There is a new fad among women and the army of unemployed young men of Abuja’s satellite towns: sand business.
When it comes to erecting buildings and other structures, sand is one of the key components. Those who engage in the business do not need huge capital or recommendation from high quarters to thrive in it. What they are sure of is that buyers always lurk around the corner.
The basic equipment they need to start up is a shovel. They scavenge for sand from all nooks and crannies, including drains.
Selling sand by the roadside, which is often regarded as an undignifying, menial, dirty job meant only for people with little or no formal education, has become a booming business for some Abuja residents .
Men, young and old, now act as agents to sand dealers.
A visit to a river in Jahi, a suburb of Abuja, was an eyefull, as many women with toddlers strapped to their backs fetched sand to eke out a living.
Abuja Metro observed that women in their 30s, as early as 6am, set out with their pans to the river to gather sharp sand for sale.
Babies were strapped to their back as they walk into the stream to dredge the sand. The pan of sand that they carried on their head dripped water, drenching even the hapless babies on their back.
Sold to different categories of users, the women, some pregnant and some breast feeding btheir infants, were out do outshine one another in the business. Sometimes they went out of their way to procure sand from anywhere, including canals, rivers and even the roadside in order to have ‘goods’ to sell to buyers.
Even though they make less profit during the rainy season, they still risk it. On top of that, some officials come after them, threatening them in a bid to get a token from them.
The police and other local authorities, some of the women complained to Daily Sun, have been extorting money from them.
According to Saratu Dairu, 20, a mother of three and a sharp sand dealer in Jahi, success in the business depends on the the construction industry of the economy. She pointed out that patience is required to make profit from the business.
Dairu said that she went into the business when she got married and started having children, in order to assist her husband in taking care of the children, especially their education. She, howcver, lamented that local authorities extort money from her and other sand dealers.
“I got into this business to start small and later expand as the business grows with time. I don’t have trucks so I have to depend on truck owners for hire or I just supply sand to them directly. The local authorities, especially the police, have been terrorising us here, they seize the batteries powering the trucks and tell truck loaders to pay N5,000 or forget their batteries, some request for as much as N10,000.
“We make just N3,500 for filling a six-tyre truck and N7,000 for 10-tyre trucks. The profit is too small to take care of myself not to talk of my children and their school fees. We need the police to have pity on us, we might not be educated but they should understand that we are just trying to put food in our stomach.”
Dairu explained that most small-scale sand dealers like herself rent portions of a river or lagoon from the owner for a year or two for a specific amount.
She said: “If the river is in a remote area, the rent might be less expensive, but, most times, it goes for free, maybe that is why the police extort bribes from us, because I am dredging here for free.”
Another Abuja resident who identified herself as Hadizat also lamented the pain and struggle she goes through every day dredging sand.
Hadizat claimed that she took up the trade to make ends meet: “I reside in Lokogoma and I wake up as early as 5am every weekday to pack sand in Jahi. I arrive there by 6am with my son to pack sand. I bring him along because my husband is a commercial motorcycle operator in the Kubwa part of Abuja and he would not be able to watch over my boy. I am the third wife with three kids and I am not so regarded and recognised by my husband or even my own family, so I do everything I can to make ends meet.
“Sometimes, my son eats just once a day, after staying under the sun with me. I have no choice because there is nothing I can fall back on. I take care of my children myself, the sand business is not so fulfilling and the police and some other local authorities still come telling us to bribe them with a token. They do not really focus on the sand dealers, they pay more attention to truck loaders, because they benefit more than us and pay us little token.
“One of the police officers once warned us to stop dredging sand. He said the sand we are packing causes erosion, which is true. So, as it is, I am not into just one business. I sometimes sell Next Cash and deliver bread to people by the roadside close to Gwarimpa for N500, after buying it at the shopping mall for N450. I make N50 profit from each loaf and I sometimes get tips from generous customers.”
Explaining the challenges, a sand dealer, Mr. Hannan Yunisa, said those who hire trucks for the business make profit, but they do not make as much money as truck owners. He noted that the current rainy season has caused dealers not to have goods to sell because some bush paths into the bush where materials were sourced have become unmotorable.
Yunisa said although the good times of the business outwiegh the bad times, it requires hard work, connections and a good relationship with truck loaders to make gains during the rainy season.
He said negotiations are mostly done depending on the quality and usage. The distance or location and the quantity of sand the customer needs, whether it is a double-loaded truck or single tipper, also determine the price of sand.
“There has been less profit in the business this period, starting from the month of March, many trucks got damaged due to bad terrain. Most people stop building houses during this period because of the rain so it would not wash items like cement away, and that equally affects us,” he said.
just pray that this rainy season passes so our business can flourish and we can continue to enjoy the desired boom,” Yunisa said.