The Dollar Mallam Who Gets A lot of Customers After Naira Devaluation
His life changed three years after his father connected him to a currency trader in Lagos as a young apprentice. Now he sees himself as a professional trader, monitors exchange rates, and deals with professionals, mostly those who travel for holidays. This young currency trader, who is planning to get married soon, sees connection and trust as the hallmarks of the black market side of foreign exchange.
Where are you from?
I am from Sokoto state. I spent most of my childhood there before moving to Nasarawa.
When did you start trading currency?
I started in late 2010 when my dad introduced me to his friend that was into the business.
How did you get into the trade?
When we moved to Nasarawa, it was clear I couldn’t further my education. My father spoke to his friend, who had a family in Nasarawa but was working in Lagos as a currency trader. He agreed to put me through the business. So I packed my bags and headed for Lagos the following month with my dad’s friend. When I got to Lagos, I was always assisting in going to the bank and doing other minor things like cleaning, running errands, and doing basic calculations. I also followed and monitored exchange rates for him. After three years, I was ready to set up on my own business.
Has selling currency made you a rich man?
I wouldn’t say I am rich, but I am comfortable. A lot of things have changed for me. There is a huge difference now. I always thank God for my father, who put me on the right track even if he couldn’t afford to sponsor my education.
I am planning to get married this year or early next year. Everything is all set. I have saved up over the years to just make sure my wife and kids get the best in life.
Who are your customers?
My customers are mainly professionals. Most of them want to travel out for holidays and need foreign currencies. Others are here on vacation. They are people I have known for a long time, most of them when I was still under my dad’s friend.
I have established that connection and trust with them for many years. These days I go to their offices or houses for transactions; they don’t bother to come to my shop any longer.
Do you have more customers now that the naira is falling?
Yes o, even before the naira started falling, just a few weeks before the whole coronavirus crisis, my customers have been calling me. They all wanted to change their naira to dollars to hedge against massive depreciation. Anytime the naira falls, we all get a lot of customers. That’s a normal thing; people see it as an opportunity to make money.
What do you do on a typical day when you get to work?
Nothing much, really. When I get to work, I do my prayers first and head out to the bank to get a little cash. The cash is for people who often come to change as little as $500 or more. Other than that, I just sit and gist with my colleagues. There’s no stress in this business.
How does this change when Nigerians are demanding for more foreign currency?
It means you make multiple trips, and the ban on Okada (Bikes) in Lagos state is not helping the matter at all. Now I have to go through a public bus which often delays, and most customers are not patient enough to wait.
I don’t like keeping cash at hand after the close of business. One of my friends was robbed last year because of this. They stole about N500,000 from him, and that’s a huge loss.