Sand War: Tipper, Ajegboro operators draw battle line in Ogbomoso – ‘Why price hike won’t be reversed’
Sand War: Tipper, Ajegboro operators draw battle line in Ogbomoso – ‘Why price hike won’t be reversed’
Femi OGUNLANA & Oluwole AREO
A three-prong war has been activated in Ogbomoso, Oyo state, Nigeria, following the hike in prices of quarry products such as sands of various types, stone base, granites etc by the members of the Union of Tipper and Lorry Employees of Nigeria (UTLEN).
The prices of the products were recently increased by 75 to 100 percent.
The hike provoked anger in the community with many residents slamming the UTLEN as insensitive.
“In this period of economic recession and hyper inflation, how can they think of such?” A resident, who wanted to be identified simply as Mr. Adegunwa, lamented while speaking with ogbomosoinsightonline.com Saturday.
A breakdown of the price changes as released by the union shows that five tons (single load) of soft sand was jacked up from N10, 000 to N20, 000, while ten tons (double load) goes to N35, 000 from N20, 000; sharp sand (5 tons) is now N25, 000 from N12, 000 while ten tons is N40, 000 up from N22, 000; gravel (5 tons) is now N27, 000 while 10 tons is hiked to N42, 000 and so on.
The “outrageous” new regime meanwhile saw commercial pickup operators popularly called “Ajegboro” ramping up businesses to take advantage of the situation as they are now preferred by house builders for supply of earths.
Investigations by ogbomosoinsightonline.com reveal that equivalent of ten tons (double load) of soft sand is supplied by commercial pickup operators at N21, 000 as against the N35, 000 by members of UTLEN.
“This is considerate,” a resident notes.
But this regime of prices by the commercial pickup operators is deemed by members of UTLEN as crossing the red line.
“They have crossed the red line,” an enraged park manager (president) of UTLEN in Ogbomoso zone, Comrade Asimiyu Sulaiman Akanni, fumes.
Comrade Akanni while speaking with ogbomosoinsightonline.com Saturday, in the presence of some other exco members of the union including Ogundeji Olatunde (treasurer Ogbomoso zone), Prince Awolade Sunday (PRO Ogbomoso zone), Comrade Ojo Sunday (park manager tipper garage, Baby), further said, “It is not possible that pickup owners will add supply of sand and other quarry products to their line of business, we know them to be transporters of harvested cassava and yam tubers, assist people to carry domestic items and so on.
“That is different from tipping business. Are they licensed to mine sands and other earths? But we are duly licensed by the ministry of mines and power and we pay revenues to the Oyo State Mineral Development Agency.”
Akanni added, “If they are so interested in supply of sands let them drop their pickup vans, buy tippers and register.”
Reminded that pickup owners have been engaged in the business for long he thundered, “They have been adamant, we have told them it is not within their schedule of businesses but we won’t allow them any further, it is sabotage.”
Told pickup operators offer cheaper alternative, he insisted they are not licensed for such stressing “they constitute economic saboteurs against us, it can’t stand. Where is their license to operate in that line of business? We obtained license and we pay dues to governments on daily basis.
“Government will do the right thing. It is not that we are not insensitive but we are constrained. If other professions fight quacks we will not allow them too,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, several community leaders and representatives have intervened to force UTLEN to beat down their prices.
A meeting convened penultimate Thursday at Ogunlola Hall attended by members of the Soun-in-Council led by Areago of Ogbomosoland, High Chief Sobalaje Otolorin as well as by Ogbomoso Community Youth Forum (OCYF) led by Rev’d Peter Olaleye, achieved little.
After heated debates, with leaders of UTLEN vehemently defending their position, all they could concede is minimal reduction.
In the new price regime released Thursday, double load (10 tons) of soft sand, as an instance, is slashed from N35, 000 to N33, 000; single load (5 tons) from N20, 000 to N19, 000; corresponding sharp sand goes from N25, 000 to N24, 000 and N40, 000 to N38, 000 respectively and so on.
“We can’t go lower,” UTLEN boss, Akanni, said matter of fact. “If we do we will certainly be out of business and be stranded.”
Prodded to expatiate, with spontaneous choruses from his colleagues, Akanni emphatically pointed out, “Costs of running the business have astronomically gone up.
“We all know the economic situation in the country, people only make reference to fuel, but what goes into running a tipping vehicle is wider. Do you know how much a tipper tyre is sold now, that is 10-0-0 which is the smallest? It is N165, 000 while the bigger one, 11-0-0 is N180, 000. This is what used to cost between N95, 000 and N100, 000.
“Not only that, look at the gear, it is now N550, 000 from N50, 000. To service a tipper it now costs about N70, 000. Furthermore, a tipper to complete a supply of earth will gulp 20 litres and a litre is sold N850, N800, 000, that is N16, 000 to N17, 000 of fuel per trip.
“Because of this high cost of operating tipping vehicles many tipper owners have become commercial motorcyclists, because what is left is not more than N2, 000 after a trip. Then, the quarry owners will receive royalty due of N3, 000 (from N2, 000). Also, consider the cost of a tipper as a vehicle.
“So, it is because we are driven to the wall that we jacked up the prices so as to be able to keep body and soul together. How much did we add to it? N15, 000! Do not forget that we said to transport ten or five tons in a trip will cost N16, 000 in fuel, and from that N15, 000 we take N3, 000 for Hausa loaders (mailoads), N3, 000 for the quarry owners.
“The drivers we increased their pay to N1, 800 but they are insisting on N2, 000 for a trip. So, if they go for more than one trip though things are difficult now, you multiply that with N1, 800. In the past when business flourished some of them could go ten trips in a day.
“Tipping business has value chain, many people are involved, if you add all expenses together it is N23, 800 and we reduced the price by N2, 000 after being appealed to by the traditional council, so, ten tons is now N33, 000. Remove N23, 800 from N33, 000; what is left is less than N10, 000. In addition, the person that brought the supply (the middle man) will take N2, 000, and there are government dues we pay daily as long as your vehicle ventures out to deliver earth.
“There are many other expenses, tyres will deflate, a tyre bought for N180, 000 can within a day got damaged beyond repair and you discard it. Meanwhile such money you consider as gain, the owner can’t spend it anyhow; he must save larger percentage of it because the vehicle will eventually absorb it.”
Other leaders of the union noted Ogbomoso’s is not an isolated case, disclosing, “In Oyo town, the price is increased to N40, 000, in Osogbo, it is N45, 000, even they supply one and a half at N35, 000 a price that is equivalent to the double we supply here.”
Speaking further on the lingering issue with commercial pickup operators Comrade Akanni reiterated, “It is not their job. Does a pickup tip? A light pickup only transports household items, blocks, bags of cement, cassava, yam etc; can you contract a tipper to do that?
“That is there line. Are they licensed by government to supply quarry products? It is due to the downturn of the economy that they are veering into packing of sands but that is criminal encroachment into our space. We won’t allow it.”
Informed ajegboro operators are now making attempt to be licensed too, the park manager retorted, “What type of license? What ministry will give them license? What happens to the license issued to us? They do not have the right!
“They are saboteurs and we won’t allow them. Even block makers once made a request to allow them scrape sharp sand within a pole to their work site but we said it is not easy so we disallowed them.”
“So, what do you expect of the commercial pickup operators now?” He was asked, his response: “We beseech them to return to their line of duty.”
He also advised the residents, “They should cooperate with us; their children will not venture into unproductive businesses. We appeal to them to be patient with us, we are their brothers, we all came from one family or the other and they should avoid contracting pickup owners for sand supply. It is sabotage, it is against government rule.”
ogbomosoinsightonline.com further asked perhaps they would grant the wish of pickup owners if they are ready to pay certain fees to the tipper owners but the answer remains an emphatic “No! It is not their job. Their vehicle doesn’t tip! If they have vehicles that tip let them come here.”
“But let’s go down memory lane, when commercial motorcycling and passengers’ bus operation were first introduced, taxi operators intensely opposed and frustrated the move but today, okadas and koropes are predominant on our roads. Don’t you think something similar is playing out and eventually these people will have their way?” The tipper owners were in addition asked.
To this Akanni snapped, “These are two different things and scenarios in that passengers are humans but these are mined products, it is about load, guided and backed by government laws. There are dues to pay to the ministry before we have the right to extract sand. Government owns all the land.”
However, they assured it won’t turn into fracas, disclosing, “We act based on law, if we will fight it will be on the basis of law not physical combat. We don’t take laws into our hands. And if anyone takes laws into their hands against our members we will allow the law to take its course, we are not hooligans.”
Towards settling the matter Hon Temilola Adibi, Director General Oyo State Agency for Signage and Advertisement, Friday, also met with commercial pickup operators to hear their own side of the story. Another meeting is now scheduled for Tuesday which will be attended by both parties i.e. tipper owners and commercial pickup operators.
The park manager of commercial pickup owners, Comrade Kolawole Ayegboyin in a chat with ogbomosoinsightonline.com stressed his members have been involved in supply of building sands for quite some time, saying, “We have been doing it for long. It is because of the economic crunch that some of us veered into supply of sands. And we are not just starting. Instead of getting involved in crimes to sustain ourselves and families we got engaged in supply of earth to earn additional income.”
Asked if they were licensed to scoop earth which the tipper owners claim exclusive right to, Comrade Ayegboyin fires, “It is a lie, we consulted lawyers and they said it was not true. Legal practitioners told us that even a bicycle owner can move sand.
“They continue to seize our members’ vehicles. But now we don’t want them to interfere with us any longer and we don’t want it to degenerate into brawls. We are youths, they are elderly and we have more members. But it is not in anybody’s interest to allow it to degenerate to that level and so, I have had hectic time calming my members.”
Also in company with members of his union, Ayegboyin posited that the tipper owners are against them “because we sell at cheaper rate. We sell ten tons (equivalent of three pickup loads) at N21, 000 as against N33, 000 they now sell it. And we told them if tipper is not sustainable they should feel free to discard it and acquire pickup van, which runs on petrol (premium motor spirit). They are monopolists taking excessive profits.”
There were reports of skirmishes in Ajaawa, headquarters of Ogo-Oluwa local government Friday among members of the two unions over the issue though normalcy has been restored.
“You can see what we are saying, they want the matter to escalate, Ajaawa is now embroiled in crisis, they can’t stop us,” Ayegboyin submitted.
In his own reaction on Ajaawa reported fracas, Akanni said “Law enforcement agents will see to the matter, we are backed by law and the law enforcers will act guided by law.”
Also commenting, Rev’d Olaleye, OCYF president said, “We do not want chaos, this is an era of peace, the two unions should tread the path of peace. Elders are already making efforts to settle the matter. There should be patience.”