Working Lives

The Dollar Mallam Who Couldn’t Afford University but Now Has 3-Bedroom House

Dollar Mallams in Lagos

The Dealer Who Couldn’t Afford University Education but Now Has 3-Bedroom House


A currency trader with no university education, who started as a trainee at one of Lagos suburbs, shares insights into the currency market, and how his market strategy has helped him to scale through in a volatile environment.

Where are you from? 

I was born in Kaduna state while my parents are from Kano state, north-western Nigeria. I spent most of my childhood in Kaduna. I received an elementary education, but I couldn’t go further to University. Precisely, I stopped after finishing Senior Secondary School (SSS 3) class. My father was unable to send me to University.

When did you start trading currency?

Well, I started trading under my boss around 2009. By 2013, I left to start my own currency trading business.

 How did you get into the trade? 

After dropping out of school in Class 3, I started to think of what to do with my life. I had a friend who had left Kaduna for Lagos three years earlier. I spoke to him. He was living in Agege and was into currency trading, working under a boss. I decided to join them as a trainee. That was it.

Also Read: Working Lives: The Mallam Who Specialises in Yahoo Yahoo Dollars 

Has selling currency made you a rich man?

It depends on your definition of “rich”; we know there are levels to riches. I have been able to build a three-bedroom flat in my home town from the business. My business is in Lagos, but my family is at home in Kaduna. I have one wife with four children. Every month, I make sure I send money to them and visit twice a year – usually during Sallah and Christmas holidays.

Who are your customers?

The majority of my customers are Nigerians returning from abroad. They come in for holidays, wedding parties, burial ceremonies, etc. Most of them come home to spend and need to change their Dollars, Pounds, and Euros to Naira. I offer my customers very good rates so they can recommend me to other people. That’s one of my business strategies.

Do you have more customers now that the naira is falling in value to the dollar?

Yes. I sell dollars to people every day. But now that the naira is depreciating against other foreign currencies, everyone want to buy more dollars. The market is crazy right now. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I usually sell about $3,000 on average per day. But now, it has doubled, I sell $7,000 or above.

What do you do on a typical day when you get to work?

When I get to my small office in the morning, I try to balance and reconcile accounts from the previous business day. In this business, keeping an accurate record is very important.

After reconciling, I have a lot of free time because most of my day’s activities and trading are done on mobile phones. Gone are the days when I have to stand in the sun for hours hustling for customers. Now I can boast of my customer base and I have a trainee who does all the running around. He visits the bank regularly to get cash for our customers. Sometimes I deliver the cash myself to customers or send my boy.

Also Read: Working Lives: The Graduate Who Sews Babaringa But Plans to Teach Biochemistry

So how has this routine changed now that there is greater demand for Forex?

It has been a tough period meeting the demand of customers. My boy assists in some of these activities such as getting cash from the bank for customers.

There’s a bank around the office, and the Branch Manager is a very good friend. Whenever my boy is on his way to the bank, I will put a call through to him, so they don’t delay him at all. He doesn’t need to join the queue to withdraw. Some of our customers don’t want to handle cash when they are selling forex to us, so we transfer money into their bank accounts. A good working relationship with the bank and customer is the utmost priority of every successful currency trader.


Read the third story in our Dollar Mallams of Ikeja series tomorrow, “The Dealer Who is Also Into Serious Farming in Kano”.

Oluwatomi Otuyemi

Oluwatomi Otuyemi, a Geology graduate from Crawford University, has 5 years experience in corporate corporate communications. He has a passion for storytelling, and investigative reporting.

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