Working Lives

Working Lives: The Civil Servant Who Does Not Want To Die Alone In Her Car

The Civil Servant Who Does Not Want To Die Alone In Her Car

I won’t say I am using my car for commercial purposes. I use my car to pick up passengers so that I would not die alone in my car.

What is your name?

My name is Mariam Shittu and I am from Osun State.

Tell us about your family.

I met my husband in school. I never knew he would father my children. My husband and I did our ND together and through the programme, we barely spoke three words to each other. It was when I went back for my HND that our love kindled and the chemistry sparked. Our love was so beautiful that others wanted a relationship like ours. We were eventually named the best couple in the department and this led us to be married. My husband now works with a bank at Marina while I work with the government. I am blessed with two beautiful daughters and a son. Two of my kids are in a federal university but due to the industrial action of the lecturers, they are at home like other university students. My last child is still in secondary school. 

Tell us about your educational background.

My Primary Education was at L. A Primary School, after which I proceeded to Cardoso High School both in Amukoko. A few years later I gained admission into Lagos State Polytechnic Ikorodu to study Banking and Finance both National Diploma and Higher National Diploma

How did you get into the civil service?

My husband immediately after NYSC got a job with a new generation bank. I stayed at home as a full housewife because we married and I got pregnant immediately after NYSC, so I could not work. I gave birth to my first child and my mother came to stay with us to help with the baby. Although my husband never complained, I noticed that financial stress was taking a toll on him. He comes back home stressed and we hardly have anything saved at the end of the day. I decided to help ease the financial burden by getting a job, since I was educated, I thought of getting a job in a bank too but my applications were not successful. I never dreamt of working with the government. I had a friend who always pestered me to send my CV so she could forward it to her boss. I always ignore her because I suspect that she is dating her boss because of the way she assures me. But after a futile search, I gave in and sent her my CV. And that was how my journey began, within a few weeks, I was invited and given an employment letter to resume work.

Which department do you work in?

I am working with the Ministry of Finance.

Also Read: The Civil Servant Who Uses His Son as a Conductor

How long have you been in the civil service?

I have been working as a civil servant for almost twenty-nine years. 

What prompted you to use your car for commercial purposes i.e., driving passengers to their destinations in exchange for money?

I won’t say I am using my car for commercial purposes. I use my car to pick up passengers so that I would not die alone in my car. I wake up at 3am daily to prepare food for my husband and prepare my child for school. We live at Gberigbe in Ikorodu and it is always difficult to get a bike on any major form of transport from the place I stay to the main road. I wake up that early to be able to avoid being stuck in traffic. A lot of people staying in Ikorodu wake up early to be able to beat traffic. I always drop my husband at Ojota before heading to Alausa. By the time I get to work, there is no time to rest my head again. My husband advised me to pick up passengers when coming from work because I told him I often doze off while driving home and there is small traffic.  This is the reason you see me carrying passengers, passengers help me not to fall asleep by talking to me during the long trip.

Which location(s) do you ply?

I have co-workers staying in my area, so we already have a picking point and time. We try to beat the traffic because the road is nothing to write home about. People familiar with Gberigbe in Ikorodu understand this. If one of my usual passengers does not come to the meeting point I pick up other passengers staying within ikorodu.

How much do you charge for these location(s)?

I charge a subsidised amount from the people I pick. Due to the bad road, motorists charge N700 or more but I charge N500 to Gberigbe. I understand that the country is not fair to anyone and that people are going through a lot. I am just doing my own to assist people and also to assist myself, to avoid putting myself into an unnecessary accident. 

Do you work as a commercial driver daily? What time do you resume?

No, I am not a full-time driver. I only pick up passengers Monday to Friday, when I am going to work and coming back home

How many hours do you work as a commercial driver?

I do not work as a full-time commercial driver.

On average, how much do you earn daily?

I drive a Sienna car, my husband owns the front seat in the Morning, and the 6-passenger seat at the back is N3,000. In the Evening I will carry 7 passengers to make it N3,500, in a day I earn N7,500. I use the money to fuel my car and buy basic foodstuffs. This also helps reduce expenses from our salaries. My husband focuses on our children’s schooling while I cover the food at home. We live in our own house.

If tables were turned, would you rather not use your car for commercial purposes?

Yes, I will. The purpose of a car is to convey people. The people who produced the car produced it to carry people from one place to another, they didn’t state the type of people you should carry. You call it commercial driving, I call it assisting people to their destinations; in return, they appreciate me with N500. If I were a commercial driver, I would not charge less than N1000. No matter how the tables turn I will keep carrying passengers because the car is only doing its job.

People argue that civil servants are not paid well, hence, the few who own cars use their cars for commercial purposes to earn more money. What is your take on that?

Yes, we are not paid well, only the boss at the top is enjoying it. But our hope is high due to the August visitor we received recently, who promised us an increment but the election is fast approaching, and different promises will be coming our way, we can only hope they remember to fulfill the promises. I am sure when it’s 3 to 2 months before the election you will now see that the promise is being fulfilled, the state government will increase workers’ salaries and that will be the headlines of all daily papers. The funny thing is that the increment will not be more than N5,000, it can even be lesser. I have 2 grown children and another in the private secondary. My husband and I have aged parents, how much is the bank paying? Most people working in banks live on loans. This car was bought with loan money from the bank. My husband is still paying the loan. The N7,500 coming in daily is something that keeps the family going. We all have something we are facing. Working in secretariats is by name, there is no advantage to working with the state government. The private sector is paying better than the state government. We keep hoping for better days but I hope this day comes while I am still in service.

Also Read: Working Lives: The Mai Shai Who Stepped up From Picking Scrap Metal

In your opinion, how can the government make civil service more rewarding?

Government should stop giving us fake promises. Any promise they can’t fulfill immediately should not be made. Secondly, the staff bus is not enough. Imagine someone as fat as I have to stand for hours, it is not fair on my health. No matter the time you get to the bus, it’s always filled up. It is as if people do not go to their offices again. The government is more than capable of doing these. I am not saying they are not trying; I only want them to do more.

What are your retirement plans?

I want to buy a minibus and be plying Alausa to Ojota but I cannot do that due to my bad health. Although it is a thought at the moment. I can use any money the government pays me as a gratuity to invest in transportation – Uber or mini buses. I can ask my son to manage it for me. The Uber will be on delivery while the mini bus on hire purchase. Retirement is meant for rest; I would have worked long enough to deserve it. I can rest at home while my investment fetches me daily income. 

Obande Friday

Friday is a Mass Communication graduate of The Polytechnic of Ibadan. He has four years of content development experience. He loves lifting weights in his spare time.

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