Nigerians need not bask in false ego of using substandard products – Manufacturer

How is the competition like in the Nigerian building materials market?

It is very difficult to struggle in a building materials market that has been flooded with cheap and substandard products. The economy is bad, so people strive to buy all they need with the little they have. So if care is not taken, they will compromise quality and that means they will compromise safety. So only those who know the implication of buying substandard products will spend their little on quality and safe building materials.

The choice is between substandard cheap products and qualitative products that cost more. In a tough economy like ours, people need to be educated on the implications of using fake but cheap building materials. The public needs to know how not to build a cheap house that will eventually kill the owner when it collapses.

Another sad fact is that most Nigerians prefer to import substandard goods in order to make a quick gain, to patronizing the locally made goods.

What is the future of tiles manufacturing in Nigeria?

The problem with Nigerians is that we are used to imported items. Unfortunately, a large number of locally made products are superior to some imported ones. Let me give you a vivid and verifiable example: Nocaco Cable is a locally made cable that is far superior to cables imported from China.

If you have the time, please experiment. Nocaco cables don’t get hot when you use them. But when you apply Chinese products to the same circumstance, you will see how it will react. So Nigerians need to change their mentality about locally manufactured products.

In ceramics, there is the same problem of preferring imported products to locally made ones. If you take Royal Tiles and subject it to stress, you will find that it will hardly break. Despite our reputation which is well known, some people simply want to enjoy the ego that they use imported products as if Nigerian products are inferior. So we have to work on ourselves to overcome this erroneous mindset.

Why did you relocate the factory from Suleja to Ajaokuta?

We relocated in response to challenges. The first reason is in order to site the factory in a place where we will access local raw materials needed for tiles production. Secondly, we have readily available gas in Ajaokuta. Next, is availability of electricity power as a result of the Geregu power plant, and then comes my desire to provide jobs to my own people, the people of Ajaokuta.

The Nigerian built environment is awash with the problem of building collapse, a problem that has been described as partly arising from use of substandard building materials. What is your take?

In the building industry, a lot of substandard goods are being brought in from China. It is also true that there are some companies in Nigeria who also produce substandard building materials. If you check very carefully, you would discover that they do not have IOS Certification. Those substandard products do not have the endorsement of the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB). This is because only industries that have what it takes to manufacture standard products get IOS and NIOB Certification.



IOS and NIOB would actually subject the product to standardisation tests and scrutiny before it is certified. Unfortunately, not many manufacturing companies meet the IOS or NIOB pass mark, but they continue to produce goods for public consumption. This is dangerous. The use of substandard imported building materials is also responsible for the spate of buildings collapse in Nigeria.

And that suggests that the regulators are not doing their job?

I wouldn’t say they are not doing their job because the producers of these fake products have continued to device new means of importing their substandard products. To be frank, importers are very smart. It is not easy to nab them. They contravene the law strategically. For example, when our regulators go to sleep at night, the importers take advantage of those times.

These problems persist; so how do you think we can have affordable housing in Nigeria?

The prevailing economic situation is not conducive for a lot of people. I think we can start working so that we can improve the economy and consequently attain affordable housing after year 2020. Yes, Nigeria might be able to achieve affordable housing delivery after 2020, but not before then.

Do you think government has done enough
to create enabling environment for local production of building materials?

The government is doing its best but it is still not enough. Government should do more in the area of encouraging local manufacturers. If they want more building materials to be manufactured in the country, they have to encourage local producers. We need better incentives, duty rebates, tax holiday, provisions of loan facilities from banks among others.

We have had to source for funds from overseas to build industries in Nigeria and that has a lot of economic implications.

Gas has become costlier and many of the daily needs for running of equipment have become extremely high. These problems do not in any way encourage local manufacturers.

Government should put in place, policies that will cushion our problems as is the case in other climes.

What provision do you have for technology transfer since most of your machines are imported?

Of course, the issue of technology transfer is crucial for Nigeria. However, it is not directly under in our purview. I think the ministry ofscience and technology would be able to discuss policies that will encourage technology transfer into Nigeria.

Don’t you think you could train people locally
to handle any tasks currently being executed by expatriates?

Yes, we are doing that. As we speak, we have brought in tillers from overseas to come and train our local tillers in Nigeria. We believe that our local tillers are trying but there is room for improvement especially in the area of the alignment between tiles. We discover that local tillers have to be trained in order to accurately determine the alignment between tiles. So we brought in artisans and technicians from China and India to rub minds with our Nigerian tillers in order to improve their capacity as well our service delivery.

How many staff are engaged in the tiles chain in your company?

Till date, West African Ceramics has created three thousand, five hundred jobs in our factory system.

If government bans importation of building materials, do you think local manufacturers can meet the demand locally?

That is possible if government supports local manufacturers. So encouragement is what we need to wax stronger. When I say encouragement, I mean government needs to support us by patronising our products. If government patronises foreign tiles manufacturers when we have very good locally made ones, we cannot be encouraged.

If government insists that all its ministries and agencies should use standard locally made products, it will certainly develop the sector and grow the economy because it will necessarily lead to increase in local production that will have multiplier effect on our jobs creation. We can even export.

Are you aware that Fashola recently advocated for patronage of locally made goods in the housing sector?

(Cuts in) Fashola is not the first minister that is saying that. The fact is that most of them will prefer to buy imported materials into their homes.

The Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) recently endorsed Royal Tiles. What did you put in place to achieve the feat?

I want to reassure you that West African Ceramic Tiles are one of the best tiles you can get in the world today. As an organization, West African Ceramics has come a very long way spanning over 20 years. We have moved from Suleija in Niger state where we started our first production of tiles, to Ajaokuta where we are today.

So in the last 20 years, we have had rigorous exercise of different types of tiles from six by six to twelve by twelve, thirty by thirty, sixty by sixty, and now we also produce eighty by eighty. So it’s a very progressive and long journey.

So over the years, we reinvest our experience to ensure continuous improvement of our products. I assure you that we are one of the best ceramic companies you can find in the world today.

We use ultramodern machineries and 89% of our local raw materials. You can check. Even companies like Julius Berger have continued to patronize us and they have seen that our product stands out as one of the best in the world.

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