Professionals in the nation's building and construction sector are worried by the federal government's seeming lack of political will to shield local manufacturers from building materials and accessories from unfair competition of importers. They want the government to impose import restrictions on some of these products that are readily available in the country, reports Bennett Oghifo
Manufacturers of building and construction materials in Nigeria make good products that can compete in any market in the world, regardless of the myriad of challenges they encounter daily. Added to this is the fact that their products compete unfavourably with those imported, even with the substandard ones that are usually packaged to deceive buyers. More worrisome is the fact that some Architects and other building professionals specify imported building materials for use in local projects and, this development is attracting rising condemnation.
This attitude of depending on imported products must change for the good of the nation, particularly where there are good local substitutes, said Toyin Gbede, the Marketing Director of Nigerite Limited, a leading manufacturer of roofing and building accessories.
Gbede, an Architect said, "If every architect, every professional in the country looks inwards, then we will be building the nation and helping the future generation."
He said besides the growth of the nation's manufacturing companies when their products are used locally, there are other multiplier effects, one of which is employment. "For instance, Nigerite employs not less than 1000 Nigerians. For every thousand people that are employed in Nigerite either directly or indirectly not less than 10 people will depend on them. In all, if you look at just one company then we will be talking of about maybe 100,000 that are feeding from this same company. If there are 500 of such companies in Nigeria then you can imagine the multiplier effect."
Government, he said ought to do all that is necessary to encourage companies like Nigerite that has remained in business in spite of all the challenges in Nigeria.
According to him, a few housing developers use made in Nigeria building materials. One of them, he said was the President of the African Union of Architects, Tokunbo Omisore, who builds commercial property. "He has consistently used every product that we (Nigerite) have in his projects As long as these products are available in the country, he would rather use our products than use any other product."
Last year, various local manufacturers and importers of high-grade wood products in the country expressed concern about the influx of substandard products. They were particularly worried about the effect on the nation's scarce foreign exchange that would be wasted due to the replacement cost of these substandard products.
Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said importers in a market in Lagos do letters of credit of up to N100 million to N200 million monthly. "These products are installed and they do not work."
They believe that Nigerians should insist on good quality products, either manufactured locally or imported, to eliminate waste of their scarce resources and problems caused by inevitable replacement of substandard and defective wood products.
"If you are operating on budget and cannot buy high quality wood products from Europe or America, then meet the local carpenter to build them for you. Do not be fooled so that you do not waste your money on products that you will need to replace shortly after installation," said a Nigerian manufacturer of wood products in Lagos.
He said the nation's market is flooded with low quality doors and other wood products. "These importers do not believe in anything called longevity, creativity and they lack integrity. They reel out copies and when you copy there cannot be an original in the products delivered. They are not creative, but copy. Their security doors are made of zinc."
He said Nigerians should start getting value for their money, explaining that there are many substandard medium density fibre (MDF) doors that are highly priced.
Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product formed by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibres, often in a defibrator combining it with wax and a resin binder, and forming panels by applying high temperature and pressure. MDF is denser than plywood.
"It is made up of separated fibres, but can be used as a building material similar in application to plywood. It is stronger and denser than normal particle board."
According to him, "If the product is not right, then by the time you see, feel and weigh it you will not be convinced. It is all practical, but what some people do presently is to sell gimmick to buyers.
My advice to buyers is that once you cannot afford the high quality foreign made ones, look for a good local carpenter who will use our local wood. It is better to manage them than buy those doors that their screws come off the hinges when you close the door."
He said, "Government should start educating our youth that there is diligence in labour. They need reorientation from the syndrome of making billions and trillions of money." He said they should be made to understand that there are stages in the production of wealth, adding that it was better and more fulfilling to see a seed grow after it was planted. "The process of curing wood, preparing it before creating a door or other furniture out of it is very rewarding."