Lagos Hustle 1

In the end, the moral strength of any community will be measured by how we have treated our most vulnerable citizens, not by how we ourselves have fared…”

“Baboon wey no work to plant banana, go still chop free banana…” -‘Shioze

It is amazing how many things we assume and end up believing ought to be true without first stopping to probe for sure. In the country where we live in, Nigeria to be precise, it is not enough pride saying I live in the city of commercial wealth, precisely Lagos, without showing that you actually do have a job, a place to live in, enough cash in your pocket, and maybe a car to drive you round and about.

To say that you live in Lagos with a smile dashing about your teeth will mean to every other person that you have the means of survival and the strength of a hustler. It is painstakingly sad that about half of the population of the inhabitants of Lagos are hustling not for themselves but for others in privileged positions. This is the situation where you have small gods amongst gods…if you understand what I mean.

Now, my small rant all boils down to the amazing relationship between keke drivers and the small gods that they serve daily. These small gods prefer to be termed ‘Agbero/Omo-nile/touts/Area-boys’. I am sure you have most-times heard of them.

So I was going out one sunny afternoon and I jumped on the next free keke I found. As usual, we got towards Ajah market and one small man moved to the keke, pulled up a blue marker, proceeded to scribble some rubbish in front of the keke’s windscreen and said bluntly,

“Owo da?”

I looked at the hungry looking man and wondered what the money he was collecting was for. As usual, I assumed it was keke road levy to which the keke driver pulled out a #200 note, without complaint and handed the guy, who walked away peacefully.

Just a few drive ahead and another unscrupulous old man walked up to our keke, pulled out a red marker this time and scribbled some funny rubbish on the keke windscreen and looked at the keke driver smiling without a word. The keke driver, of course smiled back, and handed him a #100 note, still without complaint.

I again, assumed it was some sort of road levy for keke since it looked like a mutual consent of giving and receiving. We had not driven too far off as the keke criss-crossed towards the parking lane, when the same keke was accosted by two different funny looking Agbero’s shouting,

Ahn ahn…kilode? Owo e da? Ma fun mi #1000 oo, mi o ni shangii [change] oo”

Owo kini?” the keke driver requested “Mo ti fun baba agbalagba olowo naa”

Ma so rubbish oo, owo e da jare?”

The keke driver fumbled some words of cuss and complaint of how he had paid before and how they gave him one paper. The other dirty looking man replied saying he did not pay them, put his hands on the tricycle’s key proceeding to remove it before the keke driver opened his slosh-money hole handing them #1000 note saying,

Mi o ni change oo, e fun mi ni change e joor.”

The ugly  funny men fumbled between themselves and handed the keke driver some scrappy dirty notes consisting of #500, #200 and a #100 and walked to the next keke. At this point, I felt obliged to ask the throbbing question…

Oga, why you dey give all of them money like that? Na by force to pay?”

“Madam, na so we dey see am everyday oo. If you no pay them, na wahala be that oo”

“Ahn ahn, which kain yeye wahala?” I continued probing “If person no pay, them go beat am or collect him keke?”

“No, but they go worry you taya and they no go let you carry passenger. They fit even cease your key join.”

I looked at him in amazement as I listened. The elderly man seated beside me spoke up

“So somebody will work tirelessly only to give out his profits to some jobless set of people. There is nothing we won’t see in Nigeria. I mean, I can just go and buy marker and join the jobless wagon, abi no be so?”

He finished, looking outside in a bid to come down from the keke and trek the remaining distance.

I looked at the keke man and asked again

“So how much do you pay in total?”

Ha, e plenty oo. We dey pay #2,400 everyday.”

“Ehn? #2,400 everyday? For what now?” I asked angrily as the other woman hissed and said “Oloriburuku ni omo rada rada, #2,400 se kini?”

Una no go understand at all. Na so we dey see am. You no dey see say keke no dey gree come Ajah? The money wey we dey pay too much. I f we increas price, una go shout…wetin we wan do now?”

I could not possibly understand why each keke that passed Ajah market had to pay #2,400 to the rubbish set of touts who just drink, smoke and eat dried fish all day and maybe buy a blue/red marker every week. I mean, these keke drivers have a family to fend for, some even have kids, some have to pay school fees, they still need to buy fuel everyday, they still need to remit money of weekly earnings to their boss who owns the keke [they may be lucky if they own it themselves] but then they also have to provide money for monthly checks and maintenance plus they have to feed themselves and pay rent and so many other thing that money demands.

So how does a cut of #2,400 out of the little money of about #5,700 to #6,400 they make daily help their situation? I questioned further [thanks to the traffic jam, I was able to stall] on how come the money they paid the touts amounted to #2,400 every day and the keke man gladly explained.

He told me that in the morning, they pay a total of #700 to some set of touts who claim that the land they keep passing is their father’s land. So when they come to Ajah as early as 5.00am-7.30am to drop the early risers in a bid to avoid the morning Lagos traffic, they have to settle 3 sets of touts by paying #100, #200 and #200 respectively; then they give the policemen standing on patrol #200.

I gasped! So policemen were also involved in the free-money-collection game and these touts already come out by 5.00am? Amazing!.

Then in the afternoon, they pay a fee of #900 to another set of touts who come out only in the afternoons. The #900 they pay in batches as well and if they are unlucky to drive by again and see a strange face that they did not see earlier when they had paid, they have to pay another #100 or #200 depending on the tout’s demand. If they refuse, the tout will also refuse them to drive away or just yank away something vital from the keke, thereby leading to extra costs. What do you have left to do asides from being ‘penny wise, pound foolish’?

In the evenings, they then pay #800 and this includes policemen levy as well.

I could vividly remember one evening when I was in a keke and there was this hold-up, only to discover later when we got forward that a certain baba was accosting keke drivers and holding them to ransom if they did not pay the compulsory #200. This certain baba was collecting the said money for the policemen on patrol.

How did I know this?

When the keke I was in had successfully passed the baba [after payment of course], we were stopped again by the policemen just ahead. I had thought it was some sort of regulatory control for traffic, only for one of the policemen to shout across to the baba saying’

Baba Ado, shey oti gba owo’ eleyi?”

“Ehn, mo ti gba awon keke. E je ko lo.”

Eh! I did not just believe my ears. The police too? Just beautiful! The lady and the man seated with me just kept on complaining about the police and their continuous form of corruption and the keke man laughed. In his mind, hustle must still continue, no giving up.

We keep saying we need change, but how does that happen if we all don’t join together to create this change? I realize that everyone has his or her own struggle and only when you wear the shoe, do you realize how much it has been hurting the next person before you.

It’s not enough to complain and assume, it is for us to ask ourselves, if I were in the position of the keke driver, what would I do different than hike prices?

If I were the touts, what would I do different to stop keke bullying?

If i were the policeman on patrol, what would I do different for the keke drivers and the way-laying jobless touts?

If we succeed in answering these questions truthfully, we may realize just how far we are not from being different.

What are your thoughts? Please kindly use the comment section down below, it will be very much appreciated.


13 thoughts on “Lagos Hustle 1”

  1. Our Mumu don too much. Why can’t the keke operators come together and vehemently( or violently) resist this robbery since the government( which ought to protect them) is obviously in tacit approval . Same applies to bus drivers.

    It’s is too annoying seeing hard working men making returns to idiots .

    I have had cause to query an okada rider that was taking me home and he told me that they pay about N2000 daily ( same Ajah area) I felt sick.

    Anyway, welcome back from your ‘leave’. You were surely missed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These hard working men turn to something you don’t want to reckon with and they end up annoying you for just no reason. It’s saddening what our country can turn us into.

      Thanks for the welcome back, I hope to remain constant dear.

      Thanks for your comment.


  2. Honestly, the situation of things is saddening. It is funny how we all point our fingers to the elites and condemn them for abandoning us – the masses – when we are even worse. We kill ourselves daily. The elites steal from the masses and the masses rob the masses. It is annoying, and you dare not refuse to pay those levies. You dare not. Some of these drivers are usually physically assaulted – you see those NURTW touts with canes and sticks. Later the NLC will be making noise. Why is the NURTW collecting these monies? and where does it go? PArks are still in a perpetual filth. ANd these has huge ramifications for the government’s revenue because to these drivers and operators they have paid their taxes and this is not necessarily correct, but the government will look the other way because these touts (its hard to call them a nice name)are needed for election mobilisation.

    Bottom line is things are looking really bleak. And hate Buhari or not, Change really begins with us.

    sigh. Let me stop here, so as to avoid a part 2 of your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The government is obviously in tacit approval. How will they (keke drivers) even approve to be taxed? Afterall, the payments to touts amounts to some type of tax in their (keke drivers) mind. If they end up paying tax, is that not double levying?

      My dear, I hope our generation’s generation will be a bit more better and accommodating.

      Thanks for the comment hun.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very sad…. Yes this happens on our roads everyday.. The amazing thing is how these keke drivers handover the notes without argument or something… These agberos would continue everywhere. It’s not just in Lagos alone my dear…. Nice piece

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had thought that this occurs in Lagos alone, so this is a wide spread practice? May God help us.
      Every left and right corner you turn to in the country, has deep cancerous bite. I hope this ends some day.

      Thank you for reading dear.


  4. So, moving forward.

    Let the Keke riders complain to their association boss.
    Let the association hire a lawyer.
    Let the riders contribute a certain amount of money on a regular basis for retainership of the lawyer’s services.
    Let the association heads and their lawyer figure out a way to determine a legitimate amount of money to pay.
    Let the lawyer write letters and institute litigation to protect the rights of the association members.

    Now this night seem counter -intuitive, contributing money to pay a lawyer. But in the long run I believe it helps in protecting the rights of the riders better.

    I think Lawyers are not doing enough to fight for the rights of people in this country. I hope on our part we can have a value reorientation and change our approaches also.

    These are my uncoordinated thoughts. You ca achieve a lot with a lawyer passionate enough to fight for you (whether for free or paid)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree with you but there has to be some sort of sensitization to tell these Keke riders how it will benefit them.

      I am 100% sure that these keke drivers have an association with a chairman or president, who are available to the whims of these touts.

      Some of them see Lawyers as hard to handle and difficult to please. The association president for the keke riders is obviously aware of the growing plight of these drivers yet he seats and folds his arms.

      I will not be surprised if he is also one of these growing touts.

      Arguably, if we were to adopt your suggestions, how do we settle these touts who are very sure that the land is the land of their ‘ancestors’ and make sure they don’t resurface?

      Pending court case that might drag into years?

      Police arrest, that will not be effective as other touts will emerge in riot to the first arrested sets?

      Remember, some of the police are part of this trend, very disheartening.

      By the way, I’m growing tired of Nigeria, plus their rampant lip-service. I am certain I have joined as well.

      Thanks for your comment Said.


  5. I have always wondered why there is no justice system for this kind of extortion. This thing is everywhere in Nigeria though but it is so rampant in Ajah. The other day, I went to visit my sister on Ajah and she sent me to the market. I had not even parked the car properly in the small car park for customers when the so called agberos descended on me asking for #200. Shit was unbelievable (forgive my use of words) . when i got home, i had to ask my sister if she really pays or they just pulled a fast one on me but alas! She does. Every single time. It is terrible. Jobless people will just self appoint and start demanding money. Rubbish!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My dear…this is the constant struggle we face in Lagos, very terrible. No one is doing anything about it, no one wants to talk about it, everyone turns a blind eye to things like this and murmur inside. How does murmuring help us?

      Sometimes you even see some people in the same condition asking you, ehn, do you want trouble? just pay them…abeg, which trouble? These touts are not even properly registered, so abeg which trouble I find? Out of the touts and my very self, who dey find trouble? But self-acclaimed ‘rich’ Lagosians will just pay, after all, shebi it is just N200?

      As if it is everyone that has the N200 to spare on a daily.

      Thanks for reading jare Habibat before I start another post as a reply. Bless you for your comments as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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