YAOUNDE, March 14 (Reuters) - A land dispute that has halted construction of Dangote Group’s $115 million cement plant in Cameroon will be resolved amicably and the project completed on time, a government official said on Wednesday.
Dangote started work on the 1.5 million tonnes-per-year plant in the financial capital Douala in September with an eye to finishing the project within 18 months, but construction was halted after residents filed an injunction arguing the land belonged to the ethnic Sawa people.
“The Prime Minister and the government are very keen that the project should go on as planned, given the growing demand for cement in the country,” an aide to Prime Minister Philemon Yang told Reuters, asking not to be named.
“So the Prime Minister has already held a meeting with the Sawa chiefs and will be sending an official delegation of very senior government personalities to the city one of these days so that the problem can be solved amicably and construction work on the plant site (is) completed as scheduled,” he said.
“We cannot afford to miss this opportunity,” he said, adding talks would likely be held this week or early next week.
A spokesman for Dangote was not immediately available to comment, though the company issued a statement in the national register saying it was ready to renegotiate its accord and had already shipped in heavy equipment from Germany.
Dangote, also facing opposition from residents fearing pollution, said it was planning to use state-of-the-art environmental technology on the site, held on a 30-year renewable lease from from the government.
Cameroon currently has only one cement company, CIMENCAM, with annual output of about 1 million tonnes.
But the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development says annual demand in the country is about 4 million tonnes, growing at about 8 percent per year. (Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Will Waterman)