Shit Business and Its Many Colours

It was a breezy evening in the 1980s, in the shanty suburb of Orile Iganmu; the toilet was full to the brim and smelling badly.
The entire neighbourhood was a stench. Then came the man, dressed in a pair of black trousers, tucked in rain boots and handkerchiefs tied around his mouth. He moved from house to house evacuating human waste. He enjoyed much freedom because his identity was largely unknown.
In spite of his mode of dressing, children often mocked him as they sang and clapped behind him. Well, the kids paid dearly for their actions at times as the night soil man would either pour the content of his bucket on them or drop his bucket full of excreta in front of their residence.
This was the life of Night soil men or Agbepo (bowl carrier) as they were called then.
Some years ago, ‘shit’ business was not a business anyone would love to go into for any reason whatsoever. It was a business despised by many because of its smelly nature.
However, the story is different today as technology has brought about much improvement in the business.
For Alhaji Yaya Saliu, when he started the business of sewage and waste water evacuation forty years ago, he was very cautious in the way he managed information about the profession. He was conscious of the fact that it was generally despised in the society.
According to Saliu, he had to keep the nature of his job top secret from his friends and especially his family members.
“My family lived in Ibadan while I did my ‘shit’ business here in Lagos. I made sure that what I did for a living was a top secret to my family and in-laws for fear of being ostracised and being looked down upon. To them at that time, I was in Lagos doing “business”. I dare not let them into the real nature of my business.
“It was when things began to look up for me and I had something to show for the dirt I carried that I showed my true colour at home. I was too scared to tell my wife. Even when some members of my family discovered, they were mad at me. But when my wife came to join me in Lagos and saw that I was living fine, she immediately accepted my job,” he said.
Today, Saliu is fulfilled. He is currently the chairman of the Alausa branch of the sewage association and for him, ‘shit’ business is indeed a very serious and lucrative business.
He is a proud owner of two sewage evacuation trucks operating in Lagos. He also lives in his own house in Lagos and has also built two others both in Lagos and in his home town in Ilorin. In addition, all his children are graduates from various universities in Nigeria.
The 65-year-old, who recently acquired a tipper truck, confidently spoke with Daily Times and was proud to show off his newly acquired Mitsubishi Montero Sport.
Interestingly, some operators now claim to possess the wit to distinguish between human waste from a high brow area and the one from a slum.
According to Oluwaseun Awobiyi who has been in the business for seven years, this can be achieved by simply putting their sense of smell and sight to work.
“Mushin, Ajegunle and Bariga’s shit is similar because many residents eat the same types of food. Theirs is black or brown and very smelly.
“Victoria Island, Lekki, Ikoyi and VGC shit, on the other hand, is usually watery and light with a tolerable
“I think the latter smells that way because most homes in these areas pour chemicals and disinfectant into their toilet systems before, during and after use. We always pray to get more business from such areas because they pay more and don’t stress us much,” he said.

About the author

Ihesiulo Grace

Leave a Comment