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Inside story of vulcaniser living from hand to mouth

Living in a half fenced uncompleted building he calls a house, without furniture and absolutely lacking social amenities, Usaini Munkaila looks very contented as he…

Living in a half fenced uncompleted building he calls a house, without furniture and absolutely lacking social amenities, Usaini Munkaila looks very contented as he wades through life everyday.

This father of 9 children and a wife is a vulcaniser who earns between N1,500 and N2,000 per day to cater for his family and other needs.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that at a time the current hardship and increased level of poverty in Nigeria is biting harder on common citizens, especially the less privileged and underprivileged members of the society, a larger population of the Muslim faithful are struggling to feed in the month of Ramadan.

The story of Munkaila and his family is that of sadness, struggle and a continued striving for hope everyday.

Our correspondent who was with the family for a complete fasting day learnt that

waking up for the commencement of fasting around 4am, they could only eat a handful of food saved from the previous day, which was not even enough.

Each day, some of the children, especially the elderly and their parents, only drink water and proceed to the mosque for Subh prayer. The remaining food is kept for the younger ones that are not fasting to eat as breakfast.

As the sun rises to welcome a new day, Munkaila wears his somewhat dirty uniform, pulls out his old and worn out bicycle, bids his family farewell as he goes to work at the Mammaga area of Hotoro, along Maiduguri road.

He is one among the 41 vulcanizers doing business along Maiduguri road, between the Muhammadu Buhari Interchange in Hotoro and the flyover just by the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.

He usually arrives at his place of work around 10am and waits on luck and God’s intervention to get the desired number of customers for the day.

It is generally believed that vulcanising is mainly practised by people who lack western education and with little or no capital to start a more lucrative business.

Speaking about the business, Usaini Munkaila said, “Usually, I don’t keep anything at home before coming out, that is why, by 1pm or 2pm, I will check and see how much I have made so that I can send something to my family to cook what to eat, no matter how little.

“The problem is the younger ones. Sometimes we feed them only; and we are happy if they are satisfied. I can assure you that there are people that are not as privileged as we are.

“I have been doing this business for the past 40 years. I still hope that this country would be better and life would be good for all of us. God almighty knows why he created us and left us like this.

“I have 9 children. I have married off the female ones but the males are still with me. As you can see, they usually come to assist me because this is all we got to do collectively to fend for ourselves.

“This is how we live everyday. Sometimes we spend the whole day sleeping or lying down on mat here without seeing any customer. However, sometimes we get what we don’t even expect, ranging from N1,500 to N2,000.

“Our leaders should have the fear of God and always remember that we will return to him one day.”

Since Ramadan started, Munkaila and his child, Abubakar, who is in his late 20s, have not gone home to break their fast with the remaining members of the family because they don’t always have enough. They rely on food from well-to-do individuals.

At exactly 6pm, barely an hour to the break of fast, Munkaila conducts ablution and proceeds to the nearby mosque and sits until food is shared immediately after prayers. This is what they will eat for the day and perhaps keep some for other family members to also eat.

Speaking shortly after he broke his fast, Munkaila said, “We are done with today and looking up to tomorrow. This is how we break our fast everyday here by the roadside. The day this food is not brought from the individual sponsoring it, we may just have to drink water. We always believe that God would provide, but this is the main thing we rely on.”

The likes of Munkaila are many in this part of the country, always struggling to make ends meet, day in day out. There are other artisan groups who must always work during the day to feed. However, such people still keep hope alive as they pray that tomorrow would be better.

How almajiri ate remnants of rice from gutter

Despite his condition, Munkaila said he was shocked to see an almajiri in his neighbourhood eating rice from gutter. He said he still found it difficult to believe that the level of hardship in the country had gotten to the point that a human being in his right senses could eat from a gutter like an animal.

He said it was devastating to see an almajiri of a very tender age eating remnants of rice pushed out through his neighbour’s house to the main gutter outside.

He said, “I still can’t see a reason to believe it. I have to share this story because I cannot get it off my mind.

“It happened on a fateful morning when I was setting out to go to my place of work. I saw this boy of a very tender age resting on his knees just by the gutter. He was using his hands to scoop rice that was washed off plates and pushed out through the gutter. When the rice got to a certain amount on one hand, he transferred it to the other hand and poured it into his mouth and ate.

“I was speechless and kept wondering as I stood still looking at him as he kept repeating the process. I had to call some other neighbours and passersby to see what was going on. We were seven in number.

“I asked if he was in his right senses and they all replied in the affirmative, explaining that it was hunger that made him do that. Finally, we had to stop him and interrogate him.”

He said that upon interrogation, the boy confessed that he had not eaten for two days and he was afraid of his mallam.

He continued, “He told us that he did not see food to eat, and even if he got money, there’s a certain amount he must submit to his teacher (mallam) or risk being held up by four strong men and beaten mercilessly.

“We took him to the mallam and told him to bring out money and send the boy back to his parents or give us their phone numbers. He said the boy’s parents were alive and resided in Wudil Local Government Area of the state.

“A call was placed to his parents, and finally, the boy was reunited with his family, with the condition that they would never let him come back to the streets.

“This is just one story of how life has turned out to be for poor Nigerians in this part of the country. We are doomed. There is no future because when you are always thinking about your stomach, you can’t think of anything positive for yourself.”


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