Working Lives: The Hawker Who Is Waiting for Her Children to Finish University25 views
No form of honest labour should ever be despised. But it is sad to watch grown men and women running after traffic to sell handkerchiefs, soft drinks, sausage rolls etc. The sight, visible all over Lagos, is a graphic representation of the severe underemployment and low productivity the Nigerian economy is mired in. Speaking to the hawkers, Arbiterz discovered that many of them completed secondary school. They are keenly aware that the Nigerian economy, with the second highest rate of unemployment in the world, is not generating jobs, so they are resigned to been hawkers for the rest of their lives.
“I am hawking just so as I can be able to assist my husband with the bills at home. May be when my kids are close to graduating from the university, I will then think of just getting a shop close to my house and sell in the neighborhood. I will be too tired and old to be running after buses in traffic by then”…… Omolade
Where are you from?
I am from Ijebu Ode in Ogun State but I was born in Lagos.
Tell us about your education.
I attended Meiran Community High School here in Lagos. I was one of the brightest students in my class back then but condition pushed me into hawking. I am not from a poor family. My dad who was managing to pay for us to go to school died. So I had to stop.
How did you start hawking in traffic?
After my secondary school education, I started learning tailoring. This took two years.
But after I finished the trianing , I couldn’t afford to get a sewing machine to start a tailoring business. Another wahala. I started selling pure water in Iyana-Ipaja traffic. I was selling close to 10 bags every day.
How much capital did you start with?
Just N5,000. There is a popular woman that chills the water and drinks for hawkers around Iyana-Ipaja. We pay her N100 to chill drinks for four hours. I moved from pure water to soft drinks like Coca-Cola, Fanta, Malt and energy drinks as I got more established in the hawking business. I saw other hawkers were making more money selling soft drinks than I could make selling pure water. To move to hawking soft drinks, I took a N50,000 loan from LAPO Microfinance Bank. I added this to the N20,000 I had in savings.
Which routes do you hawk on?
I have stuck to the same route- Iyana Ipaja. I don’t see myself hawking anywhere else. My supplier is at Iyana-Ipaja Bus Stop so hawking around there is very convenient for me.
What’s your daily sales like?
I still sell about ten bags of pure water in a day and seven or nine packs of soft drinks. Cool weather is bad business. When it rains or it’s not very hot, drinks don’t move very well.
Do you also get products from companies?
Not. I don’t have direct affiliation with the companies or their distributors. But I buy in bulk from my supplier so I enjoy good discount.
How much do you make every day?
I do not think of my revenue in terms daily sales. I calculate my revenue in terms of the number of packs I sell every week. I make around N45,000 from sales every week out of which N8,000 is my profit.
For how many hours do you work in a day?
I work from 7 a.m. to 7 in the evening. That has always been my normal routine.
How often do you get harassed by law enforcement agencies?
I often hear of hawkers getting harassed in other places. But here in Iyana Ipaja it doesn’t happen. It’s very rare.
Have you heard of hawkers paying law enforcement agencies to get off the hook?
Yes. What you pay depends on the type of goods you are selling. Some pay as little as N2,000 while others pay as much as N10,000. The people that pay up to N10,000 are really not hawkers. They are women who sell food at bus stops. But I have to pay thugs. What the thugs demand depends on their clout on the street. It’s N100 on average daily. Not everyone pays but I just pay to avoid trouble. As I am always at the bus stop, I am right in their face.
For how long have you been doing this?
I have been hawking for more than 7 years now.
And for how much longer do you see yourself doing it?
I am hawking just so as I can be able to assist my husband with the bills at home. May be when my kids are close to graduating from the university, I will then think of just getting a shop close to my house and sell in the neighborhood. I will be too tired and old to be running after busses in traffic by then.
What are you doing to make this happen, getting a shop eventually?
I am saving ahead of time and anything I know that is not really important to spend money on right now and that thing can wait, I do not bother myself about it. When I get a shop, I won’t have to be under the sun chasing after cars and buses.