Fashola Wants Phased Ban On Cement Importation

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The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has urged the Federal Government to implement its proposed ban on imported cement in phases and in a way that would not hurt the economy.

The governor gave the advice on Tuesday in Lagos while speaking to newsmen shortly after inspecting some ongoing school projects in the Surulere area of the metropolis.

Fashola said speculations about the proposed ban had already resulted in cement shortages all over the country. He disclosed that the short supply was affecting contractors’ capacity to execute development projects.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that President Goodluck Jonathan spoke while inaugurating the 2.5-tonne Lafarge Cement Factory in Ewekoro last year that government would consider a ban on the product in 2012.

Jonathan said he expected the country to attain self-sufficiency in cement production in the first quarter of 2012, through increased local capacity, after which there would be no need for cement imports.

However, Fashola said: “There is an imminent shortage of cement in the country now and contractors are complaining.

“I am told that there are some brands of cement that they use because of their superior strength for bridges, beams and pillars and they are now in short supply.

“These shortages result as some of the consequences of some of the public policies we have taken in the country, in order to protect the local market.

“Again, I think we need to enunciate short, medium and long term plans to keep those policies in place and ensure that we don‘t hurt ourselves.

“It is for us to continue to find a sensible balance that helps us to grow and protect our local economy and at the same time we don‘t do it in a manner that endangers what we want to protect,” he said.

The governor said the shortfall in cement supply in the country was threatening over 2,000 ongoing development projects in the state, as contractors cannot get the product in the required proportions for their work.

He said if the situation was not brought under control, it could worsen the problem of unemployment in the country as many people engaged in the various construction projects might be thrown out of job.

Fashola expressed satisfaction at the rehabilitation work done so far at the Government College, Itolo Girls High School and State Junior and Senior Grammar schools, all in Surulere.

He urged contractors handling the rehabilitation of all the 18 blocks of classrooms in the schools to speed up their pace of work, in order to meet up with the July delivery date.

The governor restated government’s commitment to the improvement of education standards, saying that a lot of schools had been rehabilitated as a demonstration of that commitment.