From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo

Stone Dealers Association and Truck Owners Association in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State have shutdown their businesses to protest increase in the price of materials by Chinese firms operating in the mineral rich area.

The two association also shutdown businesses to protest increase in haulage fees by the Chinese firms.

The association shutdown businesses last week and vowed not to start operations untill the prices of the materials and haulage were reduced.

Njoku Godwin Uchechi, Chairman of Amaeze chapter of Ivo association of stone dealers said they were protesting the incessant increment on the price of materials in the business which he said was severely affecting the association.

“We have lost our customers to our neighbouring villages like Lokpanta and Uturu, Abia State because this business is very competitive, haulage business is competitive.

“We were paying N4,000 per tone after which the Chinese increased it to N9,500, they increased it again to N12,900. This time around, they have increased it to N18,300 per tone which is not favourable to us.

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” We want the government to call them to order because the government has fixed prices of shippings. The prices should come down to enable us survive in the business”, he said.

On his part, Chairman of Anor stone dealers association in the local government, Chukwu James Okafor said all the sizes of stones are affected in the price increment.

“They increased the prices of these shippings to 50% which is not supposed to be so. We are not against the increment but it is very harsh on us and it is affecting us in the business. We are the marketers and they are the producers. We supposed to have mutual understanding with them so that it will not affect the marketers.

“We are calling on the state government to come to our aid because the investors are suppressing us. We are suffering while they are enjoying. After getting all these exorbitant fees from us, they convert it into dollars and send to their country”, he stated.

He noted that the two association will not open operations untill the prices are reduced

“As you can see, no truck is loading any chipping in Ivo and it will remain like that. We started doing this since last week and we are not relenting until the right thing is done”, said Okafor.