Nigeria should turn to red burnt bricks for building construction of houses, schools & other infrastructure.

Nigeria should turn to red burnt bricks for building construction of houses, schools & other infrastructure.

Despite the great benefit of clay products, they are still relatively unpopular in the building industry.

What factors are responsible for this?
The burnt bricks plants came to Nigeria in the early 80’s with various state governments establishing them to reduce cost of construction. Some of the states were old Sokoto, Ondo, Oyo, Borno, Kano, Niger, Rivers and Anambra. However, the plants experienced problem based on two pillars: maintenance of equipment and good management. Most of the companies were in the hands of civil servants or under the supervision of MDAs which slowed down critical decision making.
These problems could not be solved due to high level of bureaucracy, corruption and lack of technical information on the equipment. These plants collapsed while the only surviving one was Limult Clay Products being managed by expatriates who understood the implication of maintaining plant with good management.
Due to collapse of all these companies one after the other, it was difficult for customers to get the product, hence one needed to book and pay in advance for six months before one could get bricks. It means that completion time of project was very high and that rubbished whatever gains made from the use of burnt bricks. Instead of long wait, customers had no option other than to make use of alternatives like hydra foam (which become dirty after sometime), sandcrete and locally made bricks from laterite.
Another factor is huge capital requirement either to establish new ones or reviving the old ones.

What efforts manufacturers have made to change this?
The efforts to make the bricks available is not in the hands of manufacturers alone but more of the owners which is largely being addressed. The one that concerns manufacturers is to manage the existing ones very well.
Government could also copy what Niger State did after the collapse of the bricks company in Minna. Niger State government sold it to a private investor who in turn rehabilitated the plant. In the last 10 years, Minna plant has been running, whilst Chinese investor established another plant in Ijebu-Ode. 

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More bricks company will come back and there will be availability of the products which in turn will lead to reduction in price and cost of construction.

It is said that clay manufacturing companies don’t produce at full capacity.
All clay companies are producing at full capacity because what determines their capacities is the kiln which is not expandable even if there is huge demand unless you construct new one. Because of this limitation, the waiting period of customers will be as 10 weeks when there are limited burnt bricks company. The demand is many times higher than supply. 

What are the prospects and challenges of clay industries in Nigeria?
The prospects are bright because it will reduce unemployment, cost of construction and incident of collapse of building when the populace embrace the use of burnt bricks for construction. In Northern Nigeria, it is a matter of law that all markets must be built using burnt bricks because of incidence of fire. You know the losses that our people suffer in markets that experienced fire in Lagos, Ibadan, Ekiti and some parts of the south-west.
I expect that our governors in the south-west and even other regions in Nigeria will emulate their colleagues in the north to make use of burnt bricks especially to build markets because it is fire resistant and aesthetic in addition to other advantages.

The challenges of the industry are high cost of funding, infrastructure problem, i.e lack of roads, electricity and so on. .

There must be a tax policy that will encourage owners of these moribund companies to open them. From my experience, most of these companies collapsed due to management and technical problems. The government must work with some of these institutions that have undergone reforms to open most of their companies.
Look at Nigerian Wire and Cable Plc, Cocoa Industries Limited, Epe Plywood, and same for some of the companies in the north. The NNDC and Odu’a set up a joint committee of which I was a member to collate and review some of the moribund companies. What is needed to fix them up are determination and support from government through concession on tax and finance costs.
The second area is funding. Government should open special window of funding manufacturing that is easily accessible. Supervision department of banks must be strengthened with experienced staff who are vast in assessing risks associated to manufacturing sector, nurturing projects in order to reduce failure and take remedial measures immediately if failure is noticed.
Therefore, government should consider single digit financial cost as a way of financing both Green and Brown field projects either strengthening Bank of Industry or establishing special purpose vehicle for that purpose. I’m aware of a window for SMEs guaranteed by the Central Bank of Nigeria at a single digit. 

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