Dangote group and specifically Dangote Cement may need to do more to address the critical issue of road to rail in haulage of cement nationwide.In nearby Ghana,a Cement firm,Diamond actually constructed a rail line between Togo and Ghana in support of its haulage business.
In November 26 2014 ,former Ghana President John Dramani Mahama and Faure Gnassingbé of Togo jointly inaugurated and commissioned the Ghana-Togo railway. Built at the cost of $8 million, the project was a collaboration between Diamond Cement Ghana Limited and Togo Rail Company with the support of the Ghana Railway Company.The 3km rail line connects the factory at Aflao in Ghana to the Togo railway network, giving the Diamond Cement Ghana Limited access to the Lome Port.
The rail line ensures easy delivering of clinker and other raw materials for cement production from the Lome Port to the cement factory at Aflao.It also ensure the easy transportation of the finished product from the factory to the port and into the country for distribution to other areas.An added advantage of the project is that it decongest the main road linking Lome and Aflao.Interestingly, Diamond Cement, started production in 2002, as one of the leading cement companies in Ghana.Its turnover is less than one third of Dangote cement.
Why Dangote cement has not taken seriously this rail freight question is not clear.Reports however showed that Dangote group is helping out with the revitalisation of the rail link between Senegal and Mali. This is to ease the task of moving her products across the regionDangote has a big cement factory in Senegal.Replicating the same in Nigeria is even in the best interest of the the company.
Three or so years ago,the company toyed with the idea of building railway especially within Obajana Itakpe axis,the idea was later dropped.Report then had it that if current talks between the board of directors of Dangote Group and the government sails through, then a new rail line would soon be constructed between Obajana and Itakpe in Kogi State to ease the congestion caused by vehicles trying to load cement from the company’s cement plant at Obajana.
One of the directors of the company, Mr. Joseph Makoju, who made the disclosure at a media briefing in Lagos, said the group was already talking to the government to get its consent to embark on the project.He said contrary to the belief in some quarters that the company’s President, Alhaji Aliko Dangote was the brain behind the poor state of the Nigerian Railway Corporation because of his haulage business, the business mogul was interested in anything or measures that could ease the transport system of the country.
Speaking earlier, the Chief Operating Officer of the group, Mr.Olakunle Alake, said it was in the best interest of the group if the transportation system in the country was enhanced, adding that a functional rail system would facilitate the easy movement of the goods being manufactured by the group.
”It is in our best interest to find a way of transporting our goods to our customers easily. it is convenient and cheaper, because managing trucks is a nightmare. It is in our best interest to support whatever is going to be done to get the railways working’’ he said.
Three years after,nothing was done except that the company has built a new road linking Obajana with Kabba area of the North Central zone. Already the Federal Government has completed the Itakpe to Warri railway line.There is no sign the company is interested.
Sources said Dangote group has huge investment in road haulage business,hence the reluctance to join the road to rail movement. Whatever the reason may be,Dangote Cement should just remember that a small cement company had linked Aflao,Ghana with Lome Port.It is time for road to rail.