Malam Abubakar Dan Sokoto used to be a railway porter in Lagos State. Then he cherished the period when the railway industry was thriving in the country. As a means of livelihood, he now sells old currencies, reports Mahmud Lalo.
Neither the deafening sound coming from the horn of the train, nor the sound of the heavy wheels of the three coached train as it passed each intersection of the track, made Malam Abubakar Dan Sokoto who sat few inches away from the track, to pay attention.
The passenger train arrived the small terminal at Agege, precisely at a place which is referred to as Karkashin Gada (Under the Bridge), the name which stems from the small pedestrian bridge which trains usually pass through to make a brief stop-over to drop some passengers.
61 year old, Dan Sokoto, was himself a railway porter in the golden days of the sector, but had to look elsewhere to earn a living when the sector folded up. Although it was many years after that, he spent many idle years, but however, decided to try an unusual business – selling old currencies that have been abandoned by successive governments.
This evening, displayed before Dan Sokoto were old naira notes and coins spread on small clothing for his customers to choose from, coins, one and five naira notes that could bring powerful memories to many.
“People buy them to keep at home showing their children the different currencies their country used, while some buy them for spiritual needs. I mean some people might be looking for an antidote to a disease , and so they will be asked to bring old currency in form of coin or notes, especially among the Yoruba,” said Dan Sokoto.
When asked where he gets his supply of the old currency from, Dan Sokoto explained that he gets them from the North, especially from places like Kano.
“I usually get my supply from the North, particularly from Kano.As I am speaking to you right now, my supplier has travelled to bring a fresh supply, and he will soon return.”
The value of the notes and coins, according to Dan Sokoto go for between N20 and N50, depending on how long the currency has been in existence.
But the astonishing thing about Dan Sokoto’s business is that he even sells cowry shells, which use to be the medium of exchange in the past, as well as pre-independence currencies which include shillings.
“This class of currency costs much more than the rest, because they have been kept for this long. Many of the young men of these days have no idea how these currencies look, or what was used as a medium of exchange before the introduction of money.”
But many have wondered how Dan Sokoto found himself in this unique endeavor , and he never hesitates to share his story.
“There was a man that used to do the same business around here a long time ago..One of his suppliers brought old currencies for sale , and it happened he had no money to pay him.So, he asked me to buy the old currencies and start selling them since he had no money.That was exactly what I did, and the rest is history.”
Although he says the business doesn’t bring in much, Dan Sokoto said he doesn’t want to be tempted into begging, that is why he decided to stick to what he is currently doing.
“I make a couple of hundreds in a day. On some rare occasion, I do make a thousand or two.But what I am trying to do is to avoid going into begging, and I thank Allah for what I am getting through this activity to feed my family.”
But despite being in his early sixties, Dan Sokoto believes age is not a barrier to him returning to his former job of a porter, if the rail sector regains its thriving days.
“I learnt that there is a train that now shuttles between Kano and Lagos. If that is sustained and all other routes are revived, the rail sector will become vibrant, and I might as well be a porter again.” Dan Sokoto said when asked if he has plans to switch to another trade in the future.