It has been raining almost nonstop for a week in Ajah, Lagos.
On this wet Wednesday morning, as he has most days since he began working as a child, Adamou Mamoudou rises at 6am for his Fajr (dawn) prayer.
Afterwards he prepares breakfast, two packs of instant noodles cooked in the same water that boiled his egg. As he eats he thinks about many things: sometimes his late mother, often his distant wife, and always his kiosk.
He built the kiosk from slabs of wood and pieces of zinc roofing he found on construction sites, and then stocked it with provisions bought with his life savings.
For the past five years he has been selling out of the kiosk, which is the longest time he has ever worked for himself. Now that his business is failing, he is worried about his future in Nigeria.
Adamou is from Niger. The francophone country with a population of 17 million - one-tenth of Nigeria's - shares a border along Nigeria's north.
He was born in 1986 in Tilloa, a farming outpost so nondescript it hardly has a digital imprint, but calls Niamey, the Nigerien capital, his home. That was the city he lived in until the age of eight, when his mother sent him, her first of five children, to assist her brother, who was blind in one eye and made his living as a travelling beggar.
|Adamou has been working since he was a child and sent to assist his uncle, who was a travelling beggar [Femke van Zeijl/Al Jazeera]
"It pained me but I didn't want to argue with her," Adamou says. That's why he never attended school, although all his younger brothers did, just like their parents. "My father go school but not too much," he says. "My mother go school well-well."
The kiosk opens these days at eight. His first customers drop by on their way to work, and they sometimes make him open sooner by rapping on his bedroom window.
Unlike many kiosk owners - in particular the northern men southerners address as 'Mallam' or 'Aboki', a group Adamou is seen as belonging to - he does not sleep in his kiosk.
He works as a security guard and handyman for the apartment building by whose fence he has established his trade, and in addition to receiving a salary he is provided with accommodation in the cramped gatehouse. That is where he sleeps, cooks, prays, and stashes his money.
He lives in a constant state of alertness towards the compound he guards. Not just because it is his job, but more so because every naira he has earned in all his years in Nigeria is in easy reach of any thief.
The kiosk was burgled two months ago. It struck him hard, as he had just loaded the shelves with new stock, which he used to buy from Ajah market every two days when sales were brisk.
|Adamou's kiosk has not been as well stocked since he was burgled two months ago [Femke van Zeijl/Al Jazeera]
"That is what run my business down," he says. "The person pack all the market, with my phones, my camera."
But the emptiness of his kiosk is not solely due to the burglary. The kiosk sits on a quiet street with a few houses on one side, while the other side is taken up by a construction site with stalls in various states of completion. It will, one day, become a huge shopping complex.
But building work has stalled for the past few months, and ever since the construction workers left, Adamou has lost the steady stream of thirsty and hungry men who were his best customers.
By noon Adamou has sold two AA batteries and four cigarettes to five customers. Two others turned towards the shops further down the road after he told them that he did not have what they wanted, and one even commented that he should close up shop if he was no longer serious about selling.
"Before it was only me selling on the street, so every month I used to sell 30,000 [naira - around $150]. I'm also collecting a salary of 15,000 [about $75]. That's 45,000 [$225]. Every month."
But business was so slow last month he can't tell how much he sold. His salary, too, has stopped coming, because the tenants have moved out. Adamou also feels it is time to move on, even though all that is waiting for him in Tilloa is a dependent wife and a two-room mud-walled house.
|Business was so slow last month that Adamou does not know how much he sold [Femke van Zeijl/Al Jazeera]
One o'clock is lunchtime; Adamou goes to a nearby buka, a hole-in-the-wall eatery, for a plate of rice and stewed beans.
These days he buys lunch less often, and whenever he feels too weak to cook instant noodles, he eats the provisions in his kiosk.
Like the day before yesterday, when his back ached from too much sitting, and yet by 3pm he had sold so little that he had no choice but to soothe his ulcer pangs with a Gala beef-roll and a bottle of 7UP.
But sales picked up in the evening, and he could afford his favourite dinner, kenkey and fried fish, a Ghanaian dish he grew to love during his time as a child beggar in Ghana.
|Adamou eats rice and stewed beans for lunch. As money is tight, he buys lunch less regularly these days [Femke van Zeijl/Al Jazeera]
Adamou credits his blind uncle with opening his eyes to the advantages of a wandering lifestyle.
In the 10 or so years he served as a beggar's assistant, he travelled to Ghana, Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria. His mother died while he was in the Ivory Coast, and the news only reached him after she was long-buried. That was when he decided to strike out on his own.
"I no find money for my country since I grow," he says, which was why he travelled to Lagos in 2010 at the invitation of another uncle.
For eight months he served this man as a shoe seller, a clothes seller, and a roadside noodles-and-egg cook.
The English and calculation skills he picked up proved useful when he finally landed a job as a security guard and got permission from the landlord to augment his salary by opening a kiosk.
He has now lived abroad longer than he has been in Niger. Of the five languages he speaks, his French is the least assured.
The first time he visited Niger since moving to Lagos was in 2012, and he went with 100,000 naira (around $500) as well as gifts for his family.
During his five months away - a time he spent farming corn, beans, and groundnuts on his father's land - his second brother, Harouna, travelled down to run the kiosk, and by the time Adamou returned, Harouna had saved enough capital to return to Niamey to set up his own kiosk.
Everyone he has ever looked up to is in business. "I like to do business anywhere I go," Adamou says.
He has had a good run in Nigeria, but on Sunday he is heading back to Niger with a suitcase of gifts and less money than the last times he visited.
"I don't have somebody to look the shop, because there's no market," he says. "When I come back I go bring money to start from where I stop."
On Saturday night, he will lock up the kiosk at the same time he always does, 11pm. He does not know when it will reopen. "It's only God know, not human being. When my time reach, I go come back."
For now, he's focused on the two-day trip to Tilloa, where his wife, whom he married two years ago and spent only a week with before returning to Lagos, waits for him.
|Adamou is returning to his native Niger, to his wife of two years and his two-room, mud-walled house, and he does not know when he will be able to return to Nigeria and his kiosk [Femke van Zeijl/Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera