In the bid to curtail the use of firewood and deforestation in Nigeria, Eta Zuma West Africa Group on Thursday inaugurated the production and sale of coal briquettes as alternative fuel for home use.
The Group Managing Director of the company, Mr. Innocent Ezuma, said at the inauguration of the plant in Ankpa, Kogi State that the factory would produce 2,000 tonnes of coal briquettes a month.
The coal briquettes are used on specially designed stoves to eliminate soot and smoke as well as provide focused and efficient heat for domestic cooking.
Ezuma also said contract had been awarded for the expansion of the factory to handle the production of additional 10,000 tonnes of coal briquettes.
In an interview with journalists after inauguration of commercial sale of the products to consumers, he disclosed that a total of $30m would be spent to set up full capacity for production of 57,000 tonnes of briquettes per annum.
He said, “We started this project about five years ago. Within this period, we have invested about $6m. We thank God that today, we are seeing the fruit of our labour. The machines were specially made. Coal is an abrasive material but by special technology, we now have it bound together. Coal is like sand. It does not cleave together. We needed some organic mineral materials to bind it. We did a lot of research to come to this perfect mix.
“We can source the minerals locally; but for us to start, we had to import the binders. So, for now, we had to import the binders but the good news is that 95 per cent of the raw materials required for making the briquettes are found in coal, which is locally available. Our long-run plan is to source the binders, which constitute five per cent of the materials.”
He added, “The expansion plan is going to cost us about $30m. The challenge we have so far is money. We need money that is cheap. There is money but it is very expensive. If you take a loan today, you are paying 25 to 27 per cent (interest). This is not sustainable in the long run for productive activities. So, we need funds that are cheaper, single-digit (interest) funds. Money cannot stop us because we are fanatical about what we are doing but if we have cheaper sources of funds, it will help us.”
Speaking at the ceremony, the Kogi State Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Mr. Sanusi Usman, who represented the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, expressed delight for the siting of the factory in Ankpa.
He pledged to support the company, adding that the state government would provide some subsidy to enable rural women to acquire the stoves in a campaign to eliminate the use of firewood in the state.
The traditional ruler of Igalaland, Dr. Michael Oboni, said the reasonable way to stop the falling of trees was the provision of viable alternatives and expressed appreciation to Eta Zuma for investing in clean fuel for domestic use.