No parents ever wished their children doom and gloom. All they desire and pray for is a life of glitz and prosperity. But the vicissitudes of life, which to an extent is no fault of theirs, have nudged so many promising Nigerians into menial jobs to eke out a living, even though it belies their qualification.
They hold tenaciously to the view that life has been unfair to them and visibly angry with the political system, religious leaders, their parents/guidance, they succumbed to fate with the impression that they lack the political force to change the system.
Even those who cannot find paid job offers, resort to community service, like controlling traffic, cleaning the city, touting commuters for commercial vehicle drivers and in turn, clandestinely solicit financial assistance.
In Abuja, for instance, major areas like Aminu Kano Crescent, popularly known as Banex, Area 1 Shopping Complex, Mabushi and Utako, underage boys and girls have resorted to controlling vehicular traffics at major hobs like eateries, shopping malls and markets for monetary rewards.
Although these lads look sufficiently malnourished, beggarly, confused and uneducated, however, one thing you cannot take away from them is the fact that they are streetwise. They can sight a vehicle that is about to veer to any place, effortlessly.
Upon sighting such a vehicle, they immediately spring up to their feet, defile all odds and begin to create way where there seems to be no way. They are choosy as they usually spot and opt for flashy cars with higher prospects for financial rewards.
Expectedly, they are shouted at. But no amount of scolding, abuses, horn blaring, and even threats deter these street urchins from giving up not until the vehicle drives through the narrow path. So desperately to the point of laying on the tarred road begging other drivers to allow the car meander through.
Although, the service is unsolicited and they inadvertently deepen the traffic and cause accidents, as soon as the vehicle scales through the horrific path, they run as fast as Usain Bolt to meet the driver and ensure that he parks properly, but not without tongue lashing of the gate men who frown at them.
Asked how much he makes a day, 18-year-old Hassan Abdullahi, who branded this reporter a distraction, hurriedly said: “There is no specific amount. Sometimes, we make from N500 to N1000 a day or even N2000. At times we do not get anything because most drivers would say they didn’t ask for our help. It takes someone with a milk of human kindness to offer us something.”
On whether he does not get angry when his assistance is not financially appreciated: “Sometimes, it is painful. But there is nothing we can do. We just smile and move on. We hardly abuse them because we do not know who they are to avoid being beaten or arrested. Moreover, there is always a next time.”
He said he begs for food if he does not get anything for the day: “We must have to eat now. If nobody gives me something and maybe I squandered the money I made the previous day, I will resort to begging. Moreover, I work everyday. The work is not easy because drivers insult us a lot but we will continue to try our best.”
What drove him into the business: “I have not seen the four walls of any institution. I came from Bauchi State to stay with my brother so that he can help me acquire a skill. But things got out of hand when his wife started having issues with me. She began by accusing me of stealing her money.
“To avoid problem with my brother, I decided to leave the house. And since I have no money, I chose to join my friends to direct traffic for a living. If I can raise sufficient amount of money, I will quit the hustling and learn a trade,” he said.
At Area One shopping mall, another respondent, Saidu Mohammed, spoke on the risk involved: “It is not rosy running around amidst vehicles. Sometimes we are knocked down by stubborn drivers. Instead of them to apologise they haul insults at us and call us names. Aside that, overzealous security personnel attached to government officials flog us when we dare stop them unknowingly from having their way.”
Emmanuel James: “I come from Maraba to Nyanya to help. But in most cases, we use to have problem with traffic officials who have prevent us from helping drivers stopped and asked to wait for their turn.”
A commercial driver, Idowu John, accused the hustlers of obstructing drivers from carrying commuters: “These boys are pain in the neck. They can obstruct us from passing. Regardless of where these drivers are coming from, they will ensure that he or she passes. And by that time passengers we intend to carry may have entered another vehicle.”
A car owner, Tessy Timothy, stated that she bashed her car when the boy she signalled to help get into a shopping mall directed her wrongly: “It was not funny at all. I signalled this boy to help me enter a shopping mall, H-Medix, at Gimbiya Street, Area 11.
“Because a car broke down and there was a serious traffic. Instead of him guiding me appropriately, he was busy preventing a vehicle going to a different way, one thing let another a car brushed mine. I spent over N30,000 to fix it. Since then, I mind my business and stay patient to avoid a recurrence.”
However, Mary Raymond, commended one the boys who helped her navigate through a severe traffic: “I was stuck somewhere around Berger Junction, and there was no way for me to wriggle out. It took the intervention of one of them to bail me out.
“He took it upon himself to beg and block other vehicles for me to have my way. I know that they can be annoying sometimes or constitute a nuisance, but when you are stuck, then you will value their importance.”