By Okwe Obi
There is no modern market in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) you will not find wheelbarrow pushers despite the metropolitan nature of the city. From Garki to Wuse, Karmo, Nyanya to Jabi and Utako, including motor parks, there are visible signs of wheelbarrow pushers hustling.
They are always the first to arrive and the last to leave the market. In fact, even before the market gates are flung opened, they have strategically positioned themselves waiting for prospective buyers.
In most cases, they do not wait to see you with foodstuffs or bulky goods before they approach you, wanting to know if you would need their services. Majority are in their twenties with wives and children. They have shabby dress code as they defile the scourging sun or heavy rain just to make ends meet.
Their modus operandi are almost regimented. When business goes slow, they congregate under the shade, play songs in their phones, waiting and hoping to still hit their target by making more money.
They do not have a fixed price for their services because it all depends on one’s bargaining power. These lads charge fees in the range of N50 to N200, depending on the distance and the quantity of the luggage. No matter how large the luggage is, they are not bothered. If they can’t, they call their colleagues to help. But giving up is not an option for them.
Some are very kind in the sense that they can go extra mile to please you. Aside stopping a vehicle, they also ensure that the driver does not swindle you by charging you above the required price that is if you do not know your way around.
But, there are also bad eggs among them. For those ones, they do not care of the consequences of stealing or defrauding their customers. Some of them are equally troublesome and highly cantankerous. They cart people’s goods recklessly, sometimes, damaging them, and causing traffic, unapologetically.
They transfer their frustration on anybody who tries to caution them. In most cases, customers would have to dance to their tune by walking faster with them to where the goods would be offloaded, because for them, time is money.
And if the owners do not know the market very well, and these boys have gone ahead then he or she would have to kiss their luggage goodbye or carry out search of their whereabouts.
In most cases, they do not keep to their side of the bargain when it comes to the amount agreed upon. After offloading the luggage and they are paid, they will start complaining that the destination agreed was not what you took them, meaning you should add something.
For some who are dubious, they go as far as stealing some of the goods in the process of conveying the items. Any point of distraction or loss of concentration could spell doom you as they handover these stolen items to their colleagues. And when the owners discover and raise the alarm, they flatly deny. The problem becomes compounded when the owner cannot actually proof that his or her goods have been stolen because the issue would be swept under the carpet when reported to the management of the market.
Speaking to Daily Sun at Utako market, a trader, Margaret Joseph, who has had similar experience said she lost over N20,000 worth of stock fish, explaining: “I have had my own share of the menace of wheelbarrow pushers. I hired one of them recently to convey my goods from the market to where I can get a cab to Gwarimpa.
“He was moving faster than me. I told him to slow down that I was tired, but he complained that he needed to hurry up to enable him return to the market. I offered to increase what we agreed so that he won’t destroy my stock fish. He accepted.
“So, I wanted to buy onions we stopped together. And as I was concentrating selecting them, all of a sudden, I didn’t see this guy with my goods. I ran out of the market hoping to find him at the junction, but I didn’t see him. In fact, I had to return to where we met he was nowhere to be found. I was confused. That was how I lost my goods. Since then, I don’t take chances,” she narrated.
Another victim Anthony Blessing, said that her noodles and other food items were stolen, explaining: “I offered to pay this man N500 because he followed me all around. I noticed that a carton of noodles was missing. He denied it when I asked him. It was shocking and painful. For the sake of peace, I had to let it go.”
However, one of them, Adamu Abdulkareem, debunked the allegations, arguing that most people try to take advantage of their illiteracy to dupe them.
He added that most customers’ abuse and accuse them whenever anything happens to their goods. He cited a case where somebody forgot a carton of soap where she bought it and when she didn’t see it, she refused to pay him and accused him of stealing it. It was when she called that the seller told her to come and pick it up. Then she started apologising.
“Most customers look down on us. They insult and pay us lesser than what was agreed. When we complain they call us Boko Haram, thief and lazy people and you want us to keep quite. Somebody will offer to pay N100 and delay us when they know that we can make more than that within 30 minutes,” he defended.
Regardless, a shop owner at Garki modern market, Chuks Emeka, advised people to be careful when hiring some of them, suggesting that after shopping, they should appeal to the shop owner to look for a reliable wheelbarrow pusher to convey their goods and should anything happens, they can identify the person.
“We know those that are trustworthy and sincere. So, buyers should beg shop owners to recommend those they can trust to ferry their goods, if they are in doubt so that if anything goes wrong, they can look for them,” he advised.