Working Lives: The Mallam Who Specialises in Yahoo Yahoo Dollars
“Those guys process money every day. They often connect me to more of their friends because I always get everything done on time. And with that, I get cut from the deal. I know what they are doing is illegal but I always like doing business with them. It’s very profitable”.
Where are you from?
I am from Lokoja in Kogi State. My hometown is called Adankolo.
When did you start trading currency?
I started in 2007 in Abuja. I used to hang around at the airport and big hotels looking for customers. In 2010, when most of my friends moved to Lagos, I joined them. This was because the Lagos currency market was booming.
How did you get into the trade?
Growing up I didn’t have any interest in school, to be honest. We all know how bad the quality of education is in Northern Nigeria. So the moment I knew my left from my right, I started thinking about what kind of business I could get into. I knew I would need money to finance any business so I started with gathering metals on the streets of Lokoja.
I sold the scrap metal to the steel company for recycling. I kept on doing that for close to two years. So with my savings, I moved to Abuja. My parents supported my decision. They gave me extra cash.
When I got to Lagos, I started to learn more about the trade (currency trading).
For example, how to monitor the market so you know if the dollar is rising or falling. I started by changing only dollars, but as I got more money, I started to buy and sell other currencies.
Has selling currency made you a rich man?
Looking at my life from way back, I can say a lot has changed for the better. I send money to my parents every month. I also send money to my family.
I recently bought three motorcycles for a transportation business. I gave them out to some people who will deliver money weekly.
Without this business, I wouldn’t have been able to do all of these. I am just trying to gather more money, so by the end of the year, at least, I will travel back home to complete my house. When that is done, I won’t have to worry anymore about paying rent in Lokoja. All I am trying to do is just make my family a better version of myself. I want to change minds and orientation about schooling in the North. People believe we don’t go to school and a majority of us can’t succeed like other tribes.
So yes, this business has made me and my family comfortable. I still aspire to be more than what I am right now.
Who are your customers?
Hmm… My main customers are yahoo-yahoo boys. That’s the plain fact. I am only telling you this because you seem to be a ‘coded person’. When those yahoo boys get money from their clients, I help them in doing every necessary thing. Going to the bank and all that.
I am more or less like a picker for them. I also have professionals as customers. But yahoo guys are my main customers.
Those guys process money every day. They often connect me to more of their friends because I always get everything done on time. And with that, I get cut from the deal. I know what they are doing is illegal but I always like doing business with them. It’s very profitable.
Do you have more customers now that the naira is falling?
This is the time I am always happy about this business. As I said, yahoo boys are my main customers, so whenever they see that the naira is falling, they scale up their hustle and get more forex. I change dollars worth more than N2 million for them at times.
What do you do on a typical day when you get to work?
Nothing much, I am big in the business already, so all I just do is wait for my phone to ring and then most of the time I go and get the currencies. I can’t disclose where I get that from because of security reasons. I sometimes get from the banks, but not all the time. I also attend to a few people who just come around at intervals to change little amount like $500-$1500.
How does this change when Nigerians are demanding more foreign currency?
Now that the naira is falling, those people who would normally change as little as $1,000 are now changing more. Some may even empty their accounts and change all their savings to dollars to hedge against the devaluation of the naira. When I don’t have enough forex to change, I run around to get more dollars from my sources.
Read the second story in our Dollar Mallams of Ikeja series tomorrow, “The Dealer Who Couldn’t Afford University Education but Now Has 3-Bedroom House“.