Every morning, Ahmed Nasir rises at 4 am, completes his prayers, and then gathers his ware. By 6:00 am, dressed for the day, he enters the streets of Abuja with the hope of surpassing his sales from the previous day.
Nasir, a 25-year-old street vendor, peddles an assortment of goods, including bread, soft drinks, water, biscuits, sweets, and snacks. He strategically positions himself in areas with heavy traffic, approaching drivers and passengers in the hopes of making sales.
“It’s a daily hustle for me. As the youngest in my family, with three married sisters, I’ve taken on a new responsibility now that I’m grown,” he shared.
Nasir dreams of a future where he can provide for his elderly parents and fund his university education.
However, street hawking wasn’t always Nasir’s way of life. “Two years ago, I began as an apprentice in a tailoring shop, and everything was going well until difficulties arose. I needed money because my father lost his sight.”
With a heavy heart, Nasir set aside his apprenticeship and educational aspirations to focus on supporting his family in their challenging circumstances. “Since my father’s condition wasn’t improving, he gave me the savings he had from his work as a house agent. Initially thinking of opening a small shop, I realised the money wasn’t sufficient, leading me to venture into hawking.”
“Mondays are special for us because many vehicles are out for their new week routine. Consequently, there’s usually heavy traffic, and sellers like me take advantage to sell whatever we have,” Nasir explained.
Alfred Solomon, another hawker, frequently encounters Nasir on the streets of Abuja. Both seem to have mastered the art of timing, knowing where and when to capitalise on traffic.
“I lost my parents at six and have been with extended family members who are poor. We were raised to fend for ourselves, and that’s what I do for a living since I cannot go to school,” Solomon said.
Solomon sells a variety of items, and switches his inventory based on the season. “Harmattan is coming soon, so I’ll sell things like socks, thick sweatpants, and hand gloves. I know these items will sell well because people will need them when it gets cold.”
Despite providing essential goods for people like Solomon and Nasir, the hawking business comes with its risks. Earlier this month, a 33-year-old woman in Lagos who hawked eggs lost her life in a tragic accident.
Nasir and other hawkers acknowledge these risks but choose to face them rather than succumb to hunger. Nasir recounts numerous near-death experiences in traffic but remains undeterred, viewing it as his means of survival.
“Running in traffic is not easy. Some drivers are reckless and may harm you. But I can’t blame them because I know it’s not entirely legal to hawk amidst moving cars,” Nasir explained.
Aliyu Abubakar, who sells furniture on the streets, shared that he has been hit by cars multiple times and sustained injuries. Despite his family and friends advising against selling amidst moving vehicles, he finds it hard to let go, considering it the fastest way to make a living.
“I have a pregnant wife and two kids at home. While I’ve been told to avoid selling amid moving vehicles, it’s the fastest for me. Sometimes, I encounter good Samaritans who let me keep the change and even add more. It’s hard to let it go despite knowing the dangers,” Abubakar said.