'All parents are having a hard time’

How a Lagos bus driver and his family manage their finances.

Illustration of a bus riding along a shopping list road
[Jawahir Al-Naimi and Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera]
[Jawahir Al-Naimi and Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera]

What's your money worth? A new series from the front line of the cost of living crisis, where people who have been hit hard share their monthly expenses.

Name: Muyideen Olamilekan Jimoh

Age: 40

Occupation: Self-employed commercial bus driver

Lives with: Wife Falilat (37) and sons Faizan (9) and Mustaheen (6)

Lives in: Lagos, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous city and the country’s economic capital. The family lives in a single room ground-floor apartment with a separate bathroom in a middle-class neighbourhood.

Monthly income: Makes 364,000 naira ($823) from his driving - but after deducting the cost of renting the bus (140,000 naira or $316), fuel (84,000 naira or $190) and informal bus stop taxes (42,000 naira or $95), which comes to a total of 266,000 naira ($601) - he is left with 98,000 naira ($221). The median salary in Lagos  161,000 naira ($364).

Total family expenses for the month: 98,000 naira ($221)

WYMW - Lagos
Muyideen Olamilekan Jimoh, 40, is a self-employed commercial bus driver in Lagos [Femke van Zeijl/Al Jazeera]

Everyone knows him by his last name: Jimoh. He is a familiar face on the Lagos mainland where he lives and works. When Jimoh walks through his neighbourhood, often wearing his baseball cap, he does so with a smile and a friendly remark for those he passes along the way. Even the agberos at the bus stop, the young men who tax passing vehicles and are not known for their cordiality, raise their hands in greeting when they see Jimoh.

For years Jimoh drove a keke, one of the yellow tricycle taxis that used to be ubiquitous in Lagos. He owned his own vehicle and through hard work saved enough money to buy three more, which he rented out. Then in February 2020, the Lagos State Government announced a ban on kekes to improve road safety. Jimoh had to sell his tricycles at a loss and start over.

Not one to despair, he took lessons to learn how to drive a car. Now Jimoh drives a minibus, known locally as a korope. His route takes him from a busy bus stop under the flyover of Ikorodu Road, the motorway cutting through the Lagos mainland, to an overcrowded neighbourhood about 10 kilometres (six miles) away. Jimoh does not own the vehicle himself and has to pay daily rent to the owner. That means he must make at least 5,000 naira ($11) in fares, roughly 50 passengers, before he starts earning.

Last year, he doubled the bus fare and now charges about 100 naira ($0.23) per person. Still it never seems to be enough, he says. “Tins cost well well for market,” he says in pidgin: everything in the market is very expensive.

Before the raging inflation of the past year - reaching a 17-year high of 20.8 percent in September - he might have tried to save money to eventually buy a minibus for himself. But now he does not see the point.

Inflation in Nigeria
[Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera]

In spite of Jimoh working seven days a week from 7am until 11pm, his family is barely making ends meet and when he falls ill or the bus breaks down, he must tap into his meagre savings to get by.

Falilat, his wife, used to make up to 1,000 naira (about $2) a day going door to door selling home-made ogi, fermented millet porridge, but lately she has not been feeling well. Nothing too serious, they think.

The financial burden for now is on Jimoh. That's why he is on the road so much and has little time to spend with his family. Providing for the children is a constant concern for the couple. “I try not to worry. I think that's what made my wife ill. But sometimes it is hard to sleep at night,” Jimoh says.

When he can, he does chartered trips which tend to be quick, better-paying jobs. That’s when a customer hires him as a driver and the vehicle for a journey, often to transport goods.

One day he hopes to go abroad – “anywhere but Nigeria” - to make a better living. He would miss his wife, who he calls his best friend, and his children terribly, but thinks he would be able to make more money outside the country and send funds home to provide his family with a better future.

Over the course of a month, from September 20 until October 20, 2022, as part of a collaborative project, Jimoh tracked his family's monthly expenses with reporter Femke van Zeijl.

Here are the expenses that tested his family's finances the most.

Source: Al Jazeera