Working Lives: The Market Porter Who Works for His Rent, Weed and a Babe
“Looking back to when I got to Lagos and had nowhere to sleep and where I am right now, I am thankful. There has been a form of improvement at least. But if I would be happy to start getting the construction gigs again. That would bring me more cash. But God knows best”.
Where are you from?
I am from Sokoto state.
Tell me about your family?
Well, we actually did not live in Sokoto state at all. My dad was in Kubwa In Abuja where he worked as a labourer for a construction company. That was when he met my mom and the story began. They have five children, including me. My mom sells wara just beside the house.
What school did you attend and when did you leave school?
Before I left Kubwa in Abuja, I attended a primary school and that was all. I think I left primary school in 2005 or so. I cannot really remember the exact year.
When did you get to Lagos?
I got to Lagos for the first time in 2008 my dad brought me along with him to work on a construction project. They needed Hausa people to dig the ground so I came with him as an extra hand so I could also make money. After the job was over we went back to Kubwa. I was amazed at how one could easily get something to do that will bring in money in Lagos. Lagos is a place where no matter what, as long as you are not a lazy person, you will find something to do. The following year, I decided to come on my own and live in Lagos. I was just 16 .
Where do you live and how much is the rent?
When I just got to Lagos by myself, I did not have anywhere I was staying. I just slept wherever nightfall met me. But now I live in a room with another porter in Mile 12 . We pay N4,000 for the monthly rent. We split the rent.
What were you doing before you started working as a porter?
I was doing different kinds of odd jobs. I worked for several construction companies to either dig the ground or help carry materials to the site. I also bought a bike one time like that but the disturbance from the police was getting too much so I decided to sell it. After I sold the bike, I used part of the money to rent an apartment. It was a room like I said earlier.
How did you start working as a porter in this market?
When I stopped getting work with construction companies, I had to start looking for alternatives. The connection that normally came to look for Hausa guys for the work stopped coming for us. We heard he got sacked. They do all sorts of shady deals. They tell us to inflate the money they were paying us when the companies asked. We cooperate because we felt they would stop giving us work if we told the company the truth, how much the subcontractors paid us. Anyways, when the construction jobs dried up that was when I became a porter at Mile 12 market. Actually, I started in Agege market, that was my initial base. But I just had to move. I needed a change of environment.
For how long have you been doing this job?
If I am going to include the time I spent at Agege market, that is about 6 years now.
What’s your best day like?
My best day would have to be when I get a lot of customers of course and that is usually on days when it doesn’t rain. Ugh! I hate it when it rains while I am at work. It messes up the whole market and my plan for the day. I always set my mind at a particular amount of money I want to make every day. This is Lagos. One has to shine his eyes.
Have you had any shocking encounters with a customer before?
No, I have not. Should I say I am a pro in this job? Or let me just put it like this, I know how to relate with customers a lot. Plus, I speak a little bit of Yoruba and pidgin. So, it is always easier for me to communicate with my customers very well. Unlike some other guys here that don’t even understand pidgin. The majority of them only understand the basics like “pay me N100”, “where you wan make I carry am go” etc.
How many hours do you work in a day?
I work for 9 hours in a day. I start working by 8am and close by 6pm.
Do you work on weekends too?
The only time I work during the weekend is when I need extra cash to make the target I have set for the week and have missed. My brother, you must have noticed I have been hammering on the word target. Abi? It is very important. I would not like when my rent is due and then I have to start begging my landlord. No way!
How much are you paid when you carry groceries for your customers?
There’s really no specific amount, I just charge based on how the spirit leads. Hahaha. Plus, I actually look at people’s physical appearance and what they have gotten before I charge them. Once I see an individual, I know this madam is a big woman so she would not mind dashing me N400 or even N500. Whereas there are some that I do not charge more than N100 or N200 at most.
How much do you make in a day or week?
My weekly target is N4,000 at least. I always try to meet the target. N4,000 might be small money to you o, but do you know the kind of stress I have to go through before I make such an amount in a week?
How much do you spend in a day?
N200 takes me to work and back home. My house is not really far. I also eat while I am at work. I spend N200 or N300 at most on meals. So, let us just sum it up to N500. That is the highest amount of money I can spend on food in a day. Everything has a budget.
What other things do you spend on?
On weekends I relax with my guys. I am a smoker. We buy weed and all smoke together. Weed takes about N1,000 from me weekly. Apart from that I do not spend on any other thing. I occasionally give money to this babe that is always disturbing me though. Maybe N1,500 every two weeks.
Have you ever opened a bank account?
Yes, when I just got to Lagos I opened a bank account with First Bank. But I don’t even use it anymore, it is just dormant. Where do I even want to get money to put in it? Me that is managing myself.
Do you have savings and how much do you save in a month?
I had savings. Those times when I was still getting construction work. I used to save about N4,000 monthly. But right now, I do not, the only thing I am always conscious about saving for is my rent.
Are you married or are you looking forward to getting married?
I am not married and I am also not looking forward to getting married yet. I just have an acquaintance like I mentioned earlier. That is the girl that disturbs me for money. We just play around during the weekend if you know what I mean. That is why I even give her money. She is a sales girl at a shop where she assists her boss. She is also a Northerner. We met when I was still in Agege market and we are close friends. Fortunately, for the both of us her boss moved her shop from Agege to Ketu so we work close to each other.
Any other job or business you would like to venture into?
I really do not have anything else in mind. God is providing for me. I have a roof over my head. That is all that matters to me. Looking back to when I got to Lagos and had nowhere to sleep and where I am right now, I am thankful. There has been a form of improvement at least. But if I would be happy to start getting the construction gigs again. That would bring me more cash. But God knows best.