• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

N100m timber business flourishes on Cameroon–Nigeria waters

businessday-icon

Many people may not know that on a daily basis, about N100million worth of wood comes into Nigeria by sea from Cameroon.

The business may seem very lucrative by the numbers but it is not for the lily-livered as shown in this encounter with a boy who is involved in the transportation of the timbers by wooden boat.

His name is simply John, but his colleagues at the creek call him “Mosquito.”

For the sake of clarity, he is simply an energetic young man, full of life as evidenced in his responses to questions directed at him.

He works for moneybags whose business is to buy timbers from Cameroon and transport to Nigeria via the creeks of Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.

This N100million daily turnover business is done using 40 to 50 wooden balanced boats which stay 14 hours in the Nigeria-Cameroon water ways through Nwanyiba-Oron-Itu-Calabar .

Though the business may seem interesting, but to ‘Mosquito’, he cannot even advise his brothers or his friends to venture into what he described as a “high risk” business.

Each of the 50 wooden balanced boats carry between 800 and 1000 pieces of timber and it costs the timber businessmen plying the trade about N2million to fill each balanced boat.

According to him, it is a good business when the timbers arrive the land/jetty because each of the timbers costs from N2,300 to N3,000, and N4,000 to N8,000 depending on their qualities and their purposes. Furniture timbers cost more.    

According to him, each of the wooden balanced boats plies this route on 2-3 engines usage for the 14-hour journey.

Each of them also carries alongside for the all night trip three drums of fuel because they cannot refuel on the waters.  

For instance, if the boats leave Nwanyiba creeks along the coasts of Akwa Ibom by 6pm, they will get to Cameroon by 8am– a night journey on the sea creeks.

Tree cutting in Nigeria is controlled and some of the dealers have bought into the businesses of sawmills and timber cutters in Cameroon for onward transportation via the creeks to Nigeria.

“If I enter Cameroon, I speak French. We speak both French and English,” John said.

He further stated: “To construct one balanced boat without engine it costs you about N2million. In constructing a balanced boat, everything is wood work done with about 5 bags of nail. I won’t advise even by brother or friend to buy boat.

“The business is attractive when the timbers arrive Nigeria. According to him, each balanced boat filled with timber is equivalent to 5 ‘911’ trucks. The risk is even higher on the sea with the activities of criminals.

“We meet many types of criminals on the waters while we move the woods. If they ask you of money and you tell them stories, they wouldn’t mind killing you. It is not easy; before you make one naira, one is already dead. We see all kinds of animals and human beings on the sea while transporting the woods. We see all kinds of fish even whales.

“Accident on the sea is worse than that of road. If accident happens, and you don’t have swimming experience, you are gone. It is not easy, but we only pray to God. It is stressful to go there. You cannot go without boarder pass,” John said. He added in pigeon English: “You must get your Cameroon/Nigeria waka book to enter Cameroon. Master say na mugu de go war front. E no easy.”

“This is not a salaried work, but if you no work you no chop” he echoed again in pigeon English.

Iheanyi Nwachukwu