Working Lives – Newspaper Vendors
This weekend, our focus is on newspaper vendors around Lagos, learning about their respective journeys to the business. And why not? If you are a Nigerian that stays in Lagos (we can’t speak for other states), make a visit to a newspaper stand every morning and you are sure to meet different categories of people buying papers along with a mix of young and old people discussing topics that range from sports to politics. Well, it’s more like screaming their lungs to blandness, arguing over anything and everything. They gather around the newspaper stand, which they most likely will not buy from, and care little about how the stand got there. Not like they are supposed to anyway.
Working Lives: The Vendor Who Used to Work in Coca-Cola
Tunde Ibiloye- Iyana Ipaja
“Immediately after secondary school, there was nothing to do. Then I got a job with the Coca-Cola factory in Ikeja. I worked there for about a year and some months before I was laid off. They said they were trying to mince cost, so I was among the unlucky ones that were asked to leave. Luckily for me, I had saved enough to help kickstart the business. Plus, I was someone that really liked going to the vendor stand to discuss politics and football. So, there was this ginger to get right into the business.”
Where are you from?
I am from Abeokuta in Ogun State.
Please, tell us about your education.
I had my primary education in Abeokuta and then when I came to Lagos, I attended Lagos State Model College for my secondary education, and that was it. I couldn’t further past that; there was no money.
Tell us about your family.
My parents live back home in Abeokuta. They both manage a shop where they grind pepper, cassava, yam flour for amala, and all that. It is more or less like a family business, they have been into it right from when I was still a kid. I have 5 siblings and I am the third child.
When did you get to Lagos?
I came to Lagos after my primary education. My elder brother was in Lagos way before I came. He got a decent job in a factory that paid him well. Well, the money was looking good considering the fact that we were poor. So, he told my parents that I could come and stay with him in Lagos just so he could ease the stress of spending the money that they did not have. So, I came to join him in Lagos and started my secondary school education, and I have never gone back since then. Well, apart from going home to greet my parents or during festive periods.
Where do you live/how much is the rent?
I still live with my elder brother, the only difference now is that I also drop one or two just to support, so it won’t look like he is the only one carrying all the burden. I think he pays N4,000 for the monthly rent, it is a room.
How did you start working as a newspaper vendor?
Immediately after secondary school, there was nothing to do. Then I got a job with the Coca-Cola factory in Ikeja. I worked there for about a year and some months before I was laid off. They said they were trying to mince cost, so I was among the unlucky ones that were asked to leave. Luckily for me, I had saved enough to help kickstart the business. Plus, I was someone that really liked going to the vendor stand to discuss politics and football. So, there was this ginger to get right into the business.
How much did it cost you to establish?
I had about N50,000 in savings, so I used about N20,000 to start. The N20,000 covered depositing with my supplier and then also pay to the carpenter that made the table I use and then I settled one or two agberos around just so they wouldn’t harass me.
Did you get a bank loan?
No, I didn’t.
Who supplies the newspaper to you?
There’s a guy in Iyana Ipaja that is like the major supplier for this axis, we call them agents. They are the ones that deal directly with the newspaper companies. I registered under him and he started delivering to me.
How does the payment plan work with your supplier?
It varies with different vendors though. But the kind of plan I have with him is one whereby I collect my supply in the morning and then I pay for it the next day when I am about to collect another one. Also, note that not every supplier allows this, he only does this for me because I have been doing business with him for a while now and we have built that trust over time.
Do newspaper companies reward their customers in any way?
Yes, there was a year like that when I got umbrellas, t-shirts and a biro. But it’s not been stable these days, even those that eventually give their customers reward, it doesn’t go round. Only a few selected people get such rewards. Economy don hard.
What were you doing before you started as a newspaper vendor?
I worked at that Coca-Cola factory in Ikeja I told you about and that was it.
How many hours do you work in a day?
I open as early as 6 o’clock or 6:30 because some of my customers go to work early. And then I close at 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock latest. After this hour people hardly buy anything, the only people that will bombard my stand are the free front-page readers, so I just close for the day and go home to rest.
What’s your best day like on the job?
When it doesn’t rain, you know the kind of commodity we deal with are perishable. So, whenever it rains not only will the papers be wet, I also won’t be able to display them and customers of course won’t turn up like that. I hate the rainy season so much.
Your worst day or experience on the job?
There’s this office close-by I supply papers to daily. They hardly pay me when it is time for their payment. They end up giving lame excuses when I ask for my money and say their oga is not around. How is that my business? I was so angry one day that I threw a tantrum. You won’t believe that these people told security to chase me out, over my own money o. I still live with that trauma to date, I feel like it’s because I am a poor man that I was treated that way. Why will you chase someone that is asking for money that is rightfully his?
How much did they owe you?
They were owing me N35,000, the money had accumulated over time.
Who are your main clients?
Daily buyers are my biggest clients, of course. I stopped supplying to offices after that incident. Just buy your paper, pay me at that moment and that’s it! I no dey do supply again.
How much do you make in sales daily/weekly?
I make N8,000-12,000 daily. The gain on this might be N1,500-N2,000 as the case may be.
How much do you spend in a day?
I spend N500 daily, that is my daily budget for feeding and transport fare to and fro to my spot. Any day I spend more than this, na wahala be that.
What other things do you spend money on?
Helping my elder brother out when he is broke because he does the majority of the spending at home. So, I don’t hesitate to help him when he needs money or he goes broke. And then, of course, I spend money to chill twice a month, I just go out with my girlfriend and have fun. I get to spend N5,000 or more on such days.
For how long have you been in the business?
I have been in the newspaper vendor business for 6 years. I started in early 2014.
Are you married or looking forward to marrying?
No, I am not married. I only have a girlfriend.
How much do you save in a month?
I save N4,000 weekly or more as the case may be.
Do you have plans to venture into something else apart from this newspaper vendor business?
No plans o. The only plan I have is furthering my education, the majority of my friends that I went to secondary school with are now university graduates. I plan on taking UTME next year and then enroll in Yabatech.