Production of cement will commence this month at Igumale Cement Factory located in Ado Local Government Area of Benue State. About 600,000 tonnes of cement would be produced annually at the factory.
Upon completion, the cement factory, which is a joint venture between the state government and a Chinese firm, is expected to provide employment opportunities for about 100,000 people in the state.
The cement factory was initiated in 2001 by the former governor George Akume’s administration with the state government having 60 per cent equity and the Chinese partner having 40 per cent equity share in the company.
But since then, the pace of work at the cement factory had been at a snail speed.
However, cheering news came from the state government recently through its Commissioner for Commerce and Industries, Hon. Terfa Atoza Ihindan, who disclosed the preparedness of Governor Gabriel Suswam-led administration to complete the project in good time.
According to him, the state government would ensure that the project is completed in due course, adding that the technical partner of the Igumale Cement Factory project is Zhengzhou Cangxi and Commerce Development Company Limited of China.
Ihindan said that under the equity arrangement, the government is expected to contribute $24 million as counterpart funding for the supply of installation of machinery, while the technical partners are to bear the responsibilities of supplying machinery for the project.
“Government has paid a total sum of $6.118 million to the technical partners for the supply and installation of machines and equipment. $3.118 million out of the $6.118 million was paid by this administration. In addition to the release of $3.118 million as counterpart funding, government also spent over N154,555,000 in clearing machinery and equipment as well as upkeep of the Chinese engineers on site,” the commissioner disclosed.
In December 2010, government reviewed the 2002 agreement which has now adjusted the stake of both parties. Government had reduced its equity to 30 per cent while the Chinese technical partners increased their equity to 70 per cent. By this agreement, the Chinese technical partners are to bear most of the financial burden of the project.
Government has opened Form M and bills for collection which will pave the way for the importation of machinery and equipment worth over $6 million into the country. The equipment are expected to arrive Lagos port early June, this year.
While assuring the people of the state of timely completion of the cement factory project, the commissioner said 24 Chinese experts are presently working at the project site and that more are expected to join them to speed up construction and plant installation.
He added that government was working out arrangements with the host community and Ado Local Government Council for a compensation-equity swap in form of community public-publicity partnership (CPPP).
According to Ihindan, this is to ensure that instead of paying compensations to communities for the land acquired for the project sites, it would be converted to equity so that the communities will have a stake in the project as co-owners.
The opposition parties in the state have already described the whole arrangement as a gimmick and lip service, pointing out that, “the project had been abandoned even as work progress on the project is on snail movement”.
On why work on the project had suddenly stopped and the hope for cement production is not ascertained, the Benue State Economic Management Team recently embarked on tour of major industrial projects embarked by the state government as part of measures to discover the enormous challenges hindering work process, production and to get government to enhance the rapid completion of abandoned projects.
The economic team had visited the $80 million cement factory project in Igumale, the abandoned Benue burnt bricks industry in Otukpo, and the Taraku mills industry in Gwer Local Government Area of the state.
The 18-member team is chaired by the Deputy Governor, Chief Steven Lawani; Vice Chairman, Mrs. Dorcas Ukpe; Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Eugene Aliegba; Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Alex Adum; Special Adviser to the Governor on Economic Planning, Mr. Sebastine Agbinda, and Chief of Staff to Governor Suswam, Prof. Saint Gbilekaa, among others, as members.
The inspection visit of the team was a fact-finding mission to discover the problems surrounding the snail work process at the Igumale cement factory and to also arrive at why it cannot produce cement for the general benefit of the people.
Speaking in an interview with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY at the end of the inspection tour, the Vice Chairman of the team, Mrs. Dorcas Ukpe, explained that the visit was necessitated by the determination of the economic team to ensure that works on the industries, some of which she said were abandoned, were completed in record time.
Mrs. Ukpe said the Governor Gabriel Suswam-led administration was determined to complete the cement project to create job opportunities to unemployed youths in the state, adding that the team would leave no stone unturned in fast-tracking the actualisation of the projects.
Project Manager of Star Cement Limited, a Chinese company handling the Igumale cement factory project, Mr. Zhang Tianquan, said lack of electricity supply, bad access road, funding subsidy for the livelihood of staff, demand for about 10,000 cubic metres of limestone and coal, mining certificate of Star Cement Limited, and insecurity, among others, were major problems militating against the completion of the project.
“For the time being, the number of our staff has reached 23. Without any doubt, our daily expenses have become a big issue. Our project construction needs a large amount of fund; our company is bearing a heavy burden” he added.