Right at the top of the hill behind CITEC Estate in Mbora District in the Federal Capital Territory, muscular men drenched in sweat break rock into gravel for survival.
The scorching sun burning their greasily skin does not deter them as they kept hammering at the hard rock surface causing portions of the stone to break loose.
One of the men, Idris Tanimu, said he learned the rock crushing business in Abuja but became independent eight years ago and has since been working and making ends meet on his own.
Idris said they do not just start breaking rock wherever rock was available but followed due process before such work can be done. He said they first visit a location and when they discover that they can work on the rock there they then liaise with the government through the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), register with them and then seek the consent of the land owners whom they pay a token ranging from N5,000 to N6,000 before work can commence.
The men, who work with hammers and chisels to crush the rock into different sizes, said crushing rock is tedious work that needs a lot of energy to achieve desired result.
Idris said, though there are machines that can drill into the rock before they are ‘splashed’, they prefer working on it manually because it gives better result by breaking it bit by bit.
“We do not have the means to buy a stone crushing machine that can make our job easier. So everything we do for now is manual. Besides it gives better result. We follow different processes before arriving at our expected result. We apply heat to the rock to get it to disintegrate easily,” he said
The 40-year-old added that rock crushing has been very lucrative in Abuja considering different type of roads and building construction works going on daily within and around the city. He said he makes a profit of about N30,000 monthly aside other expenses.
“I earn N4,000 in a day even though it is not consistent,” he said.
He said the process required heating the rock with fire after which a hammer was used to hit it consistently until it is weak and “we disintegrate them into different sizes. We sell a load at the rate of N6,000 to N12,000.”
While stating the challenges they face in the business, he said security officials sometimes demanded money from them but once they paid them they were free and work continued.
He added that they sometimes sustained injuries while using the manual implements in breaking the rock.
Idris, married with seven children, said from what he makes in the business, he is able to feed his family and take care of their needs both educationally and otherwise.
He advised youths to shun idleness, drug abuse and any social vices and engage themselves in hard work, adding that even if they did not have the strength to break rock as he does, they can engage in other activities that can fetch them money instead of indulging in crime.
Another rock crusher on Mbora hill, Ibrahim Yahaya, said he has been in the business for over 10 years and that it has been his only source of livelihood. He added that everything about the business since he started has been done using manual tools.
“We have not been able to apply for any loan facility from government but the FCT Administration is aware of our work as we are duly registered with them,” Yahaya said.
He added that they did not receive much encouragement from government.
“If the land owner decides to send us away we have no alternative but to leave despite our registration with the government,” he added.
Ibrahim said the government should consider the self-employed, especially those of them doing difficult work, stressing that they are not finding it easy on the hills but have to work to survive.
“If they can provide more job opportunities it will go a long way because we want to diversify. We used to work at Life Camp before we were sent away by the land owners and if today, the land owners here issue us another eviction notice we will be stranded,” he said.