Taoreed has never had it this bad, at least since he got his freedom and started his dream job as a Vulcanizer.
Just a few years earlier, he was making enough money to afford a private school for his kids, put food on the table and even expand his business to cater to more customers. Now it all seems like his life is slipping away and as they say “Nigeria has happened to him.”
Nigeria is currently experiencing one of its worst-ever inflationary periods as prices of goods and services continue to increase unabated. At a 17.7% annual inflation rate many fears, we could be headed for 20% inflation by the end of the year and there is nothing the government seems to be able to do about it.
For people like Taoreed Alabi, a vulcanizer operating around Ajegunle, Lagos State, the solution is not as simple as just raising prices to cover his costs.
Taoreed the Vulcanizer
In Nigeria, Vulcanizers are usually found by the roadside repairing, maintaining or servicing car tires. Their operation ranges from inflating low tires to checking tire pressure, sealing up punctured tires, replacing tire tubes, replacing tires with spares, selling used tires and other miscellaneous tire repair works.
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Vulcanizing jobs is one of the most important services our lives depend on, supporting the course to a smooth ride as we go about meeting our daily deliverables. Like superheroes, they are there to rescue us from the uncertainties and impromptu situations we find ourselves in.
However, as inflation hits deeper touching down on the pocket of an average Nigerian, our superheroes are one of those that are greatly affected as the situation confines them to live within an unfavourable zone.
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In a conversation with Nairametrics, Taoreed Alabi explained how difficult it has become to adjust to the realities of increasing costs. Compared to the previous year, he said that food items and other basic household necessities have continued to increase at a high speed, making it almost impossible to meet up with the daily expenses.
The father of three said, “The rate at which the price of goods jump these days is alarming, making it really difficult for people like us to make ends meet especially considering that we operate using a general price that comes from the top”
At the state level, vulcanizers operate under a body. For instance, the Lagos State Vulcanizer Association, LSVA, sees to the operations of vulcanizers in Lagos state. Similarly, the Association of Vulcanizers in Nigeria, AVN is used at the national level. This points to the fact that their operation is based on a top-down approach resulting in an agreed-upon price for all.
Inflation of tyres however depends on the kind of vehicle that is involved. For a two-wheel or three-wheel vehicle, the price consideration is N300 while N500 is considered for the four-wheel vehicle while a higher amount is charged for big-wheel vehicles like trailers. “This means that our income depends on how many Tyres we are able to work on in a day,” he said.
The current value shows the association has increased the amount it charges in recent times by over 100%. Despite this, vulcanizers say the continuous increase in prices every day is making it difficult for them to meet up.
A couple of car owners also confirmed that there has been a significant increase in the cost of inflating tyres in the past two to three years. Uchendu Peter, who owns a Toyota Camry said the price of inflating one tyre used to be around N100 “but today we pay N200 just to inflate and N500 to patch one tube.”
How the situation is forcing people out of business
Nigeria’s inflation experience could even get worse as price-induced energy crises continue to linger. Next year, the government is expected to end its expensive petrol subsidy regime which cost trillions of naira annually. Electricity prices have increased every six months since 2020 and is likely to continue into the future.
Nigeria’s exchange rate situation also exacerbates the problem. With every devaluation comes new cost triggers and there is little the central bank can do. Foreign investors have quit investing in Nigeria’s domestic assets shutting off a reliable pipeline of forex liquidity. As more Nigerians resort to locally made goods, local substitutes will likely be more expensive due to rising demand.
Taoreed explained how the situation has become very unbearable, forcing him to withdraw his children from a private school to a public school because of the need to prioritize basic things like food. “After all, without food, there can be no survival or thinking about education,” he said.
A lot of Nigerians in his shoes have had to quit vulcanizing business just so they could fend for themselves and their family. Babalola Dapo is one of those who have had to abandon that line of business despite having so many years of experience in the field.
“Yes, I was born a Vulcanizer – my father is one. But then, I was forced to quit when things became really hard and expenses could no longer match the income. At least with my current job, I get to make a certain commission on every sale I make,” he said referring to his lotto agent job.
Every week, thousands of Nigerians leave the country in search of a better life in Europe, Canada, the United States and even Australia. Taoreed may be better off if he considers switching jobs.
For Taoreed, Dapo’s sharp switch may well be the immediate solution to an inflation crisis that is engulfing him and his family.