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The President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote on Sunday announced the commencement of the company’s $1 billion cement plant in Okpella, North of Edo State.

The groundbreaking event of the six million metric tonnes per annum (mmtpa) integrated cement plant was part of the activities to mark Dangote’s 59th birthday.

The Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who spoke during the ceremony, described the investment as consistent with the policy drive of the federal government targeted at the diversification of the economy from crude oil.

According to him, the mining sector would contribute over $25 billion to the national economy, creating huge revenue flows to drive it in the face of rapidly declining crude oil prices.

“The mining sector has the capacity to contribute over $25 billion to the national economy by 2025, creating new employment opportunities, developing local content and increasing tax revenue for the state and the federal governments,” Fayemi said.

The Edo State Government, Adams Oshiomhole, said the investment was equivalent to the total capital expenditure deployed in the state since he assumed office over seven years ago.

He called on other businessmen and women to emulate the investment drive of Dangote, saying that this was the only way the country would grow from strength to strength and create job opportunities for the nation’s teeming unemployed youths.

“Over the next 26 months, cement will be rolling out of the facility and I want to say that this investment would not have been possible without peace and confidence in the state,” Oshiomhole said.

He noted that the investment would create job opportunities for about 24,000 people directly and indirectly.

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Aisha Abubakar, in her speech, said the investment was a proof that Nigeria could move away and survive with non-oil products.

She noted that Dangote was the largest employer of labour after the federal government, adding that the ministry would continue to partner the firm in terms of innovation and technological development.

“As we move forward, we want to implore other well-meaning Nigerians to provide opportunities for mentorship for the young ones to grow,” she said.

Africa’s richest man, Dangote, said the new cement plant is expected to further increase the $3 billion the country had been saving from import substitution in cement yearly.

He maintained that the new 6mmtpa capacity cement plant was coming on the heels of a similar arrangement for another 6mmtpa cement plant in Itori, Ogun State, where the company is currently running a 12mmtpa cement plant at Ibese.

He noted that by this investment, Dangote’s production capacity would increase to 41mmtpa in Nigeria alone, adding that he would never shy away from investing in the country because the nation still remains the best place to invest in the world.

“A key factor that drives investments in an economy is the presence of an investor-friendly business climate. Indeed, Edo State today is one of the most attractive investment destinations in Nigeria.

“The economic reforms in Edo State especially in the area of tax, innovations in rural finance and investment on infrastructure, have produced the enabling environment that has further provided a platform for future growth. All these factors made us consider investing in the state,” he said.

Dangote noted that Nigeria is a growing economy, adding: Our developmental challenges are quite enormous and will require the combined efforts of government and private sector to overcome them.

“It is in this light that we are here to contribute our own quota to transforming the economy of Edo State as we have done elsewhere. This project is only one of our several successful projects presently ongoing in parts of the country and outside in more than 15 other locations in African countries in line with our pan African investment strategy.”

He said in June last year, the group commissioned its cement plant in Ethiopia, Zambia and Cameroun, adding that there are plans to commission other plants in Senegal and South Africa very soon.

“Also last year, in Lagos, we signed a deal valued at $4.34 billion, with Sinoma International Engineering Company Limited for the construction of 10 additional new cement plants across Africa, with one in Nepal in Asia. The combined capacity of these new projects will be 25 million metric tonnes per annum.

“By the time all these new projects are completed in the next few years, we will have a total capacity of 81 million metric tonnes per annum. This will make us one of the top six cement companies in the world,” he said.

He pointed out that the group was consolidating its cement businesses across Africa in order to reap from the benefits of scale, stressing that its operational offshore cement plants had started to make substantial contributions to its revenue.

“In addition to manufacturing, we are also investing heavily in agriculture for massive employment generation. Recently, we have commenced multi-billion dollar rice projects in some states in the north and we recently flagged off a rice out-grower scheme with the distribution of rice seedling to farmers in Jigawa State to reduce our dependence on imported rice, create massive jobs for the people and provide good returns to the farmers.

“We envisage producing up to one million tonnes of white rice with the cultivation of 200,000 hectares of land. This will lead to a conservation of about $11 billion presently spent on the importation of food items that could otherwise be produced locally.

“It is gratifying to know that the federal government has recently announced that it is putting in place strategies that will make farmers have greater access to implements and other inputs,” Dangote said.

In his welcome address, the Okuokpellagbe of Okpella Kingdom, Dr. Andrew Dirisu, lauded the doggedness of Dangote Cement and its prompt response to the call for the establishment of the cement plant, and commended the state governor for his support in acceding to the desire of the people to have Dangote Cement in the community given the abundance of the raw materials in the community.

He promised that the community would provide the enabling environment for the investment to thrive as it is to the benefit of Okpella and her people for the plant to operate and generate economic activities.

He urged the company’s management to ensure that the various corporate social responsibility projects that the Dangote Cement is known to have provided for other host communities are also replicated in Okpella.

Dangote Cement is a fully integrated quarry-to-customer producer with production capacity of 29.25mta in Nigeria. Its Obajana plant in Kogi State, Nigeria, is the largest in Africa with 13.2mta capacity across four lines.

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