The Parking Attendants (aka Area Boys) of Lagos Series
If you live in Lagos, there’s no escaping the “area boys” aka “allright sir” who pester people for money around shopping malls and eateries. Sometimes looking unkempt, we suspect they could relieve us of our phones, wallets or bags. We talk to four of them about their lives. Many people see them as thugs and petty thieves but they regard themselves as people in the business of “parking” with the sometimes more lucrative side hustle of “hailing”. Many of them were apprentices in various trades before they branched into the parking business. They all have bank accounts, loving family members and dreams.
Working Lives: The Area Boy Who Was Training to be a Yahoo-Yahoo
“I work mostly at night for the car park job. During the day, I always work for one of the offices in Alausa. I am more or less like an errand boy. I help them go and buy food, polish their shoes, wash their cars and other minor things. So I basically work all day”.
When did you get to Lagos?
I was born in Lagos and I have never left Lagos. I grew up in Mushin. It’s one of the ghettos in Lagos. It was very a rough place and still is. That’s probably why I am like this. A street boy.
What school did you attend and when did you leave school?
I attended a public school in Mushin, called Mushin Community Senior High School. I graduated in 2007.
Where do you live?
I squat with my friend in his one-room apartment in Toll Gate. We share kitchen and toilet with other tenants in the house. I am hardly ever around, so I don’t really have a problem with the environment. I only crash at his place during the weekend though, or once in a while during the week. Toll Gate is towards Sango area, I can’t be spending a lot on transportation daily just to come here; it doesn’t make any sense. So I always hang around during the week. I mostly just go to Fela shrine and crash for the night. It’s always a busy place.
Tell me about your family
My mother has six children. I am the second child. My father is a retired civil servant. He was a Level 10 officer working for the Lagos State government during Tinubu’s time. My mom is a trader. She sells paraga at the junction for those keke napep and Danfo drivers. My father tried his best to cater for the family. But it just wasn’t enough. When I left secondary school, my father introduced me to people that he was buying car parts from in Ladipo market so I could learn the trade. I was always in the shop with my boss attending to customers. After sometime, I left. Things were really rough at home. I then decided to set out and hustle on my own. My father then told me not to come back to his house. He said I was a disgrace to the family. I had already started being notorious. He wanted me to go back to my boss but I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t interested in that trade. I just left the house. Somehow, my mom was still always communicating with me. She was always begging me to apologize to my dad so I could come back home. But I was adamant. I was squatting with a friend of mine in Agege who was a yahoo boy. So he told me I could come and stay with him for a while and then he could also put me through on how the game works. After sometime the police came to burst the house. People in the area wrote a petition to the police and that was how it all happened. After my release, I could not go back there. That was how I ended up on the streets, watching over people’s cars that are parked in my space.
How much do you spend in a day?
I eat a lot. On a good day I spend nothing less than N1000. On some days when things are rough, I just manage myself and spend less than N500.
How much do you make from helping people park cars?
I charge N300-N500 per car. So it all depends on how many cars park in my space. Sometimes, I make up to N3000 in a day. Others guys around here make more though. It all depends on how you ginger your hustle.
How did you survive the lockdown? Did you get any palliatives from the Government or a company?
Thank God, I was able to survive. APC people came to share food. Other organizations were also coming around. So I got palliatives that helped me sustain myself.
Have you ever opened a bank account?
Yes. In fact I have two bank accounts. One with GTBank and the other with FirstBank. I mainly use the GTBank for my savings.
What’s your best day like?
Whenever there are shows in the club, days like that are always juicy. Everywhere is crowded. People are looking for where to park. So, I get a lot of customers on such days.
Who are your best customers?
Those that come for shows at night. I always make sure I keep an eye on their cars over the night. And for that, they always tip me very well before they leave.
How many hours do you work in a day?
I work mostly at night for the car park job. During the day, I always work for one of the offices in Alausa. I am more or less like an errand boy. I help them go and buy food, polish their shoes, wash their cars and other minor things. So I basically work all day.
Do you see a doctor when you are ill?
Where do I want to get the money for that? I just go to one of the chemist shops around and buy malaria medicine whenever I am feeling sick. And then I will be fine in no time.
How have you been protecting yourself from the Coronavirus?
I always make sure I wear a face mask whenever I am going to be around a lot of people. And I always make sure I wash my hands very well.
How have you survived with less traffic around the mall?
It’s still all thanks to the organizations that came to share food and then the APC guys. And I also had savings in my GTBank account. I fell back on that, it was a life saving money. I cultivated the habit of saving from my mom.
Do you have a girlfriend and are you looking forward to getting married?
Yes, I have a girlfriend. I am just trying to hustle more so I can gather enough money and rent an apartment. By then we can talk of having kids. I don’t want to impregnate someone’s daughter when I don’t have a roof over my head yet.