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In Onitsha river, boat business is a goldmine

At River Niger in Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra State, boat business is popular among the people of the state and others who come…

At River Niger in Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra State, boat business is popular among the people of the state and others who come from the South-South, parts of Kogi State and other parts of the South-East.

The business attracts other economic activities like dredging, transportation, boat/canoe building and engine repair, as well as the sale of accessories.

Both men and women are involved in business activities.

Iya Danlami, who hails from the Niger Delta region, but married to a man from Kogi State, is one of the women who operate boats that move from Onitsha to Rivers and Bayelsa states.

She is very popular among people who do business in the area and visitors alike.

When our correspondent visited the River Niger bridge area, he was told that the woman had travelled to Bayelsa State. But after four market days, she was seen by her boat, which is very big.

But when our correspondent wanted her to speak on her business activities, she declined, saying she would not talk without the permission of her husband, who travelled to Asaba in Delta State. When our correspondent went back before 3pm, she had gone inside the main market and her husband had not come back.

All efforts to reach her again did not succeed as she did not come back from the market until our correspondent left.

Daily Trust on Saturday learnt that boat business is lucrative. Iya Danlami’s boat, which is about two trailers in size, can carry 1,200 bags of rice and other goods, alongside passengers.

A bag of rice is ferried at the cost of N1,000, the same price as a bundle of zinc, while a passenger pays N1,500 or N2000 to Rivers and Bayelsa respectively. The boat can carry 80 passengers.

A businessman who sells paddles to operators of canoes at the hinterland told our correspondent that those who own engine-boats make good money, but spend much on fuel for long trips from Onitsha to Rivers and Bayelsa states.

Mr. Ibe Ugwu from Enugu State, who sells boat accessories and operates a drinking joint, said a lot of people in the area owned boats but they have a timetable for their days of operation.

According to him, each boat owner comes twice in a week, and they don’t normally allow every boat to load at the same time.

“If a loaded boat leaves at night, it gets to Rivers and Bayelsa between 5 and 6 pm the following morning,’’ Ugwu said.

Mr Ezekiel Nwagusi, a boat and canoe builder, who hails from Delta State, said he had been in the business since 1985. He used the proceeds from the business to train all his children, he said, adding that it is lucrative.

Disclosing how he operates, he said, “Some people come here to ask us to build boats and canoes for them and they pay, while some will provide the planks for the construction of boats or canoes of their choice. Just tell us the size and type you want and we will build it for you, no matter the size.’’

He further said that before building any boat or canoe, they would first ‘settle’ the landowners.

“We build all sizes of boats here. Some of them cost about N12million while some cost N25million. We also build those that are not too expensive, that is, between N700,000 and N1million,’’ he added.

Asked what they usually paid to the government as revenue, he said it’s the landowners who would do that.

Also, Mr. Uzoh Uche, who repairs boat engine, told our correspondent that he was happy with the job, saying the money he makes has been sustaining him and his family.

Uche said he could repair any engine because, according to him, some boat engines are as big as those of trailers and bulldozers.

Furthermore, Daily Trust on Saturday learnt that dredging is also a big business, and it involves huge capital. Also, a lot of people who do the business have bulldozers for loading sand, as well as dredging machines. Others have cubic boats, which they use in bringing sand from the river to land.

Each cubic boat can carry a load from four tippers of about 12 cubics. And each tipper-load of 12 cubic is sold at N15,000, while a 6 cubic tipper is N8,000 at the beach.

Speaking to Daily Trust on Saturday, Mr Simon Igbokwe said the business was a good one but required a lot of money to take off.

He said that most people who engaged in the business of dredging were doing well. He added that many people who started the business a long time ago had trained their children in various educational institutions while some sent their children out of the country for studies.

According to him, at each beach, on a good day, over 30 tippers load of 12 cubic and many tippers of 6 cubic are loaded.

Asked how much they make every day, Mr Stephen Uka, who works at one of the beaches, said the only people who could speak on that were owners of the beach.

When asked to direct our correspondent to where he could meet any of the beach owners, he said they were in a meeting. He warned that nobody should disclose his identity to the beach owners.

When our correspondent got to the meeting venue, he was told that they had dismissed and gone their different ways. All efforts to get any of the beach owners were not as successful as nobody was ready to give out the contact of any of the beach owners.

Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that tipper drivers were having a problem with the Anambra State Government over levy collection. Our correspondent also learnt that some of the officials of the tipper drivers association were held in Awka, which made business activities at the beaches to collapse because there were no drivers to carry sand.

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