To many, the taxi driver is just another Nigerian among the nation’s overflowing population of struggling citizens caught in the endless race to stay afloat, especially in these trying days of economic recession. Like the majority of his fellow countrymen and women who constitute the membership of the commoners club, he is presumed to be on the wheels on most days, putting in so much and earning so little in return.
But in Abuja, the nation’s capital, many of them seem not comfortable with the notion that they are just a little better than society’s very poor. Many of them who were interviewed by Abuja Metro confessed that they are not at the rung of the financial ladder as many think.
As our investigation revealed, not few taxi drivers in Abuja are landlords, even though there are those who waste their earnings on drinks, parties and women. Some of them boasted that they make more money than what a banker earns monthly even though they work at their own pace and can afford to take a day off, “unlike office workers who can do so only with their boss’ permission.”
Checks also revealed that some taxi drivers in the capital city are holders of either NCE or university degrees, but chose to become self-employed after failed efforts to secure non-existent white collar jobs.
Sharing his experience as a cab driver in Abuja, Mr Joseph Adeni, a graduate, began by stating what it takes to join the trade.
“If you want to be a taxi driver here, there are legal ways to go about it. First, you register with any of the various unions because this is one of the rules and regulations for taxi drivers in Abuja. You must register with them and become a member. The different colours, which are green and yellow, indicate the different taxi drivers unions in Abuja.
“Each day, I make at least N5,000. It all depends on how hard you work. I am married with children and I maintain my family from the proceeds. The car I use for taxi, is mine; so I do not make delivery to anybody”, he said.
Adeni said he enjoys his job even though he would have preferred a pensionable employment.
“As an educated person, one needs to have a pensionable job because old ages, which is inevitable, sets in, it affects the job of a taxi driver”, he reasoned.
Also, he talked about “one -chance” robbers who operate in cabs in the city, saying that the activities of the criminals are adversely affecting the genuine cab operators. “This is because a passenger could stop you and suddenly refuse to enter your car, maybe because of your looks. Even cars that are registered and painted in taxi colours indulge in ‘one chance’ activities. We hope that government would take the issue of monitoring registered cars seriously”, Adeni said.
On the notion that taxi drivers are drunks and womanizers, Adeni stated that it all depends on the individual, because he neither womanizes nor drinks.
Another cab driver, Mr Ademola, said he was married with children who are all in school, adding that he is happy with his job because he makes a lot of money to take care of his nuclear and extended families. Like Adeni, he assured that he had no reason to regret being a cab driver in Abuja.
Their colleague in the business, Muhammad Umar, who operates from Jabi park branch, told Abuja Metro that he was married with five children and they are in school. He stated that he pays their school fees conveniently from his earnings as taxi driver.
However, he complained that business has been slow lately due to the lingering fuel scarcity, and appealed to the government to act swiftly, “because Nigerians are suffering, spending many hours at the filling stations.”
For Mr Mustapha Muhammad, another taxi driver, things are not yet shaping up because he operates the cab business for someone and makes daily payment to the owner of the car. Married, but yet to have children, his present challenge is the fuel scarcity because he spends hours in long queues to get fuel and the situation takes its toll on his earnings. He explained that, to be able to make reasonable money for him and the owner of the car, he has to be on the road very early.
On how he spends his money, Muhammad said in pidgin English: “I no drink anything except na mineral. I no dey follow ashawo because I be true Muslim.”
Most of the cab drivers who spoke to Abuja Metro, advised other able-bodied but jobless Nigerians to join the business, pointing out that what matters.