Much Ado About Cement Alternatives

In view of the high cost of cement, government once again explores alternative building materials, but whether this will deliver mass housing to Nigerians is still in the realm of conjecture

Over the years, Nigerians have been agonising over the high cost of cement, which has curtailed their hope of building houses. But government is striving to rekindle the hope of these Nigerians, or so it says. If all goes well, these Nigerians would be able to build their houses with ease soon. Danladi Matawal, director-general, Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute, NBRRI, who made this known recently said the agency was developing a cheaper alternative cement which would reduce the cost of building and ensure housing for all in no distant time.

According to Matawal, “The alternative cement basically is a product of waste and environmentally polluting items like rice husk ash, groundnut husk ash, volcanic ash, among others. It is being regenerated for alternative cement using appropriate procedures.” The alternative cement is being tested by the agency, whose responsibility is to develop standard building technology for quality roads and housing construction in the country, and would be made available to Nigerians after certification. But Nigerians would not have to wait for long to access the affordable cement as the agency has assured that the technology to make housing affordable would be available next year.

Going by NBRRI’s calculation, a three-bedroom bungalow could be built with N1.5 million. This would be a drastic reduction from N3.5 million to N5 million, which is the present cost of such building less the cost of land and furnishing. In view of the acute shortage of accommodation in both urban and rural areas of the country and the yearnings of the people to build their own houses, Nigerians should be celebrating this ‘breakthrough.’

The ever-increasing cost of cement has always been responsible for the inability of Nigerians to own houses, as cement constitutes 35 per cent to 45 per cent of the building materials used for building construction. But the price of cement has increased by over 200 per cent since 1999 when it sold for N500 per 50-kilogramme, kg, bag. A 50kg bag of cement now sells for between N2,500 and N3,000 depending on the location. Even cement manufacturers in the country have tried to crash the spiralling price of cement but could not, due to the high cost of production and transportation. This unfortunate situation has kept cement out of the reach of most Nigerians, 70 per cent of whom are classified as living below the poverty threshold.

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