Ever heard of sapa? Well, it’s that evil spirit that has made so many people resort to desperate — and sometimes, downright hilarious — attempts to get their daily urgent ₦2k to put food on the table.
I spoke to some people and they shared the most desperate things they’ve done for money.
“I spent the night in a dark classroom”
— Tola*, 29
This was during the 2011 Nigerian elections and I desperately wanted to be a part of the INEC ad-hoc staff. I’d applied but didn’t get selected. I got the bright idea to go spend the night in the school where INEC personnel would be taking off from, just in case somebody didn’t show up so I could replace them.
I met some other people there as well, and it was a long, cold night. Eventually, some of the selected staff didn’t show up in the morning and I took someone’s place. They paid me only ₦13k after everything — they even delayed payments by over two weeks.
I’ve also done ushering service jobs where I’d get paid ₦1k for a whole day, after leaving home at 5 a.m. and returning at 10 p.m. I did this between 2008 and 2011. Sure, I got to eat at the events, but it was horrible — all the insults and stress were just ridiculous. I can never do either of these two “jobs” ever again.
“I commuted from Ikorodu to Owode-Onirin every day for ₦500 daily”
— Wendy, 25
In 2013, I was trying to save up for JAMB, so my neighbour introduced me to a food canteen in Owode-Onirin where they paid ₦500 per day. I’d go there as early as 5 a.m. and try to convince the iron rod sellers near the canteen to buy a plate of food from me. Each plate was about ₦300, and I needed to sell at least 20 plates, retrieve them, wash them and sweep the store by 6 p.m. to get my ₦500 for that day.
I didn’t get paid in full somedays because madam could just complain that I wasn’t smiling or that I didn’t attend to a customer “well”. My transport fare to and from the canteen was about ₦200, and sometimes I only made a profit of ₦200 after everything.
I didn’t last up to two weeks there because one of the male sellers slapped my bum one day, and I hit him back in the face. Nonsense.
“I de-feathered chickens on the road for about ₦200”
— Charles*, 24
This was during the Christmas holidays in 2016, and of course, there were chicken sellers everywhere. All you had to do was walk up to a seller, select a chicken, and you could decide to have it killed, de-feathered and cut up for you for a price by the seller’s assistant.
My friends and I were broke so we decided to try this assistant business out. We suffered. We burnt our hands from the hot water we had to use to de-feather the chickens, and the hot sun beat down on us for hours. The angry and impatient customers yelling at us didn’t help matters. And for what? Payment of less than ₦200 per processed chicken? God abeg.
Less than a week later, my mum eventually had to ban me from going back when I started looking pale. Fun times.
“I worked at a construction site”
— Onyeka*, 45
This was when I was a broke student at LASU. I think we were on strike, but my roommates and I couldn’t travel home because we didn’t have any money. For days, we depended on soaking garri until one day, I noticed another roommate eating rice.
Of course, we were all shocked and asked where he got the money. He was reluctant but later told us that he’d show us only if we promised we’d be able to do it. Broke men like us? We had no choice.
The next day, he took us to a construction site he found, and the site manager graciously hired us. We had to carry cement and sand all day for ₦500. When we got back to the hostel, I seriously thought I was going to die. My body ached like I had been passed through a grinder.
Ibuprofen came to the rescue sha and we kept going back until ASUU called off the strike.
“I sold my mum’s jewellery”
— Tobi*, 33
I’m not proud of this, but I once had to sell my mum’s gold necklace without her knowledge to settle a debt.
I was in my third year of university, and things were hard at home. I was on the verge of missing out on my exams due to unpaid fees — about ₦30k. I had to borrow money. Not long after, the person I borrowed from started pressuring me to pay back. I kept posting him till he sent cultists to threaten me — apparently, his cousin was a cultist.
I knew my mum would never sell the necklace because it was a gift from my late dad, but my life was at stake. I think she knows I took it, but she never questioned me.
“I wrote exams for people”
— Dele*, 27
For about three years, I made a lot of money writing exams for people, including WAEC and polytechnic exams. It was very risky, and also involved heavily “sorting” invigilators, but it paid well.
I wouldn’t do it again, though — I have a proper job now, and I don’t think it’s as easy to impersonate students now, compared to 2009-2011. I also can no longer afford to risk getting jailed.
* Some names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.
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