By Best Ofori.
In the face of inadequate transportation in Lagos and other major cities across Nigeria, it is not uncommon to see a car of any make beckoning to commuters who are anxious to get to their various destinations. Such situations are more intense in the rush hours, that is,early in the morning and later in the evening when workers, traders and other business people are homeward bound.
Even the most touted Sport Utility Vehicle [SUV] and other exotic manufactures are not left out in this business of fast money. Popularly known as Kabu-Kabu in the 80s and 90s, only those at the lower rung of the economic ladder get involved. All that changed at the turn of the century.
Since the late 90s, a number of car owners have taken to using what they have, to get what they want. That is , using their vehicles for making extra cash, in order to augment whatever income that accrue them at the end of the month in their places of work.
The modus operandi is such that whenever a car owner sets out in the morning on a long drive, say from the mainland to the Island in Lagos, he is conscious of one thing –fuel consumption. In order to make for that, it becomes imperative for him to pick some passengers on his way. Depending on the capacity of the vehicle, he can make a thousand naira or more before getting to his destination.
Uzor Ibekwe, works with a Real Estate firm in Victoria Isand. With his 7-seater SUV, [Pilot], he leaves his home in Akowonjo area of Egbeda at about 5.30 am, and meanders into the ever busy Iyana Ipaja- Oshodi road , where a battery of corporately dressed young men and women are waiting for a fairly neat car to take them , mainly to the the Lagos Island.
With N300 per head, Uzor is sure of making two thousand naira before day –break. He does same on his way back home, but this time around at a higher fare, ostensibly due to the energy sapping and nerve breaking traffic snarl, en-route the mainland at this time of the day.
This writer joined Taofeek, a plumber by profession, but a cab driver by vocation on a journey from Dopemu to Oshodi. We were later joined by three other commuters at the rate of N200.00.each. With absolute comfort guaranteed, compared with the regular passenger buses, Taofeek’s car and other of its ilk are like hot cake in the early hours of the morning.
According to Taofeek, who spoke to this writer in Yoruba language, ‘’ I bought this car three years ago as ‘Tokunbo’ and I take it to the site, where I do my plumbing job and back home.In the process, I pick passengers to and fro. Aside from this, I also have friends and acquaintances who all have my phone number. So, whenever they want to carry any bulky material, or equipment, they call for my services. I also carry families to churches ,mosques and places of interest at good price. So, for me there is no dull moment’’.
Company cars are not left out in this business of eking a living on the wheels. It is no secret that most company drivers are poorly remunerated. Even the so called Executive drivers go for ‘drop’ once the opportunity comes. This way they earn extra cash, so they can have some money to play with.
It will surprise you to know that female motorists are also into the ‘Kabu-Kabu’ business. However, their numbers are infinitesimally insignificant. This is due to a number of reasons. Chief among them is security. As the fairer sex , women are more vulnerable to car theft. Their resistance to attacks could be much weaker than their male counterparts. This of course accounts for why they [women] are rather more subtle in picking passengers.
In all, this creativity is stimulated by the economic realities of the time, where the take home pay of an average individual cannot take him to the bus stop. Erstwhile, company executives are temporarily or permanently out of job. And in order to get themselves engaged, and in order to eke a living, their car becomes a ready tool.
Gone were the days when commuters join private or uncostomized vehicles, especially at peak housr, with so much trepidation. At that time , the fear robbery on wheels otherwise known as the ‘one-chance’ syndrome was palpable. This was when private as well as public vehicles were used to perpetrate heinous crimes such as robbery and kidnapping , where unassuming commuters are hypnotized by men and sometime women of the underworld. However, the activities of this undesirable elements have reduced considerably . So, it will be business as usual for the ‘’irregular cabs’’.
By Best Ofori.