Last friday, 6th of July the US released it’s latest job reports which claims just 80,000 jobs were created for the month of June. Since that figure went below expectations, market sentiments weighed in and most economic indices plunged. Knowing that negative information such as this tend to depress the world market and affect innocent economies like Nigeria I wondered if there is any such way we can be of help. American’s are so advanced certain jobs that we typically embrace in Nigeria as a source of income can’t be found over there for logical reasons. There are many but here are the top ten I found;
1. Night Guards – Yes, be it the traditional Malo’s or even the “corporate” ones, they are in abundance in Nigeria and can’t be found in the west. They are in every street corner, estate, offices, Government Offices and Houses, just about anywhere you have a house and a road. Its a major employment generation machine that feeds on it self. It requires no major human capital cost and income derived from it can feed a family of four (albeit below UN standards). There is so much demand for it, even foreigners are attracted to it. Ask the Nigeriens.
2. Street Hawkers – This is a job that dates as far back as 50 years and is quite easily related to our culture. Street Hawkers can be found in every major road, neighborhoods or suburbs. They target road users who are in traffic and looking to buy items. They also target residents looking for an easy way to purchase staple food items. They are mostly self employed and do the job of the marketer, distributor, retailer and even the transporter. Like the Night Guards, its a massive employment generating machine in Nigeria, catering for thousands of youth who find their way into major urban cities in the country. It is also a job the UN frowns at.
3. Road Side Sellers – These are people who set up arbitrary shops on street corners, side ways, on the road, in water etc. They include market women and men selling items such as roasted plantain and fish, stationery items, staple foods, cigarette, recharge card, water, drinks etc. They also render services such as shoemaking, hair cutting, nail cutting and polishing etc. The value of the items they sell at any one time usually don’t exceed N15,000 ($90) and the gain just enough to put food on the table. Many many Nigerians (especially women) depend on this type of job to feed their families.
4. Motorcycle Operators – In Nigeria (or is it Lagos) we call them “Okada’s”. These are guys who use motor bikes as a form of transportation. A normal bike that should carry just one passenger can be used to carry, 2,3 and sometimes a whole family depending on the ingenuity of the rider. It is also used to transports various goods and sometimes food items. Successive Governments have been trying in futility to ban them for years due to their high propensity to cause fatal accidents. The riders have a strong union and are influential at swaying electoral votes making the politicians think more than twice each time they suggest banning them. They also are a remarkable employment generating machine, catering for millions of men between the ages of 18-45 years.
5. Tricycle Operators – They are better known as Keke Marwa, named after the former military Governor of Lagos state who introduced them before the advent of democracy in 1999. They are officially called keke Napep, after a project that was meant to lift the poor out of poverty by giving them employment. They also do not share most of the safety issues associated with Okada’s and had been widely used in India. Like above, they are widely popular with commuters and are a major tool for employment generation.
6. Bus Conductors – I know we have them in the west too but these are of a different kind. They do not undergo any formal training or school. All you need is a loud voice and an agility that should enable you hang from the buses all through its route. Bus conductors are mostly illiterate but know enough math to determine what your change is after subtracting the bus fare from the Naira that you pay. They also have a growth path, grading to drivers and potential bus owners depending on their life trajectory. Its a massive employment source for most young boys and men between the ages of 12 and 45.
7. Roadside Traffic Controllers – This again is not your average Traffic Controller with white gloves and fancy uniforms gesticulating in a emulative and admirable way. They are mostly uneducated, poor, and mostly disabled. They do a very very good job at it for the most part and are vastly experienced considering the number of years and time put in. They get remunerated by road users and by standers who generously compensate them for their service. In a large metropolis like Lagos where traffic is a huge concern, they have come to be heavily relied upon to ease traffic. Lately, some Local Government and traffic officials have recognized their service giving them uniforms.
8. Human Load Carriers – They use their “heads”, for the right or wrong reasons, to earn a living. These guys (including women) carry all sorts of goods on their heads from one point to the other on behalf of sellers and buyers for a fee. Goods carried on their head can be transported from as short as a 10 meters to a kilometer depending on the weight. The market is immensely huge and possibly growing as they can be found in many major low cost markets in any part of the country.
9. Cart Pushers– Unlike the Head Masters, they use makeshifts carts. The body Carts are made of wood and its wheels old motor tyre. They use it to transport goods and sometimes people from one point to the other come rain or sunshine. They off course get paid for the services they render and payment is just about enough to get a decent meal a day.
10. Dustbin Pickers – Whether you like this or not, there are people whose livelihood on a daily basis is by picking items that can be recycled or resold from dust bins. These guys dig into hips of dirt with the help of a iron rod, searching for items made of aluminum, iron etc provided it has a recycle value. They make an income from selling these items to people who end up recycling it. They work in extremely inhumane conditions and can often be mistaken for mad people.
Make no mistake about it, these are jobs that we can hardly do without in Nigeria. Regardless of the inhumane condition to work in, Nigerians have come to rely heavily on them for what they do. Ironically, these jobs far out weigh the white collar ones we all love and for many in Nigeria are a constant source of daily bread. Citizens working in abject condition just to eke a living. A strength filled with self determination and independence from the forces against food, one of the sin qua non for the survival of mankind. Its a strength replicated at all ages, gender, and tribe in Nigeria. That same ability of a common Nigerian to survive is used as a weapon against them by a government who knows its people are no ideologues and will always pick trade over religion or any mass action meant to better their condition.