As Nigeria gradually recovers from the debilitating COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy, the government is beaming its searchlight on a number of areas hitherto neglected in its bid to revamp the national economy. One of the sectors that holds good prospect is the ceramic subsector said to have varying degrees of industrial activities that can raise any nation’s level of development. The application and utilization of ceramic products holds great prospect for the nation’s industrial development as the products have permeated the fabric of modern industrialized economies.
It is classified into two categories, the traditional ceramics such as rocks, minerals, clay, concrete, refractories and porcelain and the modern ceramics. Statistics show there are more than 7000 ceramic products globally.
Blessed with abundant raw materials, Nigeria has one of the principal clay raw materials used in the production of most ceramic products, Kaolin. Clay minerals are the most common and abundant minerals on earth and are found in most parts of the country.
Speaking exclusively to Science Nigeria, the chief executive officer of Jola Global Industries Limited, Dr. Moses Omojola, listed the basic clay minerals found in Nigeria to include kaolin, feldspar, quatz, limestone, talc, silica sand, ball clay and bentonite, saying they are present in abundant quantities in most states of the federation. Kaolin deposits, according to him, are found in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Ogun, Ondo, Kebbi, Kogi, Osun, Imo, Nasarawa, Niger and Oyo states.
“For instance, proven kaolin deposits in Nigeria is about 800 million tonnes. Likewise, Nigeria has more than 40 million tonnes of talc deposits located in Niger, Osun, Kogi, Ogun and Kaduna states, while talc, is found in nearly all the states of the federation. Feldspar is also present in substantial quantities in the granite and pegmatite rocks in Borno, Taraba, Ekiti, Katsina, Kogi, Ondo, Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun and Osun States,” the minerals expert stated.
He said the exploitation, processing and utilization of the ceramic minerals were positively influencing technological development and economic growth in many countries as confirmed by the expanding market of ceramic products globally.
Omojola noted: “In Nigeria, the availability of ceramic minerals informed the establishment of several ceramic manufacturing concerns by a number of state governments and private investors with foreign technical partners across the country in the 1960s to 1980s. More than 500 ceramic industries ranging from small scale to medium and large enterprises were established during the period. The industries were involved in the production of earthen ware and stoneware products both for household use and building construction.
“The high installed capacity utilization by the industries as at then contributed significantly to meeting local demand. However, the sub-sector was adversely affected by the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of 1986 which led to gradual closure of many of the industries. Following this, there was massive importation of various ceramic products. As a result, the country which occupies an enviable position in ceramics production in the 60s -80s globally now occupies 8th position among the 18-emerging economies involved in ceramic manufacturing in the world. At present, Nigeria is the only country among the 18 that does not export ceramics products.”
According to him, there are only 9 ceramic manufacturing companies at present in Nigeria with 8 of them manufacturing ceramic tiles, and one, ceramic sanitary ware. The combined capacity of the companies was 114 million m3 in 2018 and most of them were operating below installed capacity due to shortage of professionals with generic and technical skills in ceramics manufacturing, coupled with dearth of infrastructure, particularly electricity supply and dependence on imported plants, machineries and spare parts. As a result, there is about 11 million MT shortages in the demand and supply gap for ceramic products in the country which are cushioned by importation, he added.
“Due to this, the importation of ceramic products into the country has affected the development and market of locally produced ceramic products as many customers prefer to buy foreign made products. Ceramic products’ dealers now prefer importation of ceramic products to establishing local ceramic industries. Consequently, the country imported ceramics products worth over $800 million in 2018 and $900 worth in 2019 respectively. The importation of the products into the country is expected to reach $2.1 billion by 2025. This is to be driven by rising demand, particularly in the real estate sector as the building and construction industry is the second fastest growing sector in Nigeria with a housing deficit of 17 million units. According to World Bank estimates, this would require about $22 billion to fund. With a market of this size, the Nigerian ceramic industry has enormous growth potential,” he further stated.
Commenting on this development, the director-general of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Hussaini Ibrahim, said in view of the problems militating against local production of ceramic products in the country, the council had been involved in promoting programmes and projects aimed at encouraging production of high-quality ceramics products locally.
He pointed out that the move was to create awareness and sensitize the public on the critical importance of ceramics’ development to economic and industrial growth, adding an inventory of existing ceramic industries was conducted to obtain information on the status of ceramic products manufacturing in the country.
According to him, the study showed the abysmally low level of production which made the council embark on investment promotion in ceramics products manufacturing, compelling the council to pursue the development, production and establishment of processing plants in some parts of the country.
“The first project was the Pharmaceutical Grade Kaolin Plant at Kankara in Katsina State in 1997, while the second was the Industrial Grade Kaolin Plant located at Gwarzo, Kano State in 1998. Both plants were designed to use wet processing methods for the production of pharmaceutical and industrial grade Kaolin respectively. The equipment fabricated locally were blungers, hydro cyclones, sieves, tanks, filter presses, dryers, hammer mills, floatation machines, etc.
“Likewise, the council collaborated with the Niger State government for the establishment of catalytic model factory at Kagara which was commissioned and the council later divested. Most of the equipment were locally fabricated. The plant has installed capacity of 3000 tonnes a year of processed talc. The council’s initiatives have led to the emergence of other talc processing SMEs within Niger and Kogi states that supply processed talc to user industries. This has led to Nigeria being self-sufficient in technical grade talc, and savings of more than N5 billion annually from importation of technical grade talc,” he said.
The RMRDC boss said the council is at present collaborating with Projects Development Agency (PRODA), Enugu and the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), Lagos, to promote the development of other types of ceramics processing plants for the production of products such as tiles, porcelain, china wares, etc. He pointed out that when completed, the project would increase the range of products locally manufactured.
Ibrahim also said the council was also collaborating with Interlinked Technologies Plc, Lagos, Life-Mac Industries Ltd, Oji River Enugu and Dajo Pottery at Makurdi, Benue State to promote increased capacity utilization of their facilities.
He gave the major areas of the council’s interest as refractory bricks and electrical porcelain insulator production, explaining that feasibility reports had been produced on the projects, adding the council in collaboration with other mandated organizations was also considering involving bovernment Banks and other financial institutions to create support fund for the ceramics industries.
The council, Ibrahim also said, collaborated with Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, about three years ago, to characterize the kaolin, talc and other industrial minerals in Niger and Kogi states, adding the results have been published for investors use.
In addition, the council, according to him, is developing a processing/beneficiation plant for feldspar expected to add value to raw feldspar for different industrial applications.
“In view of the importance of this sector to economic development, foreign exchange generation and provision of employment to our youths, the council has put in place strategies to enhance partnership with ceramics stakeholders in the area of capacity building, public private partnership in setting up of a catalytic factory for ceramic products in Nigeria. In addition, the council is working with the tariff board and other relevant agencies to initiate policies that will enhance development of the ceramic sector. Among the objectives of the policy will be to introduce appropriate incentives to encourage investors in the development of the sector, thereby, encouraging rapid growth, competitiveness and sustenance of the ceramic industries,” he added.