By Hazeez Balogun
A hand-powered roller coaster in operation in Lagos. Credit: Hazeez Balogun
Lagos dwellers know their wild city is unique in many ways. For visitors, there are things you will see in Lagos that you'll probably never see anywhere else in the word. Yet, Lagosians consider these things ‘normal’.
As an inhabitant of Lagos myself, I am used to seeing ‘weird’ stuff on the streets. That familiarity nonetheless, I always have a good laugh whenever I spot one of these anomalies. Here are five of the most ridiculous things Lagos is home to. It's okay to laugh.
When you buy something, you're typically given a receipt. The receipt will contain the item you bought and the price. It will also bear the name of the shop where you bought the item. There are hundreds of thousands of very small businesses in Lagos, and because many of them cannot afford to print receipts of their own, some smart Alec came up with the idea of the all-purpose receipt. A shop owner can buy one and edit details with a pen. At the top, you can write your company name, and below, there is a space for you put your phone number. All that is printed on the receipt are spaces for quantity, product and price. The rest is up to you. A pack of such receipts goes for 200 naira (about $1.50).
In a developing country like Nigeria, it is not uncommon to find used clothing for sale. They are very cheap and easy to get. Even in developed countries, there are markets for used clothes. What you will however not find in developed countries are used underwear.
Clearly, there are a number of health and hygiene issues that come with wearing used clothing, so it is quite extreme to buy used underwear. But on the street of Lagos, it is normal to see used bras and panties hanging in front of shops. I thought they were sought after because they are cheaper than new ones, but I was wrong. When I asked one of the sellers in Lagos' popular Yaba market, he explained to me that the used bras are actually more expensive than new ones. He said the new ones sold in Nigeria are almost always substandard and do not last long. That, he said, is why some women would rather pay more for (better-made) used underwear.
Hand-Powered Roller Coaster
This made me laugh hard and long. Apart from a roller coaster in Ibadan, which I believe is no longer in service, there is actually no other one in Nigeria. What can be found are are small rides, mostly for children, at the very few amusement parks in Nigeria. But there is always a demand for such fun, so some smart men went to work and built a hand-cranked roller coaster.
The contraption is powered by muscles, nothing else. I saw the improvised roller coaster at a beach in Lekki. Two men wre holding each side of the ride and pushing it sideways to create lift. I spoke with Kareem, one of the owners and he said that the contraption cost over 300,000 naira ($1,500) to build. “It does not use electricity so we don’t pay NEPA. As long as I and my partner are healthy, we make a lot of money every day,” he said.
Illegal Satellite TV Service
In Lagos, most people pay their satellite TV bills directly to the service provider. That's why I was stunned to find out recently that some people pay less for the same service, but not to the satellite TV company. The average fee for satellite TV service is between 5,000 naira and 11,000 naira, so it came as a shock when a colleague of mine told me that he pays just 1,000 naira a month. He said he pays to a ‘dealer’ who hooks him with a service that provides 11,000 naira worth of channels. I thought he was joking until I told someone else, who corroborated the story. That other person even told me that he used to buy a similar service from a dealer until the dealer was arrested. Many of these dealers are still operating and you will be shocked to know how many people buy satellite TV service from them.
Roadside Bureau De Change
A currency change transaction is best done in an office where there is privacy and security. In Lagos, most currency change transactions are done on the street. Right from the gates of the various black markets around Lagos, you will be mobbed by people literally begging you to change your money on the spot. There is nothing to hide. Right there on the street, you give them the currency you wish to change, they calculate the equivalent in the currency of exchange and give it to you. Crazy, right?