Lagos Chronicles, Reflection

Minimum Wage and Moving

Transportation is one of the major problems the average Nigerian living in Lagos faces. It is right up there with electricity. This informed my decision to move. I was living on the island and working at Ikeja. This meant that I had to leave my house super early (as early as 5.30 am) if I wanted to make it to work by 8 am.

Now, the sad part was the amount of money I had to part with as transport fare. Initially, I had to spend 400 naira to and 550 naira from work daily. That amounted to 950 naira; 50 naira shy of a thousand. In one day. On transport. Hian!

Then I started following a neighbor in the mornings. He would drop me off at Costain where I would take a bus for 200 naira to Ikeja. Although, I still had to pay 550 naira coming back which would then amount to 750 naira. That was still too much, to be honest. Not to mention the hours of mind numbing traffic I had to endure; I’m exhausted when I get to work and completely useless when I get back home. Now that’s no way to live, no? So I decided to move. And getting a place to stay in Lagos is no walk in the park. So I decided to move in with my friend and her mum at Ikotun, thus saving me money for rent that I could not afford. I had inquired about the route to Ikeja and if it was better because I really wanted to avoid a situation of “from frying pan to fire”. And luckily for me, it was. I could leave the house at 6.30 or 6 (because the road could be unpredictable) and still make it to work on time. Now you can NEVER try that if you have to leave from the island.

So I moved last weekend and on Monday, I left the house at 6.20 am and got to Ikeja along at 6.50 am. The road was so free, I couldn’t believe my luck. And the sweetest part? I spent 150 naira to get to work that day. How about that! Now I spend 250 naira to get back home and that’s a total of 400 naira. Comparing this to what I was paying two weeks ago, I was in heaven. It is such a relief, a breath of fresh air. I can hear my pocket thanking me. I am excited because I don’t get paid nearly enough to spend 950 naira on transportation. Speaking of which, I saw this tweet recently. I couldn’t help laughing at the irony of it.

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I recently came across this young lady who has decided to step out of her sheltered life, to live on the national minimum wage of 18,000 naira, for the next one month starting on June 20. She decided to take up this challenge as a way of creating awareness of the failing living standards in Nigeria.

You should see her analysis of what that 18,000 naira amounts to, just to give you a little perspective (feel free to draw up your own analysis as well, if that helps). And I can totally relate with her experiences because as someone who earns just a little (and when I say ‘a little’ I mean that as literally as it sounds) above 18000 naira, I understand the hardships of navigating day to day living on such meager earnings. Having to think twice about everything you do, everywhere you go or want to go, what you buy or don’t buy; not because you don’t need it, but because you have to cut your loses.

The sad thing is there are whole families who have to survive on 18,000 naira monthly. Monthly. For a whole family. This is supposed to cover feeding, transportation, health care, school fees and a myriad of other needs to be met. It is just ridiculous. Then you hear that crime rate increases (now I am not justifying it) and it’s not hard to see why. With the dire straits our economy has been plunged into, people are getting desperate and desperation causes people to do crazy things.

So I salute Ifeatu Nnaobi who has decided that rather than stay silent and turn her back, like we often do in this country especially when it doesn’t affect us directly, she would give a voice to a problem that has eaten deep into the fabric of this nation. People are already voicing out and hopefully more people do and it gets to the right ears, so we can start tackling our many problems.

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