ASO CHRON­I­CLES The hus­tling lives of bar­row boys in Abuja

Daily Trust - - ASO CHRONICLE - By Olayemi John-Men­sah

Avery pop­u­lar adage says there is no food for lazy man. This cliché has been a source of en­cour­age­ment to most of the wheel­bar­row push­ers that eke out a liv­ing in the so­cially un­friendly city of Abuja. They are young, strong, en­er­getic and al­ways at alert, look­ing for shop­pers to move their goods to their des­ti­na­tions.

The amount they charge de­pends on the prox­im­ity of the dis­tance they cover and the quan­tity of load they carry. Their prices are ne­go­tiable and af­ford­able. Beads of sweat glis­tened their pen­sive brows as they sat on their bar­rows un­der the scorch­ing Oc­to­ber sun wait­ing for cus­tomers. But the bar­row boys, as they are pop­u­larly called, have a place of re­lax­ation be­hind a shop­ping mall.

Here they re­lax, eat, take a nap if nec­es­sary, and then move on again to sweat it out for their daily bread. Aliyu Ibrahim has been into the wheel­bar­row push­ing busi­ness in Utako Mar­ket for the past two years and he said he saves N2000 ev­ery month in prepa­ra­tion for his pro­posed food stuff busi­ness when he gather enough cap­i­tal.

“I want to go into the busi­ness of sell­ing food items. Food stuff is what peo­ple can­not do with­out. But I am sav­ing to­wards it. I save N2000 ev­ery month hav­ing taken care of other as­pects from my profit,” he said.

He ex­plained that the wheel bar­row he is us­ing is not his, but that he rents it for N200 per day.

“Many of us rent bar­row for our busi­ness so that we can get money to sup­port our­selves. Those that have per­sonal bar­rows are very few.” He said.

Ibrahim said one is ex­pected to pay the sum of N200 be­fore pick­ing the wheel­bar­row or later in the day when one brings it back. He said fail­ure to meet up with the pay­ment at­tracts fine from the rental ser­vice.

Though an NCE holder from Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion Kano he found him­self in the hus­tling and bustling bar­row busi­ness since he could not se­cure any job from both the gov­ern­ment and pri­vate es­tab­lish­ment.

Aliyu said the ma­jor chal­lenge they are fac­ing is the ha­rass­ment from the tax force of­fi­cials, adding that they pay a fee of N50 per day but the tax force of­fi­cials still do not care whether there is mar­ket for them or not.

“If any of us de­fault in the pay­ment he will be taken to the po­lice sta­tion right in­side the mar­ket there,” he said.

He en­joined the youth not to de­pend on any­body or gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance but to hus­tle by them­selves.

“I ad­vise job seek­ers to strug­gle on their own and make ends meet,” he added.

He ex­plained that an­other is­sue is that of stolen goods, adding that it hap­pens once in a while be­cause most of them are not duly reg­is­tered. “If we are all reg­is­tered in a way that we all have a form in the tax force of­fice that con­tain all our in­for­ma­tion, pass­port and guar­an­tor at­tes­ta­tion, the prob­lem will be solved.

Most of us are il­lit­er­ates. An at­tempt was made to reg­is­ter ev­ery­body in 2013 but most of our peo­ple did not pass through that process think­ing it was fraud­u­lent,” he said.

Sev­en­teen years old Auwalu Us­man has also been in the busi­ness for the past two years. He was just re­turn­ing from their re­lax­ation spot when he met our reporter.

Us­man said though the job has lit­tle gain, he thanked God that he is get­ting what to eat from it. “There is no much gain. But we are eat­ing and sav­ing small from it,” he said.

The wheel­bar­row push­ers don’t have spe­cific or fixed prices for their ser­vices as they have no choice but to sat­isfy their cus­tomers.

This, he said, is be­cause if you refuse to serve them, some­one else will and you will end up los­ing. He ex­plained fur­ther that there is more busi­ness for them dur­ing the week­end and dur­ing any fes­tive sea­son be­cause peo­ple come to buy plenty goods. Richard Ejembi, a mem­ber of the

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