Juliet Kenneth’s eyes were still teary. She had been crying from when the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) task force grabbed her tray of bananas, up till the moment she was bundled into their van. She still did not stop while being detained in their office. It was her first experience, one she never forgets.
Fortunately for 18-year-old Juliet, a senior member of the task force felt pity for her and instructed that she should be released and given her goods. Unfortunately for her, on her way back home, she was hit by a car. But she didn’t sustain any serious injury.
“I have been helping my mum hawk bananas for two months now,” she told Daily Trust as she hawked opposite Banex Plaza in Wuse II. A stone throw away, her mother and a couple of other banana sellers sit before a building with their trays. Soon after, a task force truck cruises by and they all duck into the premises of the building with their goods.
Juliet lives with her family in Mpape and has since rounded off her secondary school education. “I want to be a pharmacist so I can help sick people,” she said as she fiddled with her android phone.
Unlike Juliet, seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Onah’s case is different. She walked briskly with a tray heaped with groundnuts. Her mission is to sell everything, before she boards a bus that will take her home to Masaka in Nasarawa State.
Every day, she wakes up in the morning and after the boiled groundnuts are ready, sets off for Wuse II, her usual hawking spot. It is a long and risky journey for a seventeen-year-old eager to go back to school.
However, it has not always been a life of hawking for Elizabeth. She had written her Junior Secondary Certificate examination in Benue State when her parents sent her to Abuja to stay with an aunt. “They said they didn’t have enough money to keep me in school,” Elizabeth explained shyly. Her English is good and her manners appropriate as she spoke. She beamed when she talked about her love for Mathematics and English language.
So far, she has had a single encounter with the environmental task force, but she escaped. Interestingly, Elizabeth remains hopeful. She is doing all she can to sell as much groundnuts as possible in order to return to school. Whether her effort will pay off is an entirely different story.
From Sokoto to Abuja
Not far away from Elizabeth is twentyish Umaru Muhammadu who sells sachet water. Ten years ago, he had come to the capital city as a boy to seek a source of livelihood, leaving behind his parents in Sokoto State.
During the day, Muhammadu hawks tirelessly until it is night. Ten years after, he is without a place to sleep but lies in the premises of Sharif Plaza in Wuse II, till daybreak.
But Muhammadu doesn’t think he is doing badly, after all he is able to travel to Sokoto, at least twice a year, to see his family. In a day, he makes at least N800 worth of sales from sachet water, and he saves well. Eventually, when he makes the long-awaited journey, he is able to boast of giving his parents at least N10,000 or N15,000.
So far, Muhammadu has succeeded in evading the environmental task force who consistently ply the Wuse II roads of Abuja to nab hawkers. Perhaps someday, he would get a shop, but Abuja is an expensive city for people like him to thrive in. Still, he is not giving up.