By Amaka Agwuegbo
Scraps of all forms and make are scattered in different locations in Nigeria, particularly on the streets, highways and water ways, causing unnecessary traffic and obstructing easy navigation on waterways. One of the most visible groups of scraps is the metal scraps, which consist of broken down ships, boats, barges, trailers, etc, and which have not ceased to constitute a nuisance to society.
But with the increased acceptance of recycling, tons of business opportunities abound in the scrap industry as people are making money from seemingly unimaginable sources, especially from selling metal scraps.
Mr. Desmond Nkwocha, an hotelier, had to abandon his job to join the dirty world of metal scrap, and he has not looked back since then. From a humble beginning of being paid N 250 per ton in 1986 when he started the business, Desmond now rakes in about N 40,000 per ton of metal scrap sold to melting companies.
According to him, â€œAfter years of being in the hospitality business as an hotelier, I decided to leave the hotel job in search of a business where Iâ€™ll be my own boss and, in 1986, I was introduced to this business by a close friend.
â€œThen, Iâ€™ll go in search of metal scraps such as ships, boats, barges and even trailers that are no longer in use that would be dismantle and sold to melting companies for recycling to produce iron rods for construction workâ€. Though he admitted that his initial thoughts about the business was all about the dirt and filth he had to contend with daily, Desmond is quick to add that the money accruable is not dirty.
When I was introduced to the business by my friend, the first thing that crossed my mind was all the dirt and filth that Iâ€™ll be working with in the process of ridding the environment of all the filth caused by these abandoned scraps. But with the money made from the sales, you donâ€™t think about the dirt because the money is not dirty and it pays the bills.â€
Because the business was still unknown by most people when he started, Desmond said people were always begging him to remove the scraps without him paying for it after which I took them to Ikoyi to sell. A few months into the business, Desmond was opportune to meet an engineer at the Lagos State Tele Corporation, who was instrumental to the success of his business.
â€œI happened to meet Engineer Coker who asked if I could remove scraps from the canal. I replied in the affirmative and was subsequently awarded the contract to remove all the ships and barges along the Mile 2 canal that were abandoned by illegal bunkers during Buhariâ€™s regime.
â€œWhen I finished the contract in 1989, I went to the Army Barracks for auctioning and purchased all the littering and abandoned vehicles and armoured vehicles that were used during the war.â€
Impressed by the thoroughness of his work, Desmond was asked at the army head quarters to go to all the army formations to bulk-purchase and dispose off those scraps.
â€œI sold some of the vehicles, but those that I could not sell were scrapped and sold to Universal Steel and Nigerian Steel as these were the only two companies that were willing to buy the scraps from us.â€
Since then, Desmond has been going about buying scraps for sale, sometimes, going as far as Aba and Port-Harcourt to source for disposable metal scraps. â€œEven when I buy scrap from outside Lagos , I still bring them to sell in Lagos because there are no melting companies outside Lagos .â€
Commenting on the value of the metal scrap market, the Chief Executive of Obezy Brothers International Limited said the value is on the increasing because it is one business you can invest money in and reap immediate returns.
â€œWhen I started, I used to supply a ton of scrap for N 250, but now, it is as high as N 36,000-N 40,000, depending on your buyer. I usually rent trailers when there is business and depending on how you arrange the scraps, a trailer can carry between 24-30 tons per loading and can make 8 trips.
â€œThe scrap business is a good one because it is one business that when you invest in, you get immediate returns. This is because the market is on a cash-and-carry basis. No matter the cost of supplies I make, the cash or cheque is always ready for collection.â€
Presently the highest scrap supplier and a scrap disposing contractor to some shipping companies, Desmond is not scared of competition despite the daily increase of new entrants into the market.
â€œThere is much competition in this business as it is becoming an all comersâ€™ affair due to the rate of monetary returns, but Iâ€™m not afraid of that since most companies call on me to supply them with material.â€
As selling directly ignores the commission given to those people, many industries are contacting their suppliers for their scrap needs. This Desmond agrees to and attributes it to the increase in the demand for the materials, thereby prompting some representatives of the companies to search for him to supply them with materials. Though the business is a money spinner, yet it is not a great employer of labour as attested by Desmond.
â€œThe reason why we donâ€™t employ more than a few hands is because of the temporal nature of the job which makes it impossible to employ permanent staff. Though I have 12 permanent staff but when I have more jobs, I hire and pay more helps to assist on a daily basis.â€ Regardless of the filth and dirt he encounters daily in the course of his job, Desmond Nkwocha never fails to let anyone who cares to listen that he love this scrap business and is not ready to leave it.