The Wood Seller Who Used To Be a Full-Time Alfa

“As a furniture maker, I would buy wood in bulk from Makoko. I would also see people who came to purchase planks and other building materials. That inspired me to inquire about the business. After a few months, I took a bold step and secured a loan from LAPO Microfinance Bank. ”

From being an Alfa to becoming a furniture maker and now a wood seller at Makoko wood market, this man shares his working life with us.

Where are you from?

My name is Mr. Jubril Gafaru. I am from Kwara State.


What was it like growing up?


I was born in Ilorin, Kwara State. My dad is a popular Islamic cleric, married to 2 wives. He had 7 children. I had a strict upbringing, especially as my dad was an Alfa. Immediately after school, we would attend an Islamic school. My father was ready to discipline us if we failed any assignments. I started Islamic school at a tender age. At age 15, I could read every part of the Quran. After several years of learning, I graduated to become an Islamic teacher (Alfa). This did not affect my secondary school education.


When did you come to Lagos?

I came to Lagos with my uncle in 1991 after the Sallah celebrations. I was 24 years old. It was a dream come true for me. I stayed with my uncle and his wife at Iyana Iworo. He had no child, so I provided assistance in the house and at his workplace. He owns a furniture shop in Bariga, so I started learning under him. That was how my journey started; from being an Alfa to a furniture maker.


Are you married?

I am married with four children. My wife is a teacher in a private school in Shomolu.

 Also Read: The Female Tiler Who Left Makoko High School When She Became Pregnant 

Tell us about your education.

I attend Muslim Primary School and Muslim High School in Kwara state. I studied Business Administration at Kwara State Polytechnic and graduated with an Ordinary National Diploma (OND).


What did you dream of becoming as a young person?

I wanted to be a politician. That is still achievable if I have money. As a young man, I had different dreams, but as you can see, I delved into business. I am grateful for where I am today. It is not easy, but we keep pushing.


Where do you live, and how much is your rent?

I stay at Shomolu in a 2-bedroom apartment. My annual rent is N350,000.00. I stayed there for almost 3 years with my family after our relocation from Bariga.


How did you get into this work?

I was not happy learning furniture making from my uncle. I was already a professional furniture maker within 4 years. But because I was learning under my uncle and living in his house, I spent almost 10 years as an apprentice. I started doing my own jobs but still in his workshop. I also moved out of my uncle’s house and rented a room in the same neighbourhood.

As a furniture maker, I would buy wood in bulk from Makoko. There, I would also see people who came to purchase planks and other building materials. That inspired me to inquire about the business. After a few months, I took a bold step and secured a loan from LAPO Microfinance Bank. I applied for a million naira, but after a visit to my shop, the bank gave me N500,000. I was able to pay the rent for my space. It was quite affordable; it cost N150,000. Depending on the location, a space like this costs between N200,000 and N250,000. If you see someone moving out, you could continue with the payment for the place. It is cheaper. So, I got my space and built a small plank store.


How much capital did you start with?

I started my business with the N500,000 loan I received from the bank. This was in 2008. Since I was a frequent buyer of wood from this market, many people knew me and were ready to put me through the business. I paid for the space, settled my superiors and got some materials before I started.


Do you have an idea of how much the machine costs?

The machine is expensive; it costs 8 to 9 million. I don’t have it yet, but hopefully, I will get it. I don’t know if the price has changed due to the high rate of dollars.


How much were you earning daily or weekly when you started the business?

This business isn’t one with a regular daily income. Some days, nobody may come near your goods. This is most common when the river volume is high. In cases like this, people are skeptical about driving their trucks to the shop. They would instead park afar off and pay for loading. The story may differ on some days, especially in the dry season. We witness massive patronage and earn as much as N200,000 to N300,000 daily. Some weeks, we earn 1 million naira or more.

Earning primarily depends on the project the customers want to embark on. Roofing a house is a big project while buying wood for furniture making is small. So, the amount I earn depends on the project of my customers.


Who are your customers, and how do you source wood for them?

Makoko wood market is the most popular in Lagos and the South-West region. I receive customers from far and near. My major customers are site engineers, carpenters, and house owners who want to renovate their houses. Since this is a famous market, we receive lots of patronages.

There are different tasks for different sets of people. Some people source wood in the forest, while others transport this wood to Lagos. I buy wood from these people and sell it to my customers.


How do they source for the wood?

They pay the locals and landowners. The wood is usually sourced from places ranging from Ijebu waterside in Ogun State to Delta and Ondo State.


How much does it cost to buy the boats you use?

I have no idea; someone else owns it. We rent it anytime we need it.


How does your job work, especially when moving wood on water?

I don’t go with them, but I know spending a long time on the water before arriving in Lagos is difficult. I only buy wood from them. I don’t need to follow them to the bush.


Do you encounter any dangers in this business?

Every work has its danger. As humans, the best we can do is to prevent them from happening. That is why we are intentional about safety when working. We put on glasses to prevent dust or pieces of wood from entering our eyes. We also wear face masks to prevent dust inhalation.

Several people have sustained injuries in this business, especially those who push wood from the river banks. A slight mistake and one could end up with a broken leg or hand. Another thing that causes injuries is the machine that cuts wood. The saw can break without warning and cause serious injury. It is highly dangerous, but God is helping us.

 Also Read: Working Lives: The Wood Seller Who Inherited His Father’s Business

How much do you spend on healthcare?

I don’t spend money on healthcare. I am a strong man, and I barely fall sick. If I feel any slight discomfort, I buy agbo (herbal mixture), and I am good to go after drinking it.

What are the most important factors to help you make a profit in this business?

If you buy a wood log for N2,500 or N3,000 and cut it into several pieces, you can make twice your profit. Price changes daily. In times of high demand, we increase our prices. I can make a profit of N6,000 from one log of wood.


Are your children involved in this business?



How does your market association work, and what are the advantages of being a member?

Like other markets, Makoko wood market has a union. We have weekly meetings, and they are an opportunity to deliberate on ongoing issues in the market. If two members are in disagreement or a member requires assistance, we devise a solution together.


What do I have to do if I want to start the trade today?

Money is essential. With money available, you can get the best place in the market. For starters, you would have to pay for the space. After that, you can build your shop or kiosk and stock it with goods. Immediately after you have paid the necessary dues, you can get started. All of these are dependent on money.


How long have you been doing this, and how long do you see yourself doing it?

I have been in this business for over 15 years. I have no plans to quit.

 Also Read: The Fishmongers of Makoko

Tell me about your dreams or plans to venture into something else.

I want to continue with my business and expand it with branches nationwide. By so doing, there will be a steady supply of money. I love money so much and will do anything to get more money.

Exit mobile version