In this story, we talk to a man who spends his days selling water out of his cart, and his nights keeping watch.
When did this hustle start?
I first came to Lagos around that time Jonathan first became President after Yar’adua died. The first job I started then was fetching water and selling. That time, water used to be sold for ₦20. I’ve been selling water since then.
What’s your average water selling day like?
I always sell between 6 to 8 carts. But on some very good days, I can sell up to 10 carts. My best water days are actually Monday and Thursday. I buy every keg for ₦10 when there’s light then sell each one for ₦40. When there’s no light and they pump water with a generator, each keg is ₦20.
Then recently, I delivered water to one man, and he asked me if I could come and stay as security in his office compound every night to avoid burglars. He offered me ₦10,000. So that’s where I sleep.
So how do you spend your money?
I try to spend no more than ₦300 on food everyday. Then whenever I’m sick, I buy medicine. I try to call my family every time. Every time I call home, it costs me at least ₦500.
Yes, every time I have to call my family back at home, it costs me ₦500 every 2 minutes. International call.
Tell me about your family.
My parents are from Kidal in Mali. It’s in Tuareg territory. So I’m Tuareg. Tuaregs were fighting to leave Mali and form their own country in 2012. We didn’t really support the movement and fighting in Kidal, because we didn’t want to follow those Tuareg to form new country.
Those Tuareg that were trying to form the new country are light-skinned. We’re dark-skinned. They won’t treat us well, so we just stayed with Mali. They didn’t succeed in the end. But my family moved to Bankilare in Niger. That’s where they live now.
I have a wife that I married in 2017, we also have a daughter. My wife is 21 now. Then I have my father, my mother, and two sisters. The first one is 19 and the second one is 15.
Does anyone of them go to school?
My wife? No. My 15-year-old sister was going to school when she was younger, but no money again, so she’s no longer going to school. She dropped out of Primary School in 2013.
Does your wife work?
No, she just takes care of the child and maybe does small-small things at the market. But she doesn’t really work. Every month, I try to send home 100,000 CFA every month. That is about ₦60,000.
Then she keeps 20,000 CFA and distributes the rest among my father, mother, and sisters.
Back to Lagos; how far with these Agbero people?
Those ones? They’re always mad. If they see you and you don’t have a Local Government Ticket, they’ll collect ₦5,000. But if you have a ticket, ₦50 every day. Then another thing that takes money once-once; immigration card. Every 6 months, we have to re-register at the immigration office for ₦1,500.
Do you pay rent?
No o. Because that security job is a night job, that’s where I sleep. If I earn more money, maybe I’ll try to get a place to stay.
Do you keep aside any money?
Yes, I try to save ₦5,000 every month. The money is supposed to be what I’ll use to travel back home. So, to travel back home, I need ₦100,000. Last time I travelled home was 2017.
Because I need to take things for the family when I’m going home. For example, I’m going to buy clothes for the whole family. I want to travel around May or June.
What’s the most vexing thing you’ve spent money on?
It’s not even money I spent, but it pained me. One time like this, I went to the place where we buy water, it’s like when I removed my wallet to pay, I forgot to put it back in my pocket.
By the time I went back to check it, someone had carried it. That wallet? It had ₦35,000 inside that I was supposed to send home.
My head scattered. My chest was paining me.
What do you think about your hustle, between 2014 and now?
I’m getting old now. I really wish I had gone to school. Because if I know how to read and write, there are some jobs I’ll be able to do. For example, I can get a better security job in a good place that will pay me well. Or even learn driving and become a driver.
What are your plans for the next one year?
I really just have to travel home. When I get home, I’m going to farm. I hate farming, but I have to do it. I’ll grow maize. What I grow, they’ll eat. The rest, we’ll sell.
I also hope that when I come back, I find a better job, like good security work. Or even driving–this one, I have to learn reading and writing first.
Right now, the only thing I want is for my family to always have food to eat.
That’s why I’m here.
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