Cement classification has been a topical issue in the Nigerian cement industry for so many reasons not alien to the peculiar business environment in the country. It was to differentiate the products by its grades for effective utilization by builders in the construction business; but various factors appear to stop its implementation, though some producers complied with the review. Ajose Sehindemi seeks to understand the motive for the reintroduction of the idea by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON)
After a Hiatus of three years, it was a thing of surprise when in December 2017, Nigeria standard watchdog the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, under Osita Aboloma called for the review of industrial standards for cement production in the country as he cited increase in spate of building collapses as the motivating factor.
He convened a technical committee to ascertain the standard development process for cement production in line with global best practice with the committee made up of a cross-section of all relevant organisations in the building construction industry; which was then given the mandate to identify the various timelines and principles that define the procedures and guidelines for cement production.
Aboloma, represented by Chinyere Ejiogwu, at the Technical Committee meeting for the review of the standard for cement (NIS444- 1.2014), said cement standard is no doubt a very important one as about 80 percent or more of the buildings and other infrastructural development of any nation and, indeed Nigeria, is carried out with cement as cement is a binder for all the components of any building project, and its poor application in the construction has been blamed for failures and collapse in the building and construction industry
He harped on the fact that standards can be reviewed after five years or at any time at the instance of the stakeholders or if found inadequate due to changes in technology, best methods, and government policy. But for observers of the industry, questions have been asked if this was not another wild goose chase that would lead nowhere?
A few years ago when Joseph Odumodu, then director general of SON, called for an upgrade in cement composition and pigmentation policy as a result of incessant building collapse in the country, it led to a brickbat of sort between the top cement makers in the country till the matter was finally settled in court and SON ordered to maintain status quo antebellum.
The process of reviewing the cement standard by the SON was surrounded in controversy as professional bodies like Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), some cement manufacturers, among other stakeholders, cried foul over the process, as they said they were not given ample time to properly dissect the review that was ordered to be conducted within a short space of time.
That ruling negated the supposed gains the review was meant to achieve as since then, everything about the upgrade seems to be the distant memory, except for the packaging of some cement manufacturers in the country that followed through with the review.
Not much was heard again on the issue as the dust of the 2015 elections in the country settled the matter. Did SON prevaricate on the issue? Was it not another policy reversal as is common in the country after so much publicity on it?
What does the present director general hope to achieve with what appears to be a sudden decision that appears not thoroughly thought through? Though the review appears to be noble, the attention it is not getting goes a long way to suggest that it’s just a policy statement with feelers from the SON suggesting that the matter is one not to be talked about, as silence is the word anytime questions are asked about the so-called review.
Now, almost four months after the inauguration of the technical committee, the report and recommendation is yet to be seen in the public domain. A source at the standards body couldn’t say categorically the stage of the committee’s report, confirming that nobody wants to talk about it, as there is a deafening silence about it.
A top official when asked about the work of the committee, said a visit was needed by this reporter to meet with experts who will offer reasons for the review, because, as he said, there exists an extensive dossier on it and so cannot comment on the committee nor its findings; though, the result of whatever outcome of the committee will depend on how resourceful the office of the official is.
Will the report come out soon or is it now a private matter?