Lagos, new mega market for Northern youths
It might be the pull of commerce, or the flip side of the murderous infamy of the Boko Haram insurgents. Chances are also that it is a reflection of the beauty of Nigeria’s diversity. But the reality is that young boys from the northern part of the country now see Lagos State as a new destination for a new life.
And thus in trucks and trailers, they empty into Nigeria’s “Centre of Excellence” to eke a living and excel in a new pastime: vending of food items, fruits and commercial transportation among others.
While some of their counterparts from the South engage in the blind leap migration to Europe, the northern youths take advantage of an unseemly vacuum to try their hands on retail trade.
Before now, most young men from the North that find their way to Lagos ended up as shoe shiners, gatekeepers, (mai guardi) and commercial motorcyclists. Checks reveal that these young men either accompanied their relatives or benefactors to the erstwhile nation’s capital, or are former employees of construction and service companies, who metamorphosed into commercial motorcyclists and gatekeepers after their benefactors cum principals retired, relocated, or even lost their jobs.
However, in recent times, these boys that are involved in the internal migration seem to be responding to the lure of opportunities that they hear exist in the southern part of the country, especially Lagos.
Speaking in Hausa with a smattering of corrupted English language, Musa Tanko, who hawks fresh tomatoes and pepper, revealed that it was a mixture of curiosity and desire to change environment that led him to making the move.
“My friend Inuwa, who is a motor boy, always told us stories about Lagos. In those days, he would tell us how there is so much money to be made in Lagos because people there are always buying things.”
He disclosed that as time went by, he alongside some of his friends, including Yahaya, decided to join Inuwa and his boss on the trip to Lagos.
“We did not take anything, we did not know anybody, all we knew was that we were going to make money,” Tanko stated, adding that the journey, which took two days was tortuous, but exciting.
Continuing, he said: “Along the way, Inuwa said his master heard that the popular Mile 12 market, where they usually sell their commodities had been shut down. We asked him, whether we were no longer continuing with the trip to Lagos, but he said we would.”
The Guardian investigation revealed that upon arrival in Lagos, and based on recommendations, the new boys are introduced to major dealers, where they are availed sizable wares to sell on credit basis. It is at the end of it all that they remit the principal sum to the major dealer/supplier, and keep the profit, which they refer to as riba.
According to Malam Adamu, a tailor in Mushin area of Lagos State, the idea of giving goods on credit to the newly arrived boys was to motivate them to work harder so that they make large sales, since what they earn depends on the volume of sales they make.
He noted that the gesture was only extended to new comers to Lagos, because they were not conversant with the city, and so were wont to turn in their sales.
But Sani, who vends oranges around Agege said the major dealers (mallams) stopped distributing fruits like oranges on credit to the young sellers because these goods were perishable, pointing out that only those who sell items like yam tubers could, upon good arrangements, get credit or generous discounts.
Sani who said he came to Lagos two years ago, disclosed that even though he tried to learn bricklaying back home in Adamawa, he decided to relocate to Lagos to make some money since he could not successfully complete his apprenticeship.
“Everyday, I make about N3, 000 or more from selling oranges. When I came to Lagos, it was green pepper and carrot that I was hawking. But I discovered that many people buy oranges, so I switched and now I don’t have to carry my goods about,” Sani explained.
Some of the ubiquitous young boys explained that knowledge of nearby mosques and collection centres were key in their day-to-day operations as it helps them reconnect with their bases whenever they stray.
Mosques for these itinerant sellers, serves multiple purposes. Apart from being a worship centre, as well as some kind of a beacon, those who cannot pass the night with their friends that are night watchmen, end up doing so at nearby mosques.
Unlike locals, who have to cough out hefty sums to hire shops and stalls, where they are charged high fees by shop owners, these mobile sellers pay N50 toll to local council authorities daily. This perhaps explains why their wares are reasonably cheaper than that of the local counterparts quartered in shops.
Without a doubt, the current influx of young boys from the North into Lagos, particularly their new pastime, would go a long way in changing their social orientation and enhance the breaking of ethnic barriers.