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NIGERIA: The intriguing life of the Abuja car wash boys

Do not expect to see a tapauline or structure of any kind that houses the business. Do not also expect to see any wash-matic or pressure machines, vacuum cleaners, lather mixer or other sophisticated machines there. But you can be rest assured of seeing buckets, brushes, detergents and their concommitants which are the tools for the work.
For many jobless young men, the tools are all they need to start off a car wash centre in many areas of Abuja.
These are boys between the ages of 18 and 27 who are determined to survive the harsh economy of the country. And so, from East to West, South to North, they came to Abuja in search of greener pastures.
 
Their business locations run across the town. From Lokogoma District to Apo Quarters, Jabi, Kado Estate to Gwarimpa, Wuse 2 down to Mataima, the business booms.
Though there are many of such outfits with sophisticated machines sighted at plazas, gardens and other metro places in Abuja, the road-side ones appear mostly patronized.
Out of the lot, Abuja Bulletin (AB) settled for Jabi District which have more boys doing the business.
The boys spread themselves along POW Mafemi Crescent and Anthony Enahoro Street in Jabi.
It was on the street that AB came in contact with Kelly Frank, Chuwukwudi and Olumide.
Kelly Frank hails from Ogoja, Cross River State, while Chukwudi and Olumide come from Ebonyi and Osun states respectively.
They all reside at the suburbs of Abuja. Kelly and Chukwudi live at Karimo while Olumide lives at Mpape.
From their looks, they are all boys of school age but they said that they could not continue because of lack of money and sponsors and so, to survive, they resorted to the business.
According to them, there are over 30 boys on one street doing car washing. About that number or more applies also to the other streets. Some of them had been in the business for years. For instance, Kelly had already clocked two years.
Operating Mode
To them, the driver of every passing vehicle is a potential customer. Their lot is to flag it down. They get lucky if the traffic is slow. This enables them to talk comprehensively to the driver. But this is for a first timer or user of the road. For old time customers, all they need to do is to park by the road side and have their cars washed almost immediately.
Cost of Washing
Speaking to AB, the trio said that it costs N500 to wash the interior and exterior of a vehicle. That is the fixed price. But often times, they get more than N500. Almost, always, tips are handed to them from customer.
Washing of the car engine shoots the price to N1,500 to N2,000 depending on the bargaining power of the customer.
On daily basis, each of the boys may wash between one to seven vehicles. Kelly admitted that the maximum he had washed per day was seven.
Many reasons account for why they are the toast of motorists. It is most convenient and apparently cheaper compared to driving to a well equipped car wash center. An interior and exterior wash with a machine goes for between N700 and N1000. The inclusion of the engine and underneath of the vehicles go for between N2800 to N3,500. And so, many motorists prefer the road side boys. Again, the boys site their businesses around relaxation centers and gardens. It gives many people the opportunity of killing two birds with one stone. While they sit, relaxing, their cars are being washed.
Brush with the Law
One challenge the boys face is occasional confrontation with the FCT authorities who arrest them for allegedly causing obstruction on the roads. On every arrest made, about N5,000, according to them, is used to secure their release. Consequently, the boys have come to be vigilant and alert. Once any of them sights the task force team coming, a sign is given and before you say Jack, everyone takes to his  heels.
Plea
Though, they are said to be occupying illegal space and also constituting obstructions, they pleaded to be tolerated by government to allow them eke out a living from the work.
 

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