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How expatriates ‘take over’ artisanal jobs in Nigeria

In Lagos, Benneth Kwame, a tiler who hails from Kumasi in Ghana has lived in Nigeria since 2006.

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There is increased concern over the activities of foreign nationals who have taken over the jobs of local artisans in Nigeria. These foreigners work in almost all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), making money to earn decent living in Nigeria and in their countries. Several reasons have been adduced to the preference for foreigners, including good work attitude and cheap labour, as Daily Trust reports.

Craftsmen from Togo, Ghana, Benin Republic, Mali, among others, who engage in jobs such as tiling, tailoring, carpentry, masonry, hairdressing and other menial jobs are living big in Nigeria.

The attitude of some Nigerian elite who prefer to patronise foreigners is said to be responsible for the influx of foreign artisans at the detriment of those at home.

It was also learnt that some Nigerian engineers and building contractors prefer employing foreign artisans because of their commitment and dedication.


In Lagos, Benneth Kwame, a tiler who hails from Kumasi in Ghana has lived in Nigeria since 2006.

While speaking to Daily Trust, Kwame said his elder brother who is also a tiler brought him to Nigeria in 2006 after which he underwent training in tiling and started out on his own in Rivers State before moving to Lagos.

Kwame explained that, “I learnt tiling from my elder brother for two years until I mastered the job and started out on my own. Since then, I have gotten jobs from Nigerians who appreciate my handwork.”

He said honesty and timely delivery of a job was the reason many Nigerians gave most jobs to foreigners.

He further said, “I do a lot of tiling work, and I have also learnt painting to increase my income. I go out to scout for any of these jobs and by the grace of God I am getting the jobs. As we speak, I have about three houses I will be tiling and painting.”

He, however, noted that most of their Nigerian counterparts in the business of menial jobs were not happy with them because they felt they were taking over their jobs.

He said, “I once had a confrontation with a man from the South East who accused me of taking over his customers. He said that I cut the cost of my services and that is the reason why I’m getting more jobs than them (Nigerians).”

A Nigerian tiler, Thankgod Eserh, who corroborated Kwame’s claim, said foreign tilers were taking over most of their jobs because they cut the cost of their services.

Erseh noted that most Nigerians took advantage of the fact that foreign artisans reduced the cost of their services to patronise them.

He said, “Some of the artisans you see in Port Harcourt are nationals of Ghana, Togo and Niger Republic. Most of them are into tiling, painting and cosmetology. They cut the cost of their services, and you know what Nigerians are; they want cheap services and that is the reason why the foreigners are patronised.

“Another reason they are being patronised is because of the poor attitude of our Nigerian artisans to work. Some of them collect jobs only to abandon them halfway after collecting advance payment.”

Mrs Evelyn Patrick is a Ghanaian tailor who has been in Lagos since 2005. She said it took her three years to learn as an apprentice in in Ghana.

Some of Kwame’s finished works
Some of Kwame’s finished works

Mrs Patrick said, “It is believed that in the three years, an apprentice would have learnt all the skills, techniques, as well as the nitty-gritty of the occupation.”

On why she is being preferred above many local tailors, Mrs Patrick said her customers enjoyed her work because they came out neat, were fairly cheap and delivered on time.

She explained that, “Right from the time of learning, I was taught how to welcome, entertain and keep my customers, and I have continued to practice all of that. Customer satisfaction is my priority.”

A customer of Mrs Patrick’s, Mrs Rebecca Samuel, told Daily Trust that Mrs Patrick had been her tailor since 2012, noting that she had never been disappointed by her.

Mrs Samuel said, “She treats me like a queen and she is timely. She has had to sew dresses for me and deliver quickly within 24 hours. Above all, she has a very good character; she never gets angry and is always ready to amend clothes for her customers. Before I met her, I was always having misunderstanding with my local tailors because of their failure to meet deadlines; yet their services are priced so high.”

In Nnewi, Anambra State, a Togolese, David Togo, who is into Plaster of Paris (POP) ceiling installation, said it took three years to learn a vocation in his country.

Togo said they were good at their work because they saw it as their all and as such focused on it with all their heart.

He said, “As an apprentice in Togo, you must learn for three years before you can be certified to be on your own. I have been in Nigeria for 15 years and I have been doing well. I get jobs from different states of the country.”

Mr Ahmed Taofeek, a Nigerian who engaged the services of some boys from Togo to install POP in his house at Magboro in Ogun State, said artisans from Togo were very skillful and that they did their job diligently and professionally.

The President of Lagos State Bricklayers Association (LSBLA), Oyebamiji Dauda, said some individuals and even government preferred to patronise foreigners because their prices were seen to be cheaper.

Dauda said, “The price of the Togolese is cheaper than that of local artisans because they have houses in Lagos and they don’t pay tax. We pay rent and we also pay tax to government. When you visit Togo, you will see big hotels, eateries owned by bricklayers, some of who come to make money in Nigeria and go to invest in their country.

“Another thing about them is that they hardly complete a job before they jump into another one. The government will continue to lose as long as it does not put an end to activities of foreigners who have taken over the jobs of local artisans in Nigeria.”

 One of Olumide’s apprentices
One of Olumide’s apprentices

Dauda, therefore, appealed to the government to rescue the building sector from the hands of foreigners, saying the building industry was the strength of Nigeria’s economy, and also urged Nigerians to value what they had.

In Oyo State, cheap labour has been identified as the reason why foreigners get more jobs, local artisans have alleged.

The artisans attributed the influx of foreigners into the country to cheap labour and access to free accommodation by them.

A POP caster in Ibadan, Olumide Ajilore, told Daily Trust that there was no viable association for those casting POP in the state to regulate their operations.

Ajilore said their findings showed that Nigerians preferred foreigners from Benin Republic because of the cheap labour they offered.

He said, “Though we are not happy about it, there is nothing we can do about it since we don’t have a viable association. These people are moving to the country because their currency is not strong enough. It is a huge amount when they make little money from here.

“Another factor is that they live in free accommodation when they arrive in Nigeria.”

He further said, “The ugly aspect of it now is that when our people give money to foreigners, they flee with their money. So there is a need for government to check them because many of them do not have the right papers to be in Nigeria.”

Reacting to the allegations, a tiler from Benin Republic, Nugboyan Gbenukpo, denied some of the allegations, saying, “Nigerian elite appreciate our good and perfect job. They know that our people are good at laying tiles and erecting POP. It is true that our job is cheap, but on the other hand, we do quality work.”

In Kano, the exploits of foreign artisans in the have not been too glaring as it was gathered that most of them have naturalised.

According to a Kano-based historian, Malam Idris Bashir, in the late 70s through to early 80s, the exploits of Ghanaian artisans, especially tailors, in Fagge gave the area what is known today as the hub of modern tailoring services.

Malam Bashir explained that, “Fagge has been a hub of Ghanaian tailors since the late 70s and after the ‘Ghana Must Go’ saga. Some of the Ghanaian tailors left while many remained behind and naturalised. These tailors have given tailoring activities in Kano State a new outlook that we are presently benefitting from.”

Similarly, with the advent of POP, the art has been dominated by foreigners, especially Cameroonians and Togolese who now train indigenous artisans.

A Cameroonian, Abdoulaye Moude, who has been in Nigeria since 1994 when he came with his boss on the invitation of a Kano-based businessman for a job, said he graduated and decided to continue his job, as well as train others in Nigeria.

Umar Bello Kawo who is a Nigerian that deals in POP in Kano, noted that the challenges faced by local artisans were that most people trusted foreign artisans more even when they presented lesser quotations at the bidding level.

Kawo said, “We bid for jobs with foreign artisans but they usually get the jobs even when we bid at lesser prices, and this is because they have the confidence of the Nigerians while we don’t. This has been an issue we face; the public tends to trust the foreign artisans’ work more than ours.”

Another Nigerian artisan, Usman Haruna, who is a tailor, said most people preferred foreign tailors to local ones, especially those from Senegal.

According to him, to remain in the business he had to travel to Senegal to learn the new trend in tailoring services which gave him an edge over other local tailors that had not updated themselves.

Haruna said, “Everyone, especially the elite, is after Senegalese or Senegal-trained tailors.”

A civil engineer in Abuja, Solomon Ola, confirmed that foreign artisans, especially those from Togo and Benin Republic, were very good at tiling, POP and masonry; adding that they charged cheaper than Nigerian artisans and handled projects with all seriousness.

Engr Ola said, “They know that they are not in their country, so they are very focused and go all out for business to make money while our local artisans charge ridiculous prices.”

Govt should regulate artisanal jobs – Analysts

Reacting, the convener of Unemployed People of Nigeria (UPN), Dr Uzor Ngoladi, said the federal government should adopt the mantra of “Nigeria First” as was done in the United States under Donald Trump, which made it mandatory to possess a work permit before being allowed to work.

Dr Ngoladi said it did not make any sense when the majority of Nigerians did not have work and people without legal papers were all over the place working.

He said, “The government should be deliberate about it. If you are an illegal immigrant you will not be allowed to work. And even if they have work permit, Nigerians should be considered first.”

A lawyer, Abdulhamid Mohammed, urged statutory agencies which regulate foreigners coming to Nigeria for business or trade to do their work in ensuring that the necessary laws were complied with.

Mohammed said the immigration and a department under the ministry of Trade and Industry had regulations on expatriate quota positions and on licencing foreign companies.



In Abuja, Daily Trust observed foreigners engaged in artisanal and menial jobs like hair dressing, make-up artists and fashion designing at the Wuse Market and other shopping centres, and most Nigerians prefer to patronise them for “cheaper charges and better work”.

There are also food vendors and kiosk owners who are mostly from Cameroun who are said to have come to Nigeria through Calabar in Cross River State.

It was also learnt that some of the foreign artisans were brought into the country by Nigerians who needed cheaper labour than what their fellow Nigerians would be demanding as wages or salary.

From Christiana T. Alabi (Lagos), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Jeremiah Oke (Ibadan), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano), John Chuks Azu & Abbas Jimoh, Abuja

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