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Surviving with the wheel barrow



Surviving with the wheel barrow


Happiness and contentment does not necessary have to come from world of affluence. It is more of contentment and hard work rewarding enough to meet the necessary obligations. For instance, life of barrow pushers in some markets in Lagos has proven the above statement to be true. Majority of them, children and adults who spoke to New Telegraph, said for them, it is about making ends meet, able to feed when hungry, able to cloth when about going naked and able to stay under a roof when it is raining or the sun is scorching.


Inside the markets, their main occupation is to carry loads on their heads or inside wheelbarrow to various destinations for customers. This, they do on daily basis for a fee. There is no restriction to age and sex, even the disabled plays a part, as far as no one restricts his or herself. In most of the markets that New Telegraph visited, it observed that there were more children and teenagers than adults. Some of them claimed it was holiday jobs to enable them raise enough money to go back to school.


And some of them were there working for their boss or parents.


Sheu Nassai,a 12-year-old boy is a young vibrant barrow pusher in Balogun market on the Island. He told New Telegraph that he got recruited into the world of barrow pushing four years ago by his madam who is based in Kano. He explained that the madam kept him with other children under the care of another madam, in one room in Ketu where all of them stay. According to his story, he has a daily target of N17,000 to meet. To achieve this target, he had to graduate from using his head to carry load for customers in the market to using wheelbarrow because it’s larger and wide enough to carry more loads so that he can earn more. He explained that his first target was N3,500, shifted to N7,000, then to N10,000. Finally, it came to N17,000, which is his current target.


Failure to meet this target means denial of a day food for him and exclusion from others. “It is from this menial job that I feed myself depending on the turnover of my target. Whenever I make more than my target, I go to the corner where my friends and I eat Tuwo(corn meal) and fish and feed myself very well before going back home. Often times, my customers take pity on me, more because of my smallish size, they give me plenty money,” he said.


Nassai said he is not a student of any school as he resumes the market by 8am and retire for the day by 6.30pm, Mondays to Saturdays.

Mariam Aboi, 17, is also a load carrier in……market. She makes daily target of N8,000 but in her case, it is for her mother and siblings. “I don’t regret helping out with the financial needs at home and I’m not ashamed of doing this type of job. My daddy is a security man with a private firm and he earns meager salary, my mom is a petty trader. So, I have to help and anyhow it takes, I will do it. We must survive,” she said.


For Mariam, a JSS2 student, it is education mixed with survival instinct. She resumes the market 8am and closes 5pm daily. Mariam explained that no money to pay for the summer coaching that other children are attending, reason, she closes early from the market and get home to coach herself.


In another interview with a 15-year-old girl who pleaded to remain anonymous, she said she lives with her elder sister who recruited her into the world of load carriers inside Oyingbo market, Ebutte Meta. She applied style and principle to her load carrying. She dictates the amount customers pay her and it is per 30mins. For every 30mins, she charges N700. For more than an hour, it is flat charge of N2000. “Sometimes, customers argue or try to make trouble with me but they come back looking for me because safety of their goods is guaranteed. I follow customers from the entrance of the market and even direct them to where to get some items. That way, they patronise me more,” she said.



Yusuf Abu, 21, told New Telegraph that the barrow he uses to carry the goods belongs to his boss who bought it for him and others. He said they are nine doing load carrying for his masters who doesn’t stay in Lagos but somewhere in the North. He revealed that the man comes twice a month to collect money from their supervisor.


According to him, they (him and his colleagues) must make total target of N60,000 for their master. “In this regard, we strive hard and anyhow to make to meet this target. I also recruit three younger ones into the world of load carrying so that I can have some little change for me after striving hard to make my boss’ target,” he revealed.


Abel Yida is an 18 year old disabled young man from Borno. He is crippled to his thigh, as such moves about with his buttocks on a flat wood. He refused to be limited by his physical condition. As crippled and as irrelevant that he looks, Yida is revered in the market, he holds the aces. His own duty inside the Sunday market, Ogba, Lagos is to direct motorists where to park their vehicles. He also beckons on load carriers for customers and when there is disputes between customers and any load carrier. Yida is the chief to call to settle it. As for him, his take home pay varies but it is usually between N5,000 and N8,000 daily, according to him.


To the world outside theirs, these set of people are usually regarded as common human beings. But to them, it is a field for survivors, regardless of the nature of the job or how they are perceived. After all, it is more decent and honest than stealing. Often times, customers refer to them as ‘Barrow, Aboki or Alabaru.


Inside the markets, these people are seen with different shades and colours of basins, planks and wheel barrows for load carrying. In some markets, they are organised. There are load carriers for different section of the market. For instance in some part of Balogun market, plantain carriers are different from tomatoes or cloth material carriers.


Also in Mushin market, there are a great number of barrow pushers, ranging from ages 12 -40. In some cases, mother and child are involved in the struggle. It is also not strange to see pregnant women struggling it out with their colleagues for customers’ loads.

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