The Ebonyi State government has created a stone crushing cluster that generates N14.4 billion in revenues on a yearly basis.
The cluster is located at Umuoghalu in Ezza North council area of the state close to the state capital, Abakaliki.
The thriving cluster was created from stone crushers who were initially scattered around the capital especially along the Enugu-Abakaliki Road. The cluster supplies chippings to most parts of Nigeria, especially the South Eastern region and the Middle Belt.
A truck bought at the Ebonyi cluster at less than N90,000 (excluding transportation) is sold over N240,000 in places such as Imo, Rivers and Delta states and more in farther towns.
BusinessDay team which inspected the cluster found that an average of 7,000 people work at the new stone cluster. Most of the workers are women and they earn an average of N1,200 a day, operators at the stone cluster told BusinessDay.
There are about 300 stone crushing operators at the cluster with each employing an average of 22 workmen and women, producing about 60 tons of crushed stone daily. The minimum price for 10 tons of crushed stones (chippings), BusinessDay learnt, is between N27,000 and N30,000.00 including union fees, government fees and loading.
Explaining the reason behind the state government’s resolve in creating the cluster to absorb the operators out of the main city, the secretary to the state government (SSG), Fidelis Mbam, said: “Initially, we had the stone crushers scattered around the city and the capital used to be full of dust from their activities. So we decided to bring them together to create a more manageable business”.
The SSG said the cluster project helped to boost production by putting in place such facilities as power, road network, health centre, weigh- ridge, and regulatory framework to enable the stone crushers produce optimally.
Confirming the intention of government, an official of the stone crushers association who did not want his name in print because he did not have authorisation to talk to the press said, “We initially opposed the plan of the government to move us to this cluster, but now we are happy with it because it has helped manage our business better”.
BusinessDay also found that the cluster project has also led to significant appreciation of plots of land around the cluster area. “Plots of land in this place used to cost between N40,000 and N70,000 but right now a plot of land very near the cluster area costs a minimum of N2 million while if it’s a bit far away, it will cost about N500,000”, some of the operators told BusinessDay.
Also different businesses like restaurants, mechanic workshops, electricians’ workshops, and generator repairers have pitched their tents near the stone crushing center to provide their services to the emerging business community, BusinessDay observed.
The operators, however, called on the government to provide them with a primary and secondary school around the stone crushing centre so that the many women working at the centre can send their children to school within the vicinity. “You see, a school will be good here so that the women will be near their children”, an operator said.
They also called on the governor to make the health centre located at the cluster functional. Operators also lamented that no bank has opened a branch near them.
“Some banks have come here to look at the place but none of them has come back to open a branch”.
The Ebonyi State government has already installed a weighing bridge at the centre so that all stones crushed and evacuated from the cluster are appropriately measured and taxed based on weights.
OHN OSADOLOR, IGNATIUS CHUKWU, ANTHONY OSAE-BROWN & REGIS ANUKWUOJI IN ABAKALIKI