Ingenuity in Nigerians has taken another dimension. Apparently, the unfavorable government economic policies, in addition to recent economic recession made it real to Nigerians that only creativity and ingenuity can guarantee survival in today’s Nigeria.
Such knowledge must have forced people to do uncommon things so they could continually provide basic needs for themselves and their dependents, considering the fact that government in Nigeria has failed to cater for majority of people.
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is host to millions of Nigerians who came from different parts of the country to reside and work for a better life. There are unconfirmed reports that, in most cases, five out of seven visitors that enter Abuja daily choose to stay back.
This development has obviously put more pressure on the existing infrastructure in Abuja, which is not growing alongside the population. Similarly, the number of job seekers has significantly out number the available job opportunities.
Businesses that were affected by 2016 economic recession and other economic policies of the government seem not to have recovered, and majority of the affected workers are yet to be absorbed elsewhere.
In FCT, hawking is seen as serious crime and officials do come down hard on anyone caught in the act. Officials always engage the hawkers in a hot chase for arrest. Such risky option has led to lost of several lives of the hawkers, some of whom were knocked down by fast moving vehicles in a bid to escape arrest. Some also end up with serious permanent scares.
Despite the discomfort, many hawkers have remained resilient and unrelenting in their quest to earn a living. Surprisingly, more people are joining the trade due to lack of options. New entrants have obviously added creativity and ingenuity to the trade.
Many of them have abandoned the conventional system of hawking. They now ply the trade in long commercial vehicles that move people from one point to another in Abuja.
They smartly took advantage of hundreds of these high capacity buses that replaced mini buses in Abuja city center to ply the trade. It was an escape option for many of the traders.
The mode of operation is that they join the buses as early as possible to market their pharmaceutical drugs, beverages, herbal products, household products and several others. Some choose to preach the gospel to over hundred passengers in a bus at a particular time.
As the buses move thousands of people daily, from Nyanya, Mararaba, Gwagwalada, Suleja, Zuba, and several other places to Abuja metropolis, and back after the day’s work, the traders join the buses as passengers, and shortly after take off, they would start to market their products to already seated passengers.
First task is to get the attention of the passengers either through funny jokes or discussions that attract and retain their attention, before unleashing their marketing skills on the passengers. They use different means to convince the passengers to patronise them.
There were believes that the traders go with an accomplice(s) who will sometimes act or testify that he or she has used the products and they are good. Such testimony further convinces doubting passengers to patronise them.
However, observations revealed that some of the traders have a fixed bus they join everyday based on arrangement with the driver. Some others choose to jump from one bus to another with their products. There are indications that many of them with pharmaceutical products display outright ignorance or limited knowledge of the products they sell.
A commuter, Kadiri, told our correspondent that some of hawkers especially those without a fixed bus exchange of unprintable words each time they get opportunity in a bus and one of them exceed allotted time:
“I witnessed it one fateful day on my way to Berger from Gwagwalada. Both traders were in the bus. Obviously they allotted time to each other. But one began marketing and possibly forgot that the other was waiting. The second person became tired of waiting and repeated signal, then he began to market his own. It was a noisy and chaotic situation.
“Nevertheless, I patronise them regularly if I see new things. But I took a decision to stop the patronage recently. This was because I bought one herbal drug and a beverage drink, from one of them that almost terminated my life.
“The products did exact opposite of what I was told it does. I took the drug according to instructions. But the effect was devastating on my health. Same thing happened to me some years back when I bought an ‘after shaving’ cream. It did exact opposite. Regrettably, I could not come across the sellers to report my experience.”
He admitted that good products are sold in commercial buses. But majority of the products are fake, unregistered products and some of traders have limited knowledge of the functions.
A high capacity bus driver, Onyedika Ishikwere, said three hawkers are attached to his bus. He said they agreed to rotate the days among themselves, meaning that one could sells in a particular day and give way to another person. That way, each of them is given equal opportunity.
The driver, however, confessed that the traders do pay an undisclosed amount of money at the end of each day or week, depending on the agreement reached. He equally confessed that patronage has been impressive because of the large number of passengers that use the bus daily.
A commercial bus trader, Osas, confessed to have made some “good fortunes” from the trade: “I sell different products ranging from drugs, cosmetics, beverages, supplements and several other things that people likes.
“I hawk along the streets of Abuja before I joined the buses. Officials of Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) were my major problem. There was hardly any week that I was not arrested by the officials once or twice. It seems they even target me everyday.
“At each occasion, they would empty my pocket, forcefully take my products and in some cases lock me up in their detention centers, if I refuse to settlement them. It was a torturous and horrible journey for me then. But I am more comfortable and at peace with my new system of trading.”
A pharmacist who pleaded anonymity, said government through the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and other relevant agencies have repeatedly warned consumers against patronizing such persons because they lack the basic knowledge of human health system.
He said that many people have either lost their lives or exposed themselves to several health complications due to the consumption of such unregistered drugs or beverages.