ASO CHRONICLES The hustling lives of barrow boys in Abuja
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