’t go to court because he believed that a day like this will come. And I believe that Mr. President as a listening President will listen to this very important cry and order the reopening of this factory by granting it importation licence for cement.”

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