The Hausa Hunters of Kara
On a Sunday morning, one of our writers encountered a group of young men armed with clubs and cutlasses and accompanied by dogs while he was buying fruits at Ketu market. They were obviously hunters but they looked so out of place amidst the concrete, banks, yellow busses, petrol stations etc. of a Lagos suburb. Assuming a writer was crazy enough to situate a story about hunting in the urban jungle, no camera crew was in sight. After speaking to them, our writer discovered they were Hausa hunters headed for Kara, a large expanse of forest after Ojodu Berger at the Lagos end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Thus, a WLs series was born about a profession none of us knew existed in Lagos. Most Nigerians associate “bushmeat”-meat from animals such as monkeys, snakes, antelopes, pangolins etc. hunted in the forests- with the rural Nigerian communities where we see them on sale on the roadside as we drive across Nigerian cities. But we discovered that the suppliers and buyers of bushmeat live amongst us in Lagos and that the trade involves considerable labour mobility. There are even markets where bushmeat is sold.
Working Lives: The Hunter Who Used to Sell Handkerchiefs in the Traffic
“If I can get enough money I will go into selling foodstuff- pepper, rice, yam etc. I am trying to save towards this. I just have a feeling we might not be able to keep hunting in Lagos. The government can decide to stop us. This is why I am trying to save up and diversify as soon as possible”.
Where are you from?
I am from Kano state.
When did you get to Lagos?
I came to Lagos in 2010 with my older brother.
Please, tell us about your education
I only attended the primary school in our village. I left in 2005 or so.
Please, tell us about your family
My dad is late. He fell ill. I really did not know what kind of ailment it was. I was a kid then. All I can really remember was my mom was always running helter-skelter to get money and pay the hospital bills. My mom was a cleaner in the local government office in our village. She got little change from that. I have 5 siblings and they all live in Kano.
Where do you live and how much is the rent?
When I got to Lagos I was living with my uncle in Mile 12. I still live in Mile 12 though but I currently live with my boss. I have been living with him since 2012.
What were you doing before you started hunting in Kara?
When I got to Lagos, I was selling handkerchiefs in the traffic. I started the business with the little cash, about N10,000 that I had saved up with me from Kano. I did that for just a few months just before my uncle introduced me to this boss who I now work with.
How did you start working as an hunter?
When I saw that selling handkerchiefs in the traffic was not bringing in so much income for me and my uncle saw how I was suffering, he introduced me to his friend who runs the hunting business. So that was how I moved out of my uncle’s place and started living with my boss.
Did you go through some sort of training before you could start hunting?
Yes. I went through some training because I handle the gun. It wasn’t like I started handling the gun immediately I joined though. I was only allowed to use my cutlass and my dog to hunt. But after so many years of working under him, he taught me how to handle a gun. So whenever he does not go with us to hunt, I am the one who handles the gun in the group.
Do you know how he got the gun?
The gun we use was made locally. Our boss got it from someone in Kano. The only thing he did was make sure he registered the gun at the nearest police station. We settle them though. I don’t know how much he settles them with exactly. All sorts of people harass us when they see us with guns. You know how Lagos is. People wouldn’t just see Hausa guys with guns and be calm. We also have to tip the people around, especially the omo oniles.
For how long have you been hunting in Kara?
I started in 2012 or so. So that is about 8 years now.
How do you sell the animals?
After looking at the hunt and being satisfied with the game, we take everything straight to the market and sell-mostly to Mile 12 market or to Kara where they sell cattle. We sell monkeys for as much as N30,000.
Who are your customers?
You will be surprised if you knew how many people like bushmeat. Once we get to the market and display the animals, people just bombard us.
What time of the day do you go hunting?
We go hunting on Sundays. We go in the morning and get back around like 8 in the evening or the next day.
What is your best day like hunting?
Obviously, days when we get to kill big game like antelopes. There are days where we spend hours in the bush and we don’t see a single rabbit or even a fly. That is how bad it can be sometimes.
How much do you spend in a day?
I spend just N200 at most. We all contribute money to stock the house with food. So, I don’t have to worry about spending on feeding for the month at all. But I send money to my siblings back home in Kano once in a while, N5,000 or N10,000 at most.
How much do you spend on medication when you fall sick?
I don’t really spend so much on medication. I hardly even fall sick. But anytime I feel body pains, or I know I am not feeling too good, I just go to a chemist nearby and get malaria drugs for about N200 and I am fine in no time.
Do you have savings and how much do you save in a month?
I save N5,000 every month. Even though I do not spend a lot on myself, it is difficult to save as I have to send money to my family back home.
Are you married?
Yes, I am married. My wife and 3 kids are living in Kano. I go back home to see them during the festive period.
Any other job or business you would like to venture into?
If I can get enough money I will go into selling foodstuff- pepper, rice, yam etc. I am trying to save towards this. I just have a feeling we might not be able to keep hunting in Lagos. The government can decide to stop us. This is why I am trying to save up and diversify as soon as possible