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Post by samson on Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:43 am

Igbeti town in Igbeti Local Government Area of Oyo State is noted for its richness in mineral resources, especially in marbles. Unfortunately, these resources remain untapped. Taiwo Abiodun visited the town recently and reports.Igbeti, located in the northern part of Oyo State, is a purely agrarian town. On entering the ancient town, one is welcomed by rustic buildings and the huge rocks. Conspicuously displayed are huge billboards proclaiming: Welcome to Marble City. It is also called Onile oye. The town is called Marble City because almost all its land is rich in marbles. It derives its Onile oye (the land of winter) tag from its endless its cool weather. In the afternoon when the sun is at its peak, the weather is cool, and it becomes colder during the winter period because of the marble deposits in the land. Residents always wear thick cover clothes to drive the cold away.According to some of the chiefs, during the harmattan, especially from November to January, the town becomes cold and chilling. Igbeti is home to all ethnic groups as it does not discriminate. At the Sabo, one could find the Hausa man selling suya and the Ibo doing business of selling spare parts.Standing majestically are mountainous rocks surrounding the town. According to Adebayo Rasaq, a cell phone engineer who used the marble to line the stairs leading into his shop, We just see marble as ordinary stone; we dont attach much value to it. We pick them like fowls here. This marble you are seeing fell from a truck and I used it here as a step into my shop. We learnt this is of great value when they are taken away from this place but of what use are they for us when no building uses it here'A neglected goldmineThough the town is peaceful and popular, it does not have pipe borne water. The residents basically rely on well water and a few boreholes dug by individuals. The large presence of marbles and stones has made digging of wells near impossible in the town. The only General Hospital in the town has been taken over by weeds. There are few secondary schools. There isn also no higher institution.Sadly, there is no single higher institution of any type here, we dont have such despite the fact that this town is rich and blessed with natural mineral resources, one of the high chiefs of the town, Pa Gbadegesin Adelabu, lamented.According to the Eleruwa of Igbeti, Chief Amos Olawale Olayanju, who described the town as mysterious because enemies had never conquered it said, the town is called Igbeti which literally means the town that had refused to be conquered by enemies. It has been in existence for over 1,800 years.Speaking about the stones and marbles discovered there, Olayanju said both minerals were discovered in 1976 when one Ekiti chief came to discover it and did little with it until the late business man, Chief Ashamu from Oyo town, turned the place around, took over the Igbeti marble and employed hundreds of workers at the site, thus providing employment for the town.Olayanju said, Many people were employed from artisans, health workers, secretaries, carpenters, engineers and what have you. Graduates were employed; scholarships were given to students who are indigenes, while many were sponsored on holy pilgrimage to Mecca by Ashamu. But in the end, a misunderstanding ensued between him and the government. The community and the state government sued Ashamu over the ownership of the land. In the end, Ashamu left and the business that made the town to be known in the world of marble collapsed.Igbeti after Ashamus exitThe Eleruwa described the exit of the late Ashamu as a disaster to the town. In a voice laden with nostalgia, he said, the legal battle over the ownership and control of the precious stones was eventually won in the 80s by the government. The late Ashamu then had a deal with the government and the community under the monarch, Osiyanbola III, as they won the case. Thus the state government and the community shared the percentage from it.But Ashamu later died and his death was a fatal blow to the town as its proceeds from the mineral resources declined. Nobody was sent to Mecca as usual, no scholarships were given to students while business activities that once boomed in the ancient town collapsed. And poverty came into the land. The land flowing with milk and honey became empty as government did not consider it any longer but focused on petroleum.He continued, It is unfortunate that after the late Ashamu it was passed on to the government of the late Chief Bola Ige, who wanted to assist in rebuilding the company but it could not go far. Again, Isaac Jolapamo came to revive it, but he again left and now it is in another private hands but nothing is forthcoming. This is sad.The Eleruwa confirmed that Igbeti is full of marble and other natural resources, Here there are stones, stones and stones. Precious stones are everywhere. In our farmland we hardly plant tubers of yam and other produce because we have marbles in less than six feet deep in the ground, so our farm produce cannot grow. Not only this, we are not comfortable with the water from our wells. We would dig and find marbles instead of water while those who dig boreholes many a times get bored as they cannot reach where water is; they meet stones instead of water.Thus we have the whole land of Igbeti full of marbles without being tapped. They are wasting and untapped while we are helplessly watching as they are untapped. These marbles are one of the finest in the world, we dont need chemicals to add or mix with it to make it look good.When The Nation visited some of the farmlands which are scattered about, the farm produce have become withered as there is no place for some of the crops to grow properly.When The Nation also visited the two popular sites, Alaguntan and Ogun, where these precious marbles were being blasted, they were said to belong to some individuals and private companies. At one of the sites trailers were being loaded with these shining marbles while some of these stones were being put into sacks. Some were left on the ground waiting to be offloaded. It was later learnt that these were bought cheaply and transported either to Benin, Kaduna or to neighboring countries.These stones are being taken to some destinations and would be sold at expensive price while we keep on looking without benefiting from them, a resident said.Investigation revealed that a stone costs so much that a family that owns a sizeable plot where he could blast and take marble will never be poor. A trailer load when sold outside the town is estimated to cost about N10million. Those who come here to load these stones make a lot of money. We would just be looking at them carting away all these. But here we are in this town we cannot build our house with marbles. What an irony!, a worker Yemi Hammed lamented.While corroborating Hammed, Chief Samuel Maradesa added, We dont know how much it is. They are just smuggling it out of this place.At one of the big sites once controlled by the late Ashamu, which is now controlled by a company, one could see about four members of staff working with a Land Rover in the expansive multi-billion site. The buildings have become dilapidated, as many have caved in and taken over by reptiles. Vehicles have become grounded while machines of different types have become rusty as a result of its abandonment. The place has been overtaken by weeds.One of the workers declared, There is no staff here at all. We are only four or five here, and we earn peanuts. We have been turned to slaves while the town is not benefiting from the resources at all. It is a pity Ashamu was here to turn this town into a mega city and a world class town but he was not allowed. He was obstructed. He has died now and this is the result of his death.We are all seeing some of these stones being taken out of the town without knowing how much they are sold. We workers here are under slavery and yet these marbles belong to our people and yet the owners of the land are not benefiting from it. Imagine a company that once had over 2,000 workers in different sections to have become a ghost place.Princess Deborah Oni said, Marbles are our precious property here. We have different types, we recently discovered limestone and materials for paint, but who will explore it for us' We use the paint materials to paint our houses, we dont have chemical to mix with it and if we paint our houses they quickly wash away since we dont know what to mix along with it. We pray to God to provide us with good people.Still hopefulHowever, the indigenes are still hopeful. According to Pa Maradesa, Some foreigners came here two weeks ago to inspect this area. We believe they are coming here to resuscitate the place (the marble factory). Though many faces have been seen here with the hope of coming here to rescue the place, we hope they come early to help provide jobs for our children.Chief Samson Gbadegesin Adelabu, the Otun Agoro of Igbeti, is not happy that the town did not grow despite the gift of nature that God endowed it with.Yes, the town should have grown more than this. This marble had been there for long but our fathers were not aware as such until in the 1970s when the digging of the marble started. King Ajala from Ekiti was called to inspect it and he recognised it. Then around 1976 and 77, about 500 workers were employed there while vehicles and instruments were brought in. Then Chief Ashamu was also invited and he added value to it. The foreigners described our marble as the best in the world.He continued, During Ashamus time, he gave our children scholarships and improved the lives of our people here. Unfortunately, there was a crisis as families rose up laying claims to these areas. They went to court and Oba Siyanbola III won the case that the town and the monarchs owned the land. The late Ashamu was stopped from working. But years later, some foreigners were called to come and oversee the business.Otun added: I was a member of staff there in 1992 and the work was going on during the time of Isaac Jolapamo who came to manage it until he left again. Today, though production is going on there, but I think they have only few or less than 10 people working there now.Awolowo rememberedPa Maradesa said since the government discovered petroleum they no longer appreciate marble and have abandoned it. However, during the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, there were cotton, cocoa and rubber being exploited. The late premier of the West Region used the money realized from cocoa to build the popular Cocoa House in Ibadan. He regrets that now with the discovery of petroleum they have abandoned agriculture too.This is a wealth that cannot be exhausted forever. The marble was discovered long time ago; it makes us sad because our children go to cities like Lagos, Ibadan and other places looking for jobs when we have mineral resources here where our children can work. Thank God for the Okada (motorcycles) our children are riding about to eke out a living for themselves. We could count how many houses were built when there was this marble business. Igbeti town has also declined since after the marble business had gone down. When business was flourishing, our houses were rented by staff.]]>

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