Wheel barrow is a product, which was once available in Nigeria only through importation. But now, it is fabricated in Enugu State for both domestic use and export. Thanks to the efforts of a few skilled Nigerians.
Apart from the tyre that is made from rubber, a wheel barrow is mainly made of metal. It is produced by panel beaters and welders through a process that involves marking out, pattern development, cutting, drilling and welding.
Wheelbarrows are mostly used by labourers, farmers, gardeners, petty traders and others commonly known as wheelbarrow pushers, to transport goods too heavy to be moved by hand. Until recently, most wheelbarrows used in the country were imported. However, it has been observed that wheelbarrows produced in the country now dominate the market.
Radio Nigeria sought to know the state of the industry. At New Market, Enugu, where the wheelbarrows are locally fabricated, one of the fabricators, Mr. Chinedu Iwuoha, revealed that its production started in Enugu and equally they were the main producers in Nigeria and some West African countries.
Mr. Iwuoha expressed regret that the problem of electricity and lack of encouragement by the Government had continued to inhibit the growth of the industry.
“I fit (could) make twenty wheelbarrows, latest one week and if light dey (is available) but if light no dey (is not available), I no fit make any one.”
Another wheelbarrow fabricator, Mr. Onyeka Oke explained that incessant harassment by law enforcement agents, among other challenges characterized life of wheelbarrow fabricators and discouraged many people from joining the industry.
“On November 10th, I went to Onitsha, when we were coming back, the police people stopped us and we stopped, I showed them the receipt, they didn’t listen to us. They asked us to sit on the ground, they were intimidating us after we have shown them the receipts.”
Mr. Oke also complained about multiple taxation.
“Like in this line, we pay so many things. They will ask you to pay this one, the other office will come say ah pay one, we pay. So it is really affecting us.”
Radio Nigeria also found that although imported wheelbarrows were cheaper, people preferred the locally fabricated ones. But why is it so? A dealer who gives out wheelbarrow on hire, Mr. Chukwudi Agbo explained that foreign wheelbarrows were patronized by people who wanted them for domestic purposes.
According to him, locally fabricated wheelbarrows are more adapted for business.
“That foreign one is narrow while this one (local one) is large. Then the barrow pushers don’t like it. It doesn’t contain much goods like our own.”
Corroborating Mr. Agbo’s views, a wheelbarrow pusher in Ogbete Main Market, Mr. Uchenna Nweke said that locally fabricated wheelbarrow was more suitable for his business.
“I use locally made wheelbarrow because n aim dem dey (that is what they) accept for this Ogbete Market. No any other wheelbarrow wey (that is) strong pass (stronger than) this one. And this one get space to contain many loads.”
Reacting to the challenges facing the industry, the Permanent Secretary, Enugu State Ministry of Commerce, Dr. Moses Otiji encouraged the fabricators to form co-operatives societies to enable the government to liaise with them easily.
“Talks have actually opened between us and some of them, though on individual basis. We try to see how we can get them as a group so that they form an industrial cluster, so that even if government wants to support them, government would be seen to be supporting a group. It’s a very productive venture.”
Also, the Special Adviser to the Enugu State Governor on Small and Medium Enterprises and Investment Promotion, Mr. Anayo Agu said that though the organisation had no programme, specifically for the industry at present, wheelbarrow fabricators could benefit from the economic programmes of Enugu State.
“There is a plan for every entrepreneur, every micro, small and medium enterprise in Enugu State. Anybody who is not from Enugu State but who is interested in coming in Enugu State to trade and invest. There is a plan for anybody who considers Enugu state as a market of opportunities.”
Mr. Agu said that funds were available for entrepreneurs resident in the state but prospective beneficiaries must present proposals that were verifiable, profitable and suitable.