The shipping position emanating from Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, showed that a total of 5.491million metric tonnes of bitumen, a petroleum bye-product, was brought into the country in April, 2019.
This is the first time Bitumen is featuring in the top bracket of the shipping document since this year, and it is coming at the top of imports chart.
The product displaced the traditional heavy imports such as fish and petroleum products to the second and third positions respectively.
Fish import which has been regular on the top of the chart, recorded a huge decline with a total volume of 1.590million metric tonnes for April, down 54.9 percent against 2.463million metric tonnes last month. But the commodity still maintained a top position in the chart coming second behind Bitumen.
Petroleum Motor Spirit, PMS, was on the third position with a total of 803,960 metric tonnes in April as against over 339,000metric tonnes in March.
Other items on the chart include Bulk wheat with 179, 059 metric tonnes, compared to 327,780 metric tonnes that was recorded for March. General cargo and containers recorded 24,305 million metric tonnes and 5,690 units of containerized goods for April compared to 7,000 units of containers in the month of March.
Possible bitumen deployments
For the Marine construction industry bitumen is used for hydraulic applications such as canal lining, underwater tunnels, river bank protection, dam construction and sea defences.
Bitumen is widely used in the construction of asphalt roads and bituminous membrane products. Bitumen is commonly used to build highways, motorways and rail networks.
Bitumen has excellent water-proofing properties and is widely used for making roofing products along with a range of other household and industrial applications, from emulsion paints to sound-proofing.
Penetration Bitumen and Bitumen Emulsions are used for the construction of railway tracks and by using special types of bitumen such as Polymer Modified Bitumen, the vibration and noise levels are reduced due to a dampening effect.
Bitumen has been proven to be effective on both high-speed railway tracks and heavy load railway tracks.
LCCI kicks against Bitumen
Reacting to the development, Director General of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Mr. Muda Yusuf, said the high import of bitumen into Nigeria impacted on the foreign exchange adding that the earlier the government began to harness the exploitation of these raw materials the better for the economy.
He suggested that cement could be used for road constructions and civil engineering works as against bitumen with a view to saving forex.
He said, “The thing is that we still have not demonstrated efficient commitment to philosophy of promoting self reliance.
“The solid minerals area is still a challenge of which operators have been complaining about.
“The issue of bitumen is also within the solid minerals development space, so investors in that sector need to be given the right kind of support, first in terms of access to their various locations.
“Issues of regulation are also there because they complain a lot about regulatory environment, licensing and all the bureaucracy that go with it.Some also complain about community issues.
“There are also issues of funding and all of that, those may be generic problem, they also affect this sector.
“So all these things affect those in the solid mineral sector including bitumen.
“In order to conserve our foreign exchange, these are some of the things we should be looking at.
“Dangote too has been talking about how we can use cement for road construction. Let us explore that, we are the biggest producer of cement in Africa.
“So it will help this economy a great deal if we can do more of our road construction using cement as that will reduce the demand for bitumen and it will help us to conserve foreign exchange”.
According to geological reports, Nigeria has the second largest deposits of bitumen in the world. The deposits are found mainly in Ondo and Ogun states, south west Nigeria.