Commercial female drivers are not new on Lagos roads, but interestingly, more women are joining the business, Daily Trust Saturday takes a look at the trend and also interacted with some of the female drivers.
Shortly after the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted by the federal government, more women stormed Lagos roads as commercial drivers and riders of tricycles, thus populating the once male-dominated job. They do this to make ends meet.
While some of the women drive the normal Lagos yellow mini buses called korope, some use their private cars, such as Sienna, Odyssey, Pilot, Sharon, etc. And some of them ferry passengers to and from different routes in this tricycles.
It is said that those who engage in this venture do not compromise their roles as wives, mothers and daughters. And they are not discouraged by the activities of the police, the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) and transport unions. Some women also work as bus conductors.
Mrs Amaka Okoli is one of such female drivers who see dignity in legitimate labour. Instead of engaging in illegal jobs, she decided to ferry passengers to and from Ikeja and Alausa Secretariat.
She started driving a commercial bus in April this year after the harsh economy made her to temporarily close her shop, where she sells drinks and provision.
“Meeting up became very difficult because my husband had been sick and the shop was not making enough money to cater for the needs of the family. When I could no longer meet the needs at home I sat my kids down and explained to them my plan to become a driver so as to be able to feed them. Then I approached other female drivers who told me that one could make money from the business, although it is energy consuming.
Like the male drivers, the women also shout to attract passengers, but Mrs Okoli said shouting was challenging for her.
“Shouting is very challenging because I am not used to it, but I am learning. The most important thing is that I get money to take home. I am able to foot my bills. My drinks and provision shop is still running, but I no longer do expenses from its proceeds. I watch the shop grow gradually,” she said.
Mrs Okoli also said she had not gotten any special favour or treatment on the road because she is a woman, but she gets commendations from people for doing a great job and choosing a tough path to eke out a living.
According to her, she goes home with at least N10,000 daily and saves N5,000, which pays better than her shop. On how she got the vehicle she drives, she said that it was purchased by her family as a form of assistance to her.
She said her major challenge was the fear, especially the men of the taskforce, who she said disturbed them quite often.
“We pay a daily levy of N2,000, yet they go after us. If they intercept any of us, they fine us for causing obstruction on the road because there is no bus stop or park where we load. We are always on the road. There is also the fear of the LASTMA and Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) because after working and saving through the week, if you are caught once you would have to give them your savings, which is usually very painful,” she narrated.
She called on the state government to regulate the activities of these forces so as to make the environment more conducive for business to thrive.
“Government has already failed us. People who are struggling, particularly women, should be encouraged,” she said.
Another female driver, Mrs Ife Williams has been driving for the past four years, after the death of her husband seven years ago.
She said that although her husband left some money behind for her and their two kids, the situation in the country required that she looked for a means of survival.
Mrs Williams holds a master’s degree in Business Administration but chose to work as a commercial vehicle driver so that she would have time for her family.
“I want a job that would give me time for my kids; a job I can work on my own hours, such that I can decide not to go out on some days,” she said.
Narrating how she started, she said, “I went online to do my research and discovered that they load Alausa express at Ikeja park. I went to the park, spoke with the chairman and started work same day. I use my private car for the business and it has been fine with me because I have been catering for myself and my kids through the business since the demise of my husband.”
Like Mrs Amaka, another female commercial vehicle driver, the only issue she has is with members of the taskforce who go after them all the time. She appealed to the government to prevail on the officers to be lenient with women who are hustling to make ends meet.
“We are not prostituting or stealing, we are only hustling, so they should be considerate with us,” she pleaded.
On how she copes on the busy Lagos roads, Mrs Williams said, “I am used to it. In fact, naturally, I enjoy driving. I am not lazy when it comes to driving. Even when my husband was alive he would sit by me while I drove.”
She disclosed that apart from fuel money and money for booking, she makes at least N15,000 daily, which, according to her, is not bad at all. She encouraged other idle women to make hay while the sun shines and be gainfully engaged.
Mrs Folashade Aweshola also a widow, but rather than sit at home to beg or rely on people to help her feed her family, she engages in commercial driving. She has been driving for over three years. She plies the Ikeja axis.
“I surrendered myself to commercial driving to make money to take care of myself and my kids, having lost my husband about four years now.
“My husband died from an accident. At that time, I was selling vegetable oil, but the treatment of my husband after the accident gulped a lot of money, yet he died. After his death, I couldn’t continue the oil business because there was no capital anymore. I was an auxiliary nurse before I started selling oil, but I quit nursing because it took my time and wasn’t paying my bills,” she said.
On how she copes with male drivers and taskforce on the road, she said, “Sometimes I cry when I have issues with the taskforce, VIO and the likes, but they won’t even listen. I am now used to it. It is all about settlement. I am bolder now.”
On whether she would be willing to go back to nursing after making some money from driving, Mrs Aweshola said, “I can’t tell. I might practise it if I leave the shores of this country because I really love and know the job.”
She told Daily Trust Saturday that she makes close to N18,000 daily if she worked hard. She encouraged other women who have chosen to be idle to have a rethink, saying women who work are more respected in the society.
“I am a proud female commercial driver. I believe there is dignity in labour,” she said.
Also, one of the female commercial tricycle riders, popularly known in Lagos as Keke Marwa, who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday, Mrs Bilikisu Abdulahameed, takes passengers to and from Agege and Agidingbi First Gate.
She has been riding for about three years and has no regret over her decision. She said, “If you give me any huge sum of money now, I will go and buy another Marwa and engage someone to ride and deliver money to me while I continue to ride her own.”
Narrating how she started, Mrs Abdulahameed said, “I used to have a shop where I grinded pepper. I also supplied bread, but patronage was very low, especially with the economic condition of the country. I would sleep in the shop most of the time and I was discouraged. One day, I learnt that TVS, a company that manufactures tricycles, was inviting women to train them to become riders and I embraced the opportunity.
“We were trained for two weeks, after which I borrowed money to buy a tricycle and was paying on installment. I have completed the payment and the Marwa now belongs to me. So, any money I make now is for me.”
On how she relates with male counterparts, she said, “I believe there is nothing a man does that a woman cannot do, so we both maneuver to find our ways on the road. It is just that the male riders go out very early to begin each day’s work while the women put their homes in order and prepare their children for school before leaving home. We also close earlier than the men.”
Like the women driving buses, Mrs Abdulhameed also faces a challenge from members of the union who sell tickets to them at N1,500 without any consideration for women. In fact, in areas like Shaga, the ticket is N2,000, yet she prefers riding the tricycle to sitting or sleeping in the shop.
She said, “If I am not lazy I make N10,000 and above daily. Although I feel pain on my body sometimes, I make sure I eat well, rest well and take a pain reliever when necessary.
“I resume work at 8am and close latest by 5pm.” She also saves daily to be able to pay rent, her children’s school fees, as well as feed and clothe them.
She appealed to the Lagos State Government to assist women to be more economically strong so that they would be able to contribute to the growth and development of the country.