Working Lives

Working Lives: How “Shoprite” Taxi Drivers Are Surviving Under the Lockdown

Taxi drivers rank high on the list of Nigerians who depend on daily incomes. They have to get out there and ferry passengers about to make money daily. Most of them don’t have a lot of savings – they buy the cars on credit and have to pay down the cost in installment every week. Maintaining the cars also eats into their income. Remote working is out of the question for them. So how have they survived almost five weeks under the Covid-19 lockdown? We talk to four of them – a group of friends who ply their trade outside the Ikeja City Mall aka Shoprite.

TOLU: I have a wife and four children. We used to spend about N6,000 a day at home but now we spend less than N500”.

 

 What car do you drive? 

I drive a Toyota Corolla. I got the car on hire purchase in 2019. I pay the owner N100,000 every month. I will complete payment in December. After then the car will become mine. I have paid N1.4 million so far. I have not been able to pay since the lockdown.

 When did you start this job?

I started driving in 2010 with RedCab. But I eventually branched out on my own.

Do you have clients or do you join the queue for passengers?

My clients mostly come from my personal base. I mean I have personal customers through referrals. People recommend you to their friends and family, it is all about your character and work ethic. Some customers are new to Lagos and they need help booking an hotel or finding a good place to stay. When you drive them around and help them find a suitable place, they tend to like you.

How large is your family/ what does your wife do?

I have a wife and four children. My wife has a shop in front of the house. She was a teacher in a secondary school but it was too hard taking care of the kids and preparing lesson notes. So, we decided she should stay home and set up a shop for her. Thank God we have the shop, at least.  It is the little change from there that we are using to manage, though we have not been able to stock up.

How have you survived since the lockdown?

I used to make up to N10,000 daily. But our job is not all ups all the time. It’s not consistent. We make nothing on some days. But that does not happen very often. But since the lockdown, there has been no work. It hasn’t been easy o. Things are really hard but we give thanks. We have had to adjust.

How much do you spend a day? How much do you spend now?

We used to spend about N6,000 a day at home but now we spend less than N500.

Did you have savings to fall back on?

There are no savings to fall back on. So, we are being very careful.

What if the Government decides we have to stay at home for another 2 weeks?

Ah. I am looking forward to this Monday so we can all go back to work. If the government should extend the lockdown, it’s going to get really bad. It will be serious wahala, I tell you. Like I said, there is nothing to fall back on. We have exhausted all that we have. I don’t even know where the next meal is going to come from.

How have you and your family survived if you had no saving and no food in the house before the lockdown?

To survive so far, I have been reaching out to people, begging people I know that are better off. Some respond. Some don’t. I don’t even know what the government is doing. They said we will collect something with our BVN. If they give me N20,000 now and my wife also gets N20,000, that is N40,000 for our household. I will be fine with that. In fact, we will be ok for the whole of May.

Have you tried to risk working despite the lockdown?

I haven’t been driving since the lockdown. I don’t like going against the law but I don’t know how long I want to stay at home for. I call my friends, a lot of them have taken their cars on the road and continued working. They have  no money to sustain their famliy. They find their way out one way or the other. I am only still patient because I have been sustaining myself by the grace of God so far.

What do you think you have to do to protect yourself from Coronavirus when you return to work?

I will be more careful. I will sanitize my car, cover my nose and avoid crowded places.

 

CHRIS: “I tried going out to work one day like that… The police almost collected my car. I had to start begging. The funniest thing is that I didn’t even get any passenger that day.”

 

What car do you drive? 

I drive a Toyota Corolla, the 2005 model. The car is not mine, so I remit to the owner weekly.

And when did you start this job?

I started driving with my own personal car a long time ago, but it wasn’t up to Uber standard. So I started working with Uber with the new car in 2019.

 

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Do you have clients or take anyone that turns up?

I have personal clients that call me when they need a ride, so I go to pick them wherever they are. Most of them don’t like using the application again once they collect my number; they just put a call through when they need a ride.

How large is your family/ what does your wife do?

I have 3 kids, my wife is a business woman. She sells foodstuffs at her shop.

How have you survived since the lockdown?

Things have been very difficult since the whole coronavirus thing started, thank God for family members and friends that have been able to help. I even heard rumors that they have added two weeks. I just hope it’s not true. There’s no work, we cannot go out and drive anymore because the police would harass you. There are no customers that are even calling. All of them are at home.

How much did you spend a day? How much do you spend now?

I normally spend N5,000 in a day. Some of these go on the  kids, they always want to buy things before going to school . I also fuel my car. But now I hardly spend up to N1,000.

 Did you have savings to fall back on?

I have a backup saving for my car just In case it develops any fault but now I have started spending part of the money to sustain my family and me.

What if the Government decides we have to stay at home for another 2 weeks?

Well, if the government decides to add two more weeks, we the masses we suffer more. But there’s nothing we can do if they extend it, we just have to obey the law. They are enforcing the law on us. The rich are not suffering,  it is us the poor that are suffering.  Our work is a daily work, that’s how we get money. We don’t get salaries every month.

How have you and your family survived if you had no saving and no food in the house before the lockdown? Have you tried to risk working despite the lockdown?

I tried going out to work one day like that, but the embarrassment was epic. The police almost collected my car. I had to start begging. The funniest thing is that I didn’t even get any passenger that day.

What do you think you have to do to protect yourself from Coronavirus when you return to work?

Once this thing is over, we will still have to take precautions and protect ourselves. I will make sure I always wear my face mask and have a sanitizer in my car for myself and my passengers. And I will make sure I do not carry more than two passengers. I am not risking anything.

 

AMBO: “My wife has been out of work for a long time because we have a newborn she is nursing.”

 

What car do you drive? 

It is a Toyota Corolla 2005 model. I drive my own car. I bought it in 2017.

When did you start this job?

I started working around 2013 when I left school and I could not find a job.

How do you get passengers?

My client base is mixed. Some call me on the phone once they get to Lagos and need to get around the city. Other times, I pick people up from the mall. At least, that was what I used to do.

How large is your family/ what does your wife do?

Three. My wife has been out of work for a long time because we have a newborn she is nursing.

How have you survived since the lockdown?

It has not been easy since the lockdown. I have been at home, doing nothing. Thankfully, we already stocked food at home before the lockdown so we are surviving on that. But we are running out of food. You know I even stopped working before the lockdown order. I fell sick three days to the lockdown. So, I have been out of work for quite longer than most people.

How much do you spend a day? How much do you spend now?

We do not do much spending but that is because there isn’t much to spend. Before the lockdown, I used to make up to N20,000 on a good day. That was quite good. There were also terrible days when I would make nothing. But that was a rare occurrence. Maybe twice a month. Now, making nothing is the new norm.

Did you have savings to fall back on?

No.

 

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What if the Government decides we have to stay at home for another 2 weeks?

If the government extends this lockdown again by another two weeks I might be forced to go back to work.Even though the police is surveilling the streets, I might not have a choice. I might have to go and take passengers between bus stops nearby. Maybe at night to avoid the police.

Have you tried to risk working despite the lockdown?

No.

What do you think you have to do to protect yourself from Coronavirus when you return to work?

I will wear a mask. I have not found the real facemask. But I use my handkerchief as mask. I will also have to wash the car thoroughly and try to take precaution. It might not be the safest thing to do but we will look for a way around it.

EKO: “My wife is into logistics. She does delivery of essential goods, mostly clothing and other minor things. She has about 5 dispatch riders and the business is doing very well.”

 

What car do you drive? 

I drive a Toyota Camry. The car is mine. I bought it just few months before I started this job.

When did you start this job?

I started driving as a cab driver in 2018.

What were you doing before you started this job?

I left school in 2005 and became a Lagos state staff member. I worked with the Lagos State Waste Management agency.

How do you get passengers?

There are those that come to shop, see movies and all that. I also stay around the mall till late at night. Most times I even sleep in my car  just so I will be able to pick up those who have clubbing over the night. I have clients that who have become my regular customer. They always put a call though whenever they need me. I also offer my service to anyone that turns up.

How large is your family, what does your wife do?

I have three kids. My wife is into logistics. She does delivery of essential goods, mostly clothing and other minor things. She has about 5 dispatch riders and the business is doing very well.

How have you survived since the lockdown?

Since the lockdown began, it’s been God’s grace being able to survive. It’s the fourth week already. I just hope things get better so everything can be back to normal. I don’t want to resort to spending all my savings.

How much do you spend a day? How much do you spend now?

Before the whole coronavirus things started, I spend nothing less than N2,000 in a day but now I hardly spend up to N500 because I  have stocked the house with food. So I really don’t have to spend so much. Thank God for my savings, only God knows how my family would have been able to survive.

Did you have savings to fall back on?

Yes.

What if the Government decides we have to stay at home for another two weeks?

The government said they were going to distribute palliatives to the most vulnerable but we are yet to get anything. It’s really a pity, other countries are treating their citizens very well, but over here in Nigeria, the government are sharing 1 derica of rice and N100 bread, how is that supposed to sustain a family of five for 4 weeks? These people do not rate us at all. A family friend in America called me the other day, saying he got his stimulus check of $1200 that’s about N432,000, my jaws dropped while I was on the phone. Our government needs to do better, I wonder what they are doing with all the donations flying around.

So you and your family have survived on your own?

All thanks to my savings and my wife’s assistance. If not I will definitely be a beggar now. Saving is really a good thing, it has helped a lot. My only fear is that I won’t have to spend all my savings. This pandemic has to be over as soon as possible. The government should also find an adequate means of disbursing funds so people can at least have something to fall back on. It’s really hard for those of us that live on daily income.

Have you tried to risk working despite the lockdown?

I can’t even risk going out to work because there is actually no work. People are indoors. There’s nobody coming to clubs, restaurants in the mall and all that. The other day I decided to just risk going out to see whether I would be able to make N5,000 at least, it was dry. There was nobody around, even commercial buses were empty.

What do you think you have to do to protect yourself from Coronavirus when you return to work?

Once the government says we can start working, I will make sure I wash my hands regularly and use face mask. I don’t want to risk getting infected and infecting my family at home. I will also make sure I don’t carry more than two or three passengers. One at the front and two at the back.

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