•‘How we make millions working at night’
By Cosmas Omegoh
Lagos hardly sleeps. And many believe that the city has genuine reasons to be awake all the time. Their reason is that millions in the city make their money late at night; defying the daunting challenges those hours often pose.
All over Lagos, men and women and even teenagers are part of the burgeoning tribe whose members make the night their day. Call them kings and queens of the night; that indeed is what they are – people who rule the nights the way the gods do.
What that means is that at a time many in the city are descending into deep slumber, some are left behind to carry out one form of business or another. There are some of them who begin their businesses as early as 6pm and never close until midnight and beyond. After a paltry four hours of sleep, they return next morning to continue from where they left off.
For some too, at a time other residents are enjoying their sleep, they are venturing out, storming sometimes into the embrace of the biting cold, determined to ride its crest, no matter how rough that might be. They tear through the still nights inadvertently disturbing its tranquility, driven by endless search for money and, sometimes, raw fun.
This segment of Lagos population in season and out of season runs a potpourri of businesses that keeps the city bubbling with night life, thereby keeping Lagos awake. Among those businesses are foods and drinks, sales of various items, transport services, night clubbing and casino undertaking, leisure, entertainment management, commercial sex activities and many more.
And many believe that a lot of those night-hour businesses contribute largely to the country’s economy.
Interestingly, some areas of Lagos are closely associated with some of those activities that keep Lagos’ nights buzzing, Daily Sun has found out. It was the discovery made after nights of observation and investigation that saw the reporter crisscrossing the city, checking out how things swing about the time most mortals have long retired to the comfort of their homes.
Transport services at night sustain some people in Lagos. Here, people just must be on the road all the time. That is why there are commercial motorcycle operators, aka okada, registered taxis and unregistered ones called (kabukabu) and the ubiquitous Volkswagen mini-buses, the danfo.
Many who patronise them at those hours are largely party freaks, commercial sex workers and other persons, who have cause to be out late at night. Expectedly, they pay through the nose, sometimes to get to their destinations.
An okada rider, Chuks, who, until recently, was a night-time operator in Surulere area of the city, told Daily Sun that the best time to make cool money was at night.
“I used to sleep for long hours in the day ahead of the night outing. I would take my bike for repairs to ensure seamless operation. Then by 10pm, I was out. There were other operators like me, but we used to increase our fares, as the daytime operators retired.
“Then it was real fun – no agberos disturbing you and the roads were free. But we had to avoid the police.
“I was then making some good money, sometimes N5,000 every night. But two things compelled me to stop. One day, I took a man to an area in Lawanson, not knowing that he was a thief, operating with his gang members. The moment he alighted, he began struggling with me for my bike. But I instantly overpowered him and zoomed off early enough before his gang members could reach the scene.
“Then, there was this day I picked a lady at Ijesha, who wanted me to take her to Aguda. I had barely gone beyond 500 metres when I realised that my passenger was gone; it instantly dawned on me that I was ferrying a ghost. I promptly turned back and headed straight home. That was the day I quit the business.”
Taxis and kabukabu
All night in Lagos, taxis and kabukabus come handy. Like hunters stalking for game, operators station themselves at popular bus stops and around hotels and entertainment spots, waiting for customers. They make big money because there are no unions or agberos to worry them.
When this correspondent arrived Lagos recently at 2am from a journey, he observed some of the drivers lying atop their car bonnets at the foot of the pedestrian bridge at Ojota, awaiting passengers coming late into town. The fare for a 15-minute ride to Surulere was N2,500.
At Ojuelegba, Obalende, Ikeja Roundabout, Eko Hotels and Suites and Ajose Adeogun Roundabout on Victoria Island areas, they are dominant. They operate when other regular taxis have all retired. They come handy at Opebi-Allen Roundabout, one of the hottest spots in Lagos that bubbles until 5am, especially at weekends, with fun seekers, who throng the entertainment centres in the area.
Inter-city buses business
And what would anyone say about the inter-city bus operators? Despite the risks perceived to be associated with night travels, a staggering number of people still travel at night. And one needs to go to various bus garages in Lagos to find out.
It was about 10pm at Maza-maza, one of the popular Bus Stops near Mile 2 when the reporter visited. Inside one of the Young Shall Grow garages, a couple of luxury buses stood, waiting to embark on a night journey. It was like day, as a crowd milled around, with intending passengers and hawkers in the majority. Tons and tons of loads stood everywhere. Along the Old Ojo Road, home to several other transport companies, their workers were eagerly soliciting passengers.
A staff of one of the lesser transport companies, Onyeka, told the reporter: “Every night, Young Shall Grow operates 12 luxury buses to most parts of the country. Every other company here operates an average of one luxury bus each. The fare is N4,450 to destinations in the East because of the high cost of gas.
“Even as late as 2am, you will always see passengers coming here. This place is ever busy; sometimes, you see passengers arriving from countries in the West Coast. Some of them stay here until it is dawn before continuing their journeys.”
Tens of sprinter buses, belonging to other companies were also there at that hour, their operators soliciting passengers who would embark on their journeys that night.
When the reporter hit the ever-busy Mile 2, intermittently, vehicles were arriving from the neighbouring countries. Most of their passengers were women, returning from Cotonou with rice packaged in cellophane bags, tomato puree, among other petty smuggled items.
At the International wing of the park, vehicles arrived from and departed for Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire. A man, who identified himself as Hyginus, told the reporter that he just came in from Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire.
“This place stays awake till dawn. Anytime I arrive late, I stay with other passengers, drinking tea or beer.”
About 10pm at Bolade, Oshodi, and Jibowu, Yaba, several other inter-city luxury and sprinter buses operators hustled for passengers. Among those waiting to travel that night were men and women. A trader at Chisco Transport, Jibowu, told the reporter: “Overland night travels are by far better than in the in day time travels. They give you room to sleep; you spend no money buying items on the road.” Reminded about the dangers involved, he said: “Everyone has their luck.”
Lagos is home to several hundreds of night markets where buyers make their late-night purchases, mainly foodstuff and meat. Some streets are designated for such markets. Every area has its own market. Traders in some of those markets stay until late, illuminating their wares with China-made rechargeable lamps or local lamps whose flames flicker in the night air. The traders stay as long as there are people coming forward to patronise them.
But there is another form of night markets trading mostly in wears and accessories, various imported items among other things. They spring up at popular bus stops to provide the needs of an army of late-night returnees. Their operators wait until the Lagos State law prohibiting street trading has gone to sleep. They spread their wares on the walkways to make sales.
One of such huge markets holds at Cele along Oshodi-Mile 2 Expressway, Orile, Ikeja along the railway line and Ojota, among other places. As late as 11pm, the operators are still on. At about 10pm at Ojota, a young lad making last-minute sales held out a used shirt to the reporter and announced: “Oga buy oooo. Na here Governor Ambode dey buy him own.”
About that hour, shops operating beyond 15 hours a day were still open on Awolowo Way, Ikeja, near the bridge, selling clothes, wines and spirits and groceries. With their environment illuminated most people never realised that it was already late.
Interestingly at those hours of the night, there were petty traders selling sachet water, recharge cards, assorted energy and sachet drinks, among other things. And there are beggars too strewn all over the places, soliciting alms.
Nightclubs and leisure spots
Even amid the economic downturn, Lagos residents still find time to unwind at various leisure spots, ranging from the low to the upscale. Big-time hotels and clubs are front-liners.
Every part of the city hosts a number of entertainment and relaxation spots where people go to feel real good, with some of them playing good music and showing live football matches.
One of them is Spotshaq in Surulere and Victoria Island.
Some of the clubs, which stay late into the nights are for registered members, with non members paying higher for services and items they buy. Some spots show live matches, as incentives while some charge per view, with costs ranging between N200 to N500. Food, drinks, cigarettes and other consumables sold at such spots are usually double their market value.
Some spots maintain live bands that entertain visitors while some have solo entertainers, playing guitars or saxophones free to entertain while expecting appreciative guests to spray them with money for their efforts.
At the big time hotels, business goes on all-day. There is always a stream of guests and partakers in one form of activity or another. At all times, money is changing hands. The visitors are always in their restaurants and bush bars, eating, drinking and ruling the nights with some playing assorted games for money in casino.
However, the real action is at the various nightclubs where many go to have a ball, and dance away the night for a fee. Hundreds of women flock to those arenas in the same way butterflies besiege nectar. One of those spots is Parkers at Allen-Opebi Roundabout in Ikeja, an area that houses a variety of clubs. There, only a thin line separates the day from the night.
As late as 2am every weekend, the area is in full flight, with heavy human and vehicular traffic. Every inch of space is taken up, such that the visitors hardly have space to park their vehicles. A first timer would think a carnival is on but that is wrong. The ladies, who throng the area are commercial sex hawkers who come to hustle. For a fee of N5,000 and above, they are available to any interested man. Taking them home for the night, Daily Sun learnt, could cost as high as N20,000, depending on the size of the man’s pocket.
“Some of these ladies are undergraduates from various tertiary institutions,” a man, Ben, told the reporter. “Every weekend, this place is as busy as a market place. Usually, it begins to bubble from 11pm till dawn. The ladies come here to take advantage of the nightclubs that abound; they make a lot of money every night. For some, that is all they do to get by.”
In Festac Town and its extension, several nightclubs abound. Some of these are Nyph, Rumours and Grasshoppers. Visitors pay admission fees, beginning from N1,000. And while inside the arena, they buy the least bottle of beer for N1,000. There are also other side attractions, which visitors pay money to be part of.
The story is nearly the same at Afrika Shrine, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s entertainment spot at Agidingbi now being managed by his son, Femi.
Then Cave Nude Club is one of the many spots where people go to spend their money and have real fun. According to a source, “There, nude women bring on their swagger and turn their male watchers on. The moment they come over and begin to touch you, you make instant payment not less than N1,000. There, of course, very expensive wines and spirits are sold. You show yourself as a big boy by the kind of drinks you buy and the circle of friends you keep.”
Foods and drinks
In Lagos, many are involved in selling food and drinks, a business that keeps them till late. Every thickly populated community has such joints.
There are the well patronised suya spots being managed by many from the North. At some popular spots, operators stay up to midnight as long as people are ready to take a bite at their tasty, spiced meat.
Then there are the tea sellers, some of whom continue to attend to their teeming customers, trooping out to have something hot to warm their bodies even as late as midnight. Anywhere there is a concentration of people from the northern part of the country, one is sure to see them in their numbers. At Okokomaiko in Ojo, Idi-Araba and Ijora, they are not hard to find. They are seen standing behind their tables with their utensils and foods spread on it. Some of them now add a variety of easy-to-prepare foods, such as noodles and eggs for people on the go.
Also in this number are women, who prepare food for night crawlers. At Ojuelegba on this particular night, it was approaching 11pm. A certain woman sat beside a big, locally fabricated pot, sitting atop a locally made wood stove. It was full of steaming rice that presumably would be consumed shortly before midnight.
In other places like the Allen-Opebi axis where people stay till dawn, food vendors respond with foods in big coolers to cater to their needs and in turn make good cash.
Music and stand up comedy
Indeed, music and comedy are two thriving industries now employing an army of young people, with most of their engagements holding at night at some of the upscale event entertainment centres.
Eko Hotels and Suites and Civic Centre are among the venues on Victoria Island where such events hold almost every fortnight. During the events, seats for two sell for as much as N10,000. A corporate table made up of 10 seats go for N1million.
“It is a good development for the young people,” Bonny Okafor, aka Aloma, a comedian, told the reporter. “Apart from keeping people busy, that also ensures that they have some money in their pockets.”