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 Still Wondering Why His Poor Father Married A Second Wife
“Immediately the government announced that we should all stay indoors for two weeks, my mom just called me on that Sunday and ordered me to come home. I love my mom so much. I always obey whatever she says. No matter how much of a street boy I think I am. So during the whole lockdown there wasn’t really any worry about surviving. My mom was there for me”.
When did you get to Lagos?
I was born here in Lagos. I grew up in Ojuelegba. We lived in a very small apartment in Shita.
What school did you attend and when did you leave school?
I attended Aguda Grammar School all the way to Senior Secondary School 1 and that was it. My father just woke up one morning and said he couldn’t afford to keep paying to keep my older brother and me in school. That was when it all began. I had to start hustling on my own.
Tell me about your family?
I am from a polygamous family. My father has two wives. My father is a danfo driver, he plies the Ikorodu road. My mother sells frozen food in Surulere. She keeps a very small stock, nothing big. She was using the profit from the business to help with food at home. She really tried her best. My dad was also really trying until he went to marry another wife. Ever since he got married to the second wife, things just became very hard at home. I don’t know why a poor man would marry two wives. I still keep on wondering till date. He literally just woke up one morning and said I was old enough to start catering for myself. He told my older brother the same thing. He said he had to focus on our younger ones and that we should cater for ourselves since we were above 16 already. That was when the street hustling started for me. I started as a conductor with one of his colleagues then but the pay wasn’t good. He was just treating me anyhow, probably because he knew my dad. So I left the job and came down to Ikeja. I mingled with a few guys on the street and that is how I ended up in this car park job. I go home once in a while though just to say hello to my mom and my younger siblings.
Where do you live?
I squat with a friend once in a while somewhere close to Sango. He rides an okada. That’s his own little hustle. I just give him little change once in a while depending on how boxed up I am. I also randomly buy food stuff for the house so it won’t look like I am just living there for free. Sometimes when I go to Sango and I don’t have money to come to Ikeja, I just hang on danfo buses coming towards Ikeja. I don’t go home every day. I hang around and sleep on the street so I can save the money for transport. The place is a 1-room apartment. Not that bad, though. The environment is clean. The landlord always makes sure we tidy up the compound. We contribute money monthly to pay a woman that cleans the compound.
How much do you spend in a day?
It all depends on how business booms for the day. On a normal day I spend nothing less than N500. I have one mama around the corner. I just go there and buy my rice, beans, and ponmo or I go for Amala.
How much do you make from helping people park cars?
The highest I have made in a day is N7,000. I was so happy on that day. It was when Goldberg came to organize a show in the mall; everywhere was filled. People needed to park so badly. I made a lot that day. This is why I always pray that coronavirus should end quickly. So things can be back to normal.
How did you survive the lockdown? Did you get any palliatives from the Government or a company?
Immediately the government announced that we should all stay indoors for two weeks, my mom just called me on that Sunday and ordered me to come home. I love my mom so much. I always obey whatever she says. No matter how much of a street boy I think I am. So during the whole lockdown there wasn’t really any worry about surviving. My mom was there for me.
Have you ever opened a bank account?
Yes. I opened a bank account in 2014. I was always saving the little I got from the conductor job.
What’s your best day like?
When I watch over people’s car and I hail the big boys that come to the club. I make enough money to sustain me for a week. I won’t have to worry about food. Food is just the main priority. Other things are by the way. I can’t even remember the last time I bought a shoe or any form of clothing for myself.
Who are your best customers?
Big boys that come to the club. You see all those guys, just hail them and you will definitely get tips from them. The best day was when a customer gave me N5000 cash. I was so happy on that day. Until today, I still wonder why someone would give me that kind of money. Someone I don’t even know from Adam. All I did was just hail.
How many hours do you work in a day?
That should be about 8 hours if I work only at night. But if I work during the day, that’s say maybe 10 or 12 hours.
Do you see a doctor when you are ill?
Who has money to see a doctor? I don’t have that kind of money o. With the little that I am trying to gather, you now want me to go and give one doctor that will just write grammar for me? All I do when I am sick is just go to a chemist. With N300 I will be able to get medicine that will cure my illness. I hardly even fall sick.
How have you been protecting yourself from the Coronavirus?
Just the usual. I have not been out for a while now. Like I said earlier I was with my mom all through the lockdown. So I self isolated myself. And now that I am back outside, I wear my face mask often and make sure I wash my hands from time to time.
How have you survived with less traffic around the mall?
You know I was with my mom, so I wasn’t really affected. She really supported me. I wonder how I would have survived.
Do you have a girlfriend? Are you looking forward to getting married?
Yes. I am looking forward to getting married soon, maybe next year. I am not getting any younger. My mom wants me to bring my girlfriend home so we can at least just do a little introduction between both families. After that, I can then go ahead and impregnate her.