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 Doesn’t Want His Son to Turn Out Like Him
“Technically I did not finish secondary school because I did not write the WAEC exam. My father could not afford to pay fees then….My mom sells puff puff in the school I attended back in Osun State. I went to learn tailoring in Osogbo. My boss was maltreating me. I couldn’t take it and decided to quit and leave for Lagos.”
When did you get to Lagos?
I grew up in Osun State. That is where my family is, including my siblings. I came to Lagos in 2008 to hustle after I finished secondary school. Technically I did not finish secondary school because I did not write the WAEC exam. My father could not afford to pay fee then. I attended one of those cheap private schools in Osun state. I left in 2004.
Tell me about your family.
Well, I am from a family of 5 – my dad, mum, 2 younger siblings and I. My dad is a welder. He makes burglary proof for windows, gates and all that. My mom sells puff puff in the school I attended back in Osun State. Things were really rough, but they both still tried their best to sponsor my education at a cheap private school. You know, those private schools that are not up to standard. Some of us made it to the university, others whose parents could not afford to sponsor them further went to learn trades. I went to learn tailoring in Osogbo. My boss was maltreating me. They treat apprentices like trash. I couldn’t take it and decided to quit and leave for Lagos. My parents supported the decision. I just wanted them to focus on my younger ones. I did not want to be a burden to them anymore.
Where do you live?
I live in Agege with a friend. The rent is N5,000 per month. We both contribute towards paying the landlord. It is a “boys’ quarter”-a sitting room, bedroom, kitchen and toilet. Some of our friends also squat with us. We just packed ourselves together. About 5-6 of us. The last person only comes during the weekend.
How much do you spend in a day?
It depends. On a good weekend, Fridays and Saturdays, when people go clubbing and I help them park their cars, I spend N300-N500 daily the following week. I gather a lot of money. But when things are slow and I don’t get customers to fill my parking space, I spend N200 daily.
How much do you make from helping people park cars?
You know this location is a hotcake. It is close to the mall. Apart from people that come to club on Fridays and Saturdays, during the week I also get workers that park here. Sometimes the parking space in their office might be filled up, so they just park over here. I charge N500 naira for a car. So it all depends on how many people park their cars in my space. That is why you always see us hustling hard all day to get more people to park in our space.
How did you survive the lockdown? Did you get any palliatives from the Government or a company?
It has really been rough. Nobody was outside, offices were closed and clubs were not open. During the first week of the lockdown I was still trying hard, but people were not paying the normal N500 again. They just gave me tips, sometimes N100. I didn’t have a choice, I still collected it.
I got palliatives from the Lagos State government. The rice and garri were helpful during the lockdown even if it was nothing to write home about. It got to a point that some guys and I started begging on the road. It was really crazy, I tell you.
Have you ever opened a bank account?
Yes. When I was in Osun State I opened an account with GTBank. My boss then was giving me stipends, sometimes N1000 or N2000. So I always saved the money in my bank account because I was preparing to come to Lagos. So I was saving every little money I got.
What’s your best day like?
My best days on this street will have to be during the weekend, starting from Friday. Everyone comes out to club, to shop and do other things in the mall. So it’s always a very busy time, and I get to make enough money also. On a good night, I make nothing less than N5000. Note that this N5000 is just the money I make from parking cars. I also make money from hailing people. When those big men come to the club with their babes, I just hail them and then they give me a little change. Some N200, others N500. It all depends.
Who are your best customers?
Professionals that work around this area, those are my best customers. During the day I always watch over their cars that are parked in my space just in case these LASTMA guys come around. I will quickly alert them to come and re-park. Some of them even trust me enough with their car keys. So they get to pay me good money. Sometimes I get as high as N1000 from just one person. Calculate that times 5 people. That’s cool cash.
How many hours do you work in a day?
Most times I rotate it. Let’s say, for instance, I am tired from Sunday’s stress. I won’t bother coming out the next morning to hustle. I will just stay indoors and rest. But when I am not really tired, I come out as early as 8 am to mount my spot just before someone else comes to snatch it. So, I would work from 8am until 6pm – 7pm when my customers would be closing from work. I mostly just hang around and keep an eye on the cars. I then go back home and rest for a bit, then come back later at night for those that are coming to club.
Do you see a doctor when you are ill?
Doctor? I wish. I just use agbo and I get better in no time. I hardly even fall sick.
How have you been protecting yourself from the Coronavirus?
I have been doing everything the government has told us to do. That is, washing our hands, social distancing from others and wearing a face mask. As you can see I am wearing a face mask. I love my life. I don’t want to die yet. It’s crazy how some of my guys think this coronavirus thing is a joke.
How have you survived with less traffic around the mall?
It was a really crazy experience for me. No cars around at all. Some NGOs came here to share food and other necessities. You know this place is the center of Lagos. So during those times, different companies were always coming around to share one thing or the other. And of course, I was always hanging around too. I wouldn’t want to be left out. That was how I survived.
Do you have a girlfriend and are you looking forward to getting married?
Yes, I have a girlfriend. And she has a kid for me. She gave birth early last year. My son is one of the reasons I am really trying my best to get things together. I wouldn’t want him to grow up and be like his father. This is why I won’t even give birth to more than one kid…for now, at least. Because I know I can’t afford to take care of a large family yet. Family planning got us covered.