Working Lives: The Affidavit Agent Who Forges Marriage Certificate
Samuel is one of the five children of a former NEPA staff whose pension was N35,000 per month. He learned to repair phones but had to join the affidavit business because he wasn’t getting enough customers. It was only then that he was able to save enough money to study for a National Diploma in Public Administration. He sometimes helps people forge marriage certificates.
“Most of us are just hustlers. The street is our shop”.
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Samuel Adebowale. My parents are from Osun State. I was born and raised in Ketu, Lagos State.
Tell us about your education.
I attended Alapere Primary School. I proceeded to Ojota Senior Secondary School. Currently, I am running a part-time National Diploma programme at Yaba College of Technology. I am studying Public Administration.
Where do you live and how much is your rent?
I live in a self-contained room and parlour with two of my friends at Ikosi-Ketu. We are all single men. The rent is N150, 000:00 per annum. Each of us contributes N50,000:00 towards the rent. The landlord just informed us that our rent will be N170,000:00 from next year.
How did you start this business?
My father was a retired NEPA (Ijora Power Station) staff member with five children. His pension of N35, 000 was not enough to feed us. Paying for university for any of us was out of the question.
We all attended public primary and secondary schools. I learned how to repair phones for seven months after secondary school. My parents bought the tools I needed to work. I started working under an umbrella from a spot at a T-junction near our house. The “rent” was N1,500 per week for the agbero boys.
So why did you leave the phone repair business?
But the business was not going well. As a result, I could be in the shop for a week and not repair any phone. Nevertheless, I was confident in my skills so I decided to move from Ketu and join them at Computer Village Ikeja. For about seven months, I rented a small space in front of a shop at the Computer Village. I was paying N1000 every day to the owner of the shop.
Were things better at the Computer Village?
Everybody hustles for customers at the Computer Village. As a consequence, It was also difficult to get customers. Not everyone coming to computer village is there to fix a phone. Some are there to fix their computers and some come to buy new gadgets. I was not satisfied with my earnings.
One day, I met some people who were in the affidavit business. I asked questions about how to join the business and decided to join because I like what they told me. Afterwards, they said that I had to see their chairman. I paid N10,000 and bought drinks. They prayed for me. That is how I started my journey in the affidavit business.
What do you pay for the shop for the affidavit business?
Only a few of us have shops. Most of us hang around the street, from the Computer Village right up to the court premises. Most of us are just hustlers. Renting a shop around this place is expensive. The street is our shop.
How much capital did you start with?
In this type of business, capital is not needed. You only have to pay the chairman and hustle for customers. A shop is not important for our business.
Who are your customers?
Not everyone is allowed into the court premises. Even if a customer goes into the court premises to get the document they want, it will be difficult to locate the office. Once you are seen loitering around, you will be sent outside. We stand as an intermediary between the court officials and the people. We help people get any document they want. Everyone is our customer.
What are the peak periods?
Monday to Friday is our peak period. I don’t go to work on weekends because we experience low turnout.
Give me a list of the documents you process for people.
We process documents like marriage certificates, change of name, loss of documents, birth certificates, car documents, and travel documents.
How much do you charge for each document?
Our price depends on the document the client requires. We charge as low as N5, 000 for a change of name and N60, 000 for an original marriage certificate. We can forge a fake marriage certificate for N15,000. People come to us for fake marriage certificates for reasons best known to them.
In a good week, how much do you make?
I make between N30, 000 to N40, 000 in a week. To fulfill my ambition to further my education, I saved N100,000:00 to process my admission. I pay tuition of N50,000:00 every term.
How much profit do you make on each document?
The profit I make on each document depends on the amount the customer is willing to pay.
For how many hours do you work in a day?
I resume by 8 am and I close by 5 pm.
Do you have savings?
Yes, I have savings. I am into monthly contributions (Ajo) with my other colleagues. I try as much as possible to save up to N5, 000 in a week.
Apart from an affidavit, do you do other things for extra money?
I use my weekends to fix phones. I don’t have a shop yet. My customers are people in my community. I make between N5,000:00 and N6,000:00 every weekend from fixing phones.
Before starting the trade, did you have to register with anybody or a union?
I won’t say I registered with any union. I took permission from the chairman. This is my third year in this affidavit business and I have not paid an additional fee.
So, what do I have to do if I wanted to start the trade today?
The first step is to know the various offices and the documents they deal with. You need to form a relationship with the people in the offices because the court environment is your source of livelihood. You also have to know the cost of each document. This will guide you from making mistakes and running into loss.
You must know how to hustle hard because you are not the only one here hustling. If you tick all these boxes, then you can see the chairman. He will be the one to put you through the rules and regulations and admit you as a member.
How much longer do you see yourself doing it?
This is my third year in this business. For now, I don’t have any other thing to do. Really, I don’t know when I am going to quit. The little profit from this business is what I used to sponsor myself to school.
I plan to raise money to rent a shop of my own. Ultimately, my plan is to run my affidavit and phone repair business together. So, I would have an office where you can come and get your document done and also repair your phone.