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How metal scraps are turning scavengers to overnight millionaires

   
   

As recession bites harder, some Nigerians are exhibiting their ingenuity by converting scrap metals into a fortune. BOLA BADMUS, OLATUNDE DODONDAWA, CHIMA NWOKOJI and SYLVESTER OKORUWA tell the story of waste to wealth.

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With the complete collapse of iron mining ores in the country, steal manufacturers and rolling companies have no other options than to turn to waste metal and aluminum as great and cheaper alternatives. As a result, more ordinary people are earning a living supplying these materials to them and keeping the environment clean, at the same time.

When Saturday Tribune visited the Mechanic Village by Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa Lagos, it was discovered that venturing into scrap business is not only another way of making money, but creating jobs for other youths around you. Some young men were seen dismembering a vehicle that was later identified as used Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). Rasheed Jimoh, a mechanic at the village told Saturday Tribune that he helped his customer to connect the scraps buyers who paid N200,000 for the vehicle because his customer needed quick cash to make for his overseas traveling cost.

“If you can gather metal, copper, or aluminum in good quantity through any reasonable means, be sure of good money. You wouldn’t even need to transport it because the companies you supply will come picking it themselves. Yours is to take your profit after sales. The metal is measured in weight and each weight has a given price”, he said.

Meanwhile, checks by Saturday Tribune revealed that one ton of metal costs between N35,000-N40,000; 10 tons or trailer-load costs N350,000-N400,000, while one ton of aluminum costs N130,000 and 10 tons cost N1,300,000. A dealer who preferred to be addressed as Yusuf from the northern part of the country said, apart from the used cars that are being turned into scraps, these things are picked freely as waste everywhere in Lagos and other cities.

“If you set out to gather them yourself, you will surely gather up to ten tons within a month and sell between N350,000 to N1.3 million, depending on the type of metal you gathered”, Yusuf said. According to him, anything called aluminum and iron metal scraps is a good deal. He explained that there are scrap machinery from construction companies, electrical equipments, scrap aluminum zinc of all type, scrap electrical wires of all type, scrap auto spare parts of all type, scrap ship or plane parts, scrap beams and rods, among others.

   
   

According to Yusuf, anyone interested in doing the business without picking the metals by him/herself, can get some hands to assist by recruiting some young and jobless boys in the community and engage them in scavenging the material while “you pay them some amount of money”. He explained that the profit sharing could be 30/70 per cent formula whereby the principal takes 30 per cent, while the agents (scavengers) take 70 per cent. This way, he said, they would be in business and the principal will still be making good money off them.

“You will need a scrap yard. That is a place where the metal and aluminum are converged for onward supply. A piece of land will do for this. Once you have your team of boys and a place to gather your metals together, you are good to go. There is absolutely no other thing required, just as simple as this”, he affirmed.

Further checks by Saturday Tribune revealed some companies buy these items. A major patron  of these scrap scavenger is metal recycling industry which has installed a state-of-the-art, metal recycling and smelting plant in Ogun State. The plant has a capacity of handling over 100 metric tons of metals per day. There is another leading ferrous foundry group in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) with a total installed capacity of 8,500 metric tons per year. It has two plants, one in Ilupeju, Lagos State and another one at Sango-Otta, Ogun State.

Owode Onirin is another popular market in Lagos where scrap metals are bought and sold. It is one of the many steel markets where any kind of metal spare parts can be found. Steel milling companies, especially the ones managed by Lebanese, Chinese and Indians, usually approach the market for scraps which will, in turn, be converted into steel pipes, aluminum and other metals.

Speaking with Saturday Tribune, one of the marketers, who identified himself as Kabiru Ashipa, said “the market is a very proud pulsar market across the globe. Foreign companies’ representatives come to Owode for spare parts which they will melt and convert into another metal at factories situated in Nigeria before export”.

As traders in Ladipo Market in Mushin area of Lagos go about their businesses unhindered, making money and smiling to their various banks daily, unconfirmed information indicates that the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led state government is planning to relocate the market for reasons still kept under wraps. This is as Saturday Tribune also gathered that owners of some portion of the market are in and out of court trying to contest its ownership and are yet to reconcile, even as a certain section of the market is largely regarded as a shanty and needed to be given a facelift to make it habitable.

It would be recalled that the state government, some four years ago, under former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, mooted the idea of relocating the market regarded as West Africa’s largest spare parts market, as a permanent solution to the recurrent crises of environmental nuisance and abuse of use of public installations often caused by its traders.

It was then observed that the multi-billion naira Ladipo Road, said to have been constructed in 2005 by the state government, and expected to last many years, had already gone bad. Activities of the dealers and traders, who do their trading on the road and walk-sides as well as the artisans who operate and discharge oil products on the asphaltic road, allegedly disintegrated the road.

The then Commissioner for the Environment in the state, Mr Tunji Bello, was said to have headed a committee that recommended the relocation of the market on the ground that the place was no longer ideal for market due to growing population of the state. The committee, said to have comprised experts on environmental management, had suggested Ikorodu or Badagry as the likely areas befitting a market of that capacity, with a little or no negative impact on the environment.

Even Fashola, on his visit to the market, was alarmed on his visit to Ladipo Market. It was precisely one week after the market was shut in 2013.

The former governor was reported to have said during the inspection that, “The market was shut after warnings and visits by different teams of the state government functionaries; yet the traders did not heed the warning”, describing the state of the market as a massive degradation of a section of the state.

“It is a massive degradation of a section of Lagos and this is not acceptable. People should not carry on like this”, Fashola was quoted to have said then. It was, however, not clear if the recommendation the committee made then was officially adopted. Attempt to get a clarification from the Commissioner for Information, Mr Steve Ayorinde, on the matter proved abortive as he did not pick calls to his cell phone or reply to the SMS sent to him.

Nigeria’s best, Lagos’ worst

Ladipo Market, located in Mushin Local Government Area, is probably Nigeria’s biggest spare parts market, a one-stop shopping arena for any motor parts, though activities in the market over the years have gradually turned the environment into an eyesore as oil and metal scraps litter every part of the market and its environs.

Activities of the traders at Ladipo Market, Mushin leave many customers crying home as the market now harbours all kinds of miscreants, known as barandas, who parade themselves as traders defrauding innocent customers of their hard-earned money. Many customers who have fallen victims to the barandas only find out later that these characters have no shops, while their mode of operations is to run after customers coming to the market for the first time and take them to a shop they pretend to own.  The vice-president of Ladipo Market, who doesn’t want his name in print, however told Saturday Tribune that the market is presently peaceful and that the market executives are monitoring the activities of the baranda boys to checkmate their activities in the market.

   
   

Vandals or entrepreneurs?

The boom is however spelling doom for government and individual facilities in the state. Saturday Tribune findings revealed a spike in vandals’ activities since the scrap trade began its ascendancy in the steel sector. Statistics from the security agencies, particularly the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), suggest a ratio of one arrest per week of cable and rail vandals, who always point the steel markets in the state as their sales points. At a point, bridge railings, including those of the popular Third Mainland Bridge, were being vandalised by these “overnight millionaires”. Police have promised to keep cracking on them and their patrons in these markets. But will that affect their new fortune?

   
   

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