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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Taming Shylock Sand, Gravel Sellers

BARELY a month ago, the National Association of Block Moulders of Nigeria (NABMON) in Ondo State observed a two-day strike to protest the outrageous increase in the prices of sand and gravel by the Tippers and Quarry Association of Nigeria (TQAN) in the state.Dissatisfied with the increase which they described as ‘obnoxious, NABMON members expressed their grievances and decided down tools, for the two days, while building projects stopped at various sites across the state.
THEY frowned at the astronomical increment and asked the government to call the TQAN to order and reverse the prices as the increment would force them to also increase the prices of blocks that might result into untold hardship on prospective and intending house owners in the state.
THE TQAN had increased the price of a 10-tyre truck (double load of sand) from N40,000 to N60,000, while 6-tyre (single load of sand) was increased from N20,000 to N40,000. Hence, the block moulders however increased the prices of blocks. For example, a six block inches earlier sold for N200 was increased to N300 while nine inches formerly N250 cost N500. However, on their part, the Tippers’ Owners Association attributed the hike in the cost of sand to overhead cost. They attributed it to increment in the price of sharp sand by land owners (Oloko), ticket fees, diesel price, amongst others.
IN a swift reaction to the development, the Ondo State Government proscribed the activities of the sharp sand dealers under the auspices of Association of Tippers and Quarry Owners of Nigeria in the state, instructing the so-called union to revert to old prices or leave the state Quarries with immediate effect.
THE government, through Senior Special Assistant to Governor on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr. Doyin Odebowale, decried the high rate of extortion by the sharp sand dealers in the state and directed the dealers to revert to the old prices.
HE reiterated government’s resolve to discourage any form of hardship on the people of the state through extortion from any quarters. In clear language, he stated,” We will not cooperate with anybody, and in fact, nobody has our mandate to negotiate with anybody in a bid to extorting money. This government has not instructed anybody nor mandated anybody to jack up any price.”
THE HOPE commends the state government on this intervention and advises it not to rest on its oars in cautioning or rather abolishing the Shylock trade associations, before they make the state unbearable for the people and prospective investors. We recall that there had been recent similar activities of some associations in the state, with the notoriety of some middle-men and cartels like the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Fish Sellers Association, which had constituted themselves into powerful blocks of exploiters feeding fats on the sweats of the hopeless. Government had similarly addressed their cases in the interest of the common man.
WE reiterate that the menace is spreading like wild fire among the various so-called associations in Ondo State, while we posit that it is high time our government waded into this frustrating situation because of its concomitant effect on the citizenry. We charge government to equally checkmate the activities of the so-called land owners known as ‘Oloko,’ to sell sharp sand at reasonable and affordable prices, as the sand is a natural resource freely given by God. The Hope also calls on the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) saddled with the responsibility of stopping unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business practices, including maintenance of a fair market place amongst several other functions to be alive to its responsibilities.
NEVERTHELESS, we opine that when a country is in a critical situation like the present scenario, the best is brought out; thus, the untoward action of TQAN is an eye opener challenging us to put on our thinking caps and look out for an alternative to blocks in building physical structures.
THE HOPE therefore recommends the alternative use of burnt bricks made from mud for building as it is not only strong and durable, but also bullet resistant, while we call on our government to look at the economic advantage and take a cue from South Africa’s creativity with muds. Private organisations, tertiary and research institutions should also look into the production of burnt mud, which can be exported to other Western Africa countries as it will also create jobs for our teeming unemployed youths.

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