Abstract: The "Cement Armada" and Other Nigerian Government Attempts to Ease Construction Bottlenecks during the 1970s Oil Boom

Hanaan Marwah


In this paper I investigate Nigeria's post-independence economic malaise through the study of one particular Nigerian government policy: the decision to try to increase the supply of construction inputs in the country, and ease a critical bottleneck which was slowing down the investment of its national development programs. This policy involved the public sector directly organizing cement imports and investing in and managing contractors and building material suppliers. The paper describes these attempts and, by presenting a construction supply curve, shows that one aspect of this policy, importing cement, dramatically raised the cost of building for much of the oil boom by causing catastrophic, multi-year port congestion. This had a direct impact on the ability of both the public and private sectors to grow. Existing literature has frequently mentioned the disproportionate role of the state in increasing the demand for construction during the 1970s oil boom, but this is the first in-depth study of the state's attempts to supply the industry. This paper is a historical case study which has significant implications for all underdeveloped countries attempting large-scale investment programs, with and without the help of a resource boom.