It was Cletus Ibeto, the cement tycoon who described the cement business while being interviewed by the late Dimgba Igwe as “one of the best businesses in the world. It is better than crude oil,’ he said. ‘If you are talking about the development of infrastructure, you need cement. I don’t know any other business that is better than cement. And the competitors are not many because it is a big budget issue.” Cement is literally, the building block of all infrastructure development. It is a prohibitively expensive and massive undertaking in Nigeria where ultimately four companies; the BUA Group, Dangote Group, Ibeto Group and Lafarge now dominate the market. For the past two months Andy Briggs Report has been polling the opinions of cement industry stake-holders to discover the best quality cement brand in Nigeria. This investigation was carried out by a network of professionals including journalists, lawyers, social scientists and even a medical doctor. The report appears below:

Alhaji Aminu Dan Maraya Musa, acting chairman of the Kano State Cement Dealers Association believes that the quality of cement brands depend on the preferences of the consumer. He revealed that the three most popular brands of cement in Kano were BUA, Dangote and Ashaka. ” As far as the quality of cement is concerned, we have about five brands, which include Dangote, BUA, Ashaka, Sokoto and Elephant. The three most popular, that is Dangote, BUA and Ashaka, they are all qualitative. It just depends on the choice of the consumer. Some prefer Dangote and BUA to Ashaka or Sokoto Cement because they are darker. But others would tell you that they prefer Ashaka because it dries more quickly than Dangote and BUA.” Askaka Cement is owned by Lafarge.

According to the chairman of Kano cement dealers, Dangote cement is presently the most available brand in the Kano market. He gave the reason for this as the availability of enough trucks at Dangote Group’s disposal for massive delivery of products to the markets, adding that BUA had less vehicles for transporting cement to as many places as Dangote does, revealing that Ashaka Cement also lacked vehicles but had resorted to hiring trucks for transporting their cement around the country. “Availability of vehicles to transport cement to places is what gave Dangote the advantage to sell more than BUA and Ashaka. BUA has to use the little transport at its disposal while Lafarge has to use commercial vehicles to deliver its products to markets.” Kano is the home of cement barons Aliko Dangote President of Dangote Group and Abdulsamad Rabiu, CEO of BUA Group.

Auwalu A. I. Mai Turare, a cement dealer at Sallari Quarters in the
Kano metropolis saw things differently, asserting that at the moment, BUA Cement was the most qualitative, followed by Sokoto then Dangote. The BUA Group, makers of BUA Cement hold the majority stake in Cement Company of Northern Nigeria, makers of Sokoto Cement. According to Mai Turare, being in the midst of block molders had taught him that the best cement for making blocks was BUA Cement. BUA Cement, he claimed was the darkest cement in the country at the moment and cement of that nature was the most suitable for making blocks, harder block than Dangote. He also claimed that the dark and strong features of BUA cement had prompted block makers to endorse it. They accepted it, he said because its blocks did not crumble easily. Mai Turare ranked Sokoto Cement as the second to BUA as according to him, it was darker and stronger than Dangote and Ashaka, suggesting that some block makers even preferred Sokoto to BUA . “Based on what we see on ground, BUA is the most qualitative cement at the moment. As you can see, we are in the midst of the block makers. They say that BUA is the best because it is darker and stronger than the others. It is also cheaper than Dangote, Ashaka and Sokoto cement.”

Yakub Baffa Jibril, a manager of A. M. Shariff Blocks in Kano State, expressed a similar opinion with Mai Turare, agreeing that when it came to quality of cement, BUA Cement was presently the best. Describing the features that make BUA Cement the best, Jibril said that the cement was richer than the others in chemicals which fortified the product, claiming that those chemicals made BUA Cement stronger and darker when molded into blocks. Jibril also said that using BUA cement was more economical than using Sokoto or Dangote; that more blocks could be made from BUA cement than from the same quantity of the others. “Nowadays, BUA cement in Kano is the best, followed by Sokoto then Dangote. We don’t normally use Ashaka for making blocks because of its lighter nature. But there is no cement better than BUA in terms of everything. It doesn’t crumble and makes quality blocks. Hardness is all what is needed in blocks and no cement makes block harder than BUA. That is why presently, we use BUA cement much more than even the Sokoto that is closer to it in terms of quality.” Majority of block molders who participated in the poll shared similar opinions, rating BUA as the best in quality, Sokoto and Dangote as second and third respectively. Ashaka also got some mention

Although it has not been available in the Kaduna market for quite some time, BUA Cement, still topped the list of the most preferred cement brands by quality, among builders and block molders in the old northern capital city. Dangote Cement was rated second best among the majority of cement stake-holders while a minority commended Sokoto cement. However, the dominant product in the market was Dangote 3X which seemed to be everywhere, including villages. Investigations in the city revealed that though many builders and block molders preferred BUA, the challenge was its scarcity. Therefore most cement buyers generally settled for Dangote 3X.

Mr. Tony Chukuemeka, a builder of over 20 years experience, said that BUA cement was his favorite because “it dries and hardens quickly and is good for any construction work, whether it is house or construction of bridges”. He said that he had to switch to Dangote Cement, when BUA suddenly became scarce in the Kaduna market. “For me, BUA is the best but I have not seen it in the market for a long time, so I am now using Dangote Cement for my projects. There are other products like Sokoto Cement and Ashaka Cement, but I don’t use them. Dangote is better than them. ”

Mr. James Adamu, another builder who had worked with several building construction companies, also rated BUA cement as the best but pointed out that it was scarce in the market. ‘Dangote is also strong and solid’, he said. ‘ It is the most popular cement up north. Many people don’t know of any other products than Dangote. Those who are building houses, buy more of Dangote cement than any other brand. ‘

The majority of builders endorsed BUA. Isaiah Dong voted it the best quality cement because ‘it blends and holds sands and stones together very strongly’. Abdullahi Salihu, attested to the fact that BUA “has the highest quality texture, which mixes well and dries easily”.

Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu, owner of one of the popular block molding
companies in the city did not agree. He rated Dangote Cement as the best. “I have been using Dangote and for me, it is the best because our blocks are adjudged to be one of the best in Kaduna. Some people say Sokoto Cement is also good, but I have never tried using it. Our blocks hardly crack and our concrete tiles are the best. We find Dangote cement more reliable” he said. Sunday Micheal, owner of another block industry who also uses Dangote 3X complained that BUA was not readily available in the market while agreeing with Benjamin Goman, another block molder that Dangote was the best among brands that were readily available.
A cement dealer, Alhaji Mohammed Yaro had this to say, “The popular brand that people buy is Dangote Cement, it is supplied in large quantity, you can see it everywhere you go unlike other products that you don’t even see in the market for a long time. We
also have other brands like Sokoto, Ashaka, Portland and Lion but these brands are not as popular as Dangote.”

Cement dealers at the Abakpa cement market differed in their opinions about the best quality cement. While most chose BUA, quite a few others insisted that Dangote was the top quality cement in the market. Most folks agreed however that they used Dangote which had sales points across the city and even around project sites. It was clear that despite Dangote’s dominant market position; BUA, if readily available would be preferred by most builders and block molders because, as claimed, it dried faster, was stronger and blocks molded using it hardly cracked or got broken as much as Dangote.

At Building Materials International Market, Dei Dei and AMAC
Estate, Sabon Lugbe, Off Airport Road, Abuja cement dealers and cement block makers rated cement brands in the following order of quality: Lafarge Superset, BUA Cement, Dangote Cement and Ashaka Cement. The block makers based their reason on the fact that Lafarge Superset cement set or dried faster than other cement brands. The dealers said the same, more or less. It was also observed that Dangote 3X Cement was the most dominant in the market. The dealers ascribed the popularity of Dangote to the fact that the profit margin on Dangote cement was much more than other cement brands.

Markets surveyed in the old Eastern Nigeria capital included Kenyatta Market, Uwani and Timber Market, Abakpa-Nike. Cement brands present in the markets included Ibeto, Dangote, BUA, Elephant and Unicem. They were being sold at different prices: N1,380 for each 50kg bag of Elephant and Unicem respectively, both products of Larfarge, N1,500 for a bag of Ibeto Cement while Dangote was sold at N1,400 a bag.

Block molders interviewed preferred Ibeto, Unicem and Dangote
(in this order of preference ). They declared that Ibeto was the best quality cement in the market because of its strength and fast setting.

Builders preferred Ibeto, Unicem and then BUA while cement dealers claimed that Unicem sold fastest, followed by Ibeto and then BUA. Though Ibeto had become scarce, it was still available at the time of this survey.

Cement dealers, block molders and consumers in Port Harcourt’s main cement depot at Building Materials Market, Mile 3 voted BUA Cement as the best in quality. Building Materials Market, Mile 3, Port Harcourt is the hub of the cement trade in the Niger Delta region.

Some dealers who spoke to Andy Briggs Report pointed out that
Ibeto Cement, the local favorite was no longer available in the market due to Chief Cletus Ibeto’s problems with the Buhari administration.This development had made BUA Cement the quality brand of choice. Elephant Cement made by Lafarge
WAPCO was voted the second best quality cement in the market
though it was only available in quite limited quantity. Dangote 3X
was voted third. In terms of quantity, Dangote and Unicem struggled for dominance.

Some of the reasons given by those in the Port Harcourt cement market for preferring BUA Cement to Elephant and Dangote 3X included the assertion that BUA cement dried faster, its blocks did not fragment as much as Elephant Cement and Dangote 3X blocks. BUA Cement blocks also retained a darker color.

Lagos is by far the largest cement market in Nigeria. There were so many areas to survey. Block molders in the Itedo Market, Lekki were the first and they were mostly of the opinion that Elephant Cement blocks, when they dried were stronger than Dangote. They added however that Dangote 3X dried faster. Most cement dealers dealing on both brands were in agreement that Dangote was far more readily available in the market. BUA Cement was no where to be found in the market. Ibeto Cement though mentioned as being as good and in some cases better than Dangote especially while dealing with salty area was almost gone from the market.

Experienced builders who spoke to Andy Briggs Report preferred
Elephant Cement, made by Lafarge for its durability, most said that it resisted water, lasted longer, did not get weak easily and was very good for concrete casting.

At Ikorodu and Festac Fifth Avenue markets, block molders agreed that Elephant Cement was the best in quality because the more they ‘add water the stronger it becomes’. Yet, just like other block molders, they also used Dangote because it dried faster.

Over twenty cement dealers and fifty block molder’s opinions were polled. Other areas where polls were done included Amuwo/ Festac, Mile 2, Ago Palace Way, Cement Junction Abeokuta Expressway, Orile-Agric Market/Building Materials, Omotoye/Agbotikuyo Ipaja-Agege Road and others.

Though cement dealers dealing on both brands counted on Dangote Cement’s almost universal availability, just as many insisted that Elephant Cement was better in quality. Dangote 3X was the dominant brand in the market while Elephant Cement was perceived as being of a higher quality. Some people even cited the Third Mainland Bridge and other bridges as reasons for voting Elephant as being of superior quality.

Dangote’s emphatic domination of the market could not be ignored. Quite a few people even suggested that the makers of Elephant Cement needed to do more to stop Dangote’s domination of the market. Dangote cement was the only brand effectively distributed in every area surveyed, across Lagos and the rest of the country. Still it was not regarded by dealers, builders and block molder as the best in quality in the major Nigerian cement markets surveyed

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