November 29, 2021


documenting the nigerian story…

Story of the struggling Abuja market hairdressers

Due to high cost of shops at the Wuse Market`, there are some hairdressers who can afford to get proper structures for their hair salons while others, including some graduates have to come together in a segregated area under stalls and canopies to attend to their customers. Daily Trust x-rays the plight of these hairdressers and how they survive in the market.

Of all the markets in Abuja, Wuse market is the most popular. The market is always bustling with buyers and sellers of all kinds of products and services. Wuse Market is the central hub for many commodities such as gold, meat, fresh foods, provision and clothes.

Although the market is known for its rich commodities, one of the most popular service rendered in Wuse Market is the making and styling of hair.

The hairdressers come from different cultures and tribes. They are of various age groups as many told Daily Trust Saturday that they learnt the skill while growing up as children while some started as apprentices.

Happiness Dennis, who has been in the market since 2001, is a hair stylist who braids and fixes weave-on.  Although she began as an apprentice, she gained her professional independence in 2012 and has since been in the hairdressing business. Though she has been in the market for a long time, Happiness is yet to own a shop. When asked why she hasn’t gotten a stall for herself, she said the cost of rent in the market was on the high side.

“The starting price to rent half a shop is N700,000 and N1.5m for a whole shop. Mind you, they only take two years’ payment,” she said.

Happiness noted that a few women still patronise market hair dressers and because she doesn’t have a shop, she often takes her customers to hair salons in the market where she pays between N500 and N1000 a day to make use of their salon.

“Some people charge N500 per seat in their salon, some charge N15,000 monthly for us to use their stalls when we have customers.”

During the rainy season, Happiness barely comes to the market to attend to customers, she narrates that although hairdressing is her only source of livelihood, it will be uncomfortable for both her and the customer to sit under the rain to make their hair.

“Oftentimes, I may not get space inside the salon to rent and the canopies may be dripping water on the customers so I only attend to home service customers during the rainy season,” she said.

Because it is the market and prices are negotiable, Happiness charges between N3500 and N8000 for braiding of hair, N4500-N8000 for fixing of weave on and N6000 and above for wig making.

However, the price for braiding of hair varies depending on the style, length and type of hair.

Happiness acknowledges that education is important, but she takes out time to train her child in the same line of business.

“These days, it takes more than education to secure your future, so it’s important my child learns a skill she can survive on just in case she cannot secure a white-collar job,” she said.

Happiness said that hairdressing is a sustainable source of income for her and her family and hopes to expand her business one day.

Joy Anyanwu, a graduate, is another hairdresser who works within the Wuse Market. She resorted to hairdressing as a source of income when she couldn’t get a job. Unlike Happiness, Joy learned the skill from her mother who was also a hairdresser. She started braiding business as a child and grew into a professional on the job.

For Joy, hairdressing started out as a side profession while she was still in the university, but after facing the realities of unemployment, she decided to be a full-time hairdresser. Joy’s main focus is wig-making; she believes that she can make double the money from that instead of braiding, especially considering the fact that she doesn’t have a shop.

“I don’t find sitting under the canopies conducive for me or my customers, so I prefer to make wigs and advertise them for sale. It saves time and gives me more profit.”

Joy has wigs of varying prices, texture and styles for sale.

She doesn’t see herself working in the market as long as her mother did because she still hopes to find a job soon.

“My parents worked hard to make sure that I got a good education and I will like to see that my degree is put to good use,” Joy said.

She says she could go a week without selling any of her wigs and may have to resort to braiding so she can make up for any financial loss.

Maimuna Usman is a 60-year-old hairdresser who has been in Wuse Market for over 20 years. When asked why she doesn’t have a shop up till now, she said because she is old, customers sometimes believe she won’t make their hair properly. Maimuna however noted that hairdressing is all she knows and it has been a sustainable source of income for her and her grandchild.

Maimuna, who specialises in plaiting natural hair, said majority of her customers request for a particular style because she’s very good at it. She often gets up to four or five customers a day and charges N2000 for that service. She also decided to start selling hair extensions to help increase her daily income. Because she sometimes comes to the market with her grandchild, she barely comes during the rainy season because there’s no space to keep her grandchild when the rain begins.

A visit to Utako Market by Daily Trust Saturday showed that the services of hairdressers is also in high demand there. However, the hairdressers there told Daily Trust Saturday that unlike Wuse Market, it’s difficult getting customers who will be willing to pay as much as what is paid in Wuse market for the same services.

Lilian Eno, a hairdresser at the Utako market said she has been working in Utako market for close to six years. She and other hairdressers in Utako Market decided to construct a shed with canopies where they all sit to attend to their customers.

However, during the rainy season, Lilian is left with no choice than to rent a seat from one of the salons. “We pay 3000 each for the space where we constructed our canopy stands and during the rainy season, I have to pay maybe N500 or N1000 per day to use a salon and attend to my customers,” she said.

When compared to Wuse market, the price for braiding and styling hair at Utako market is considered to be cheaper. Lilian charges about N3500 – N6000 for braids and N3000 – N7000 for fixing of weave on. She stated that although it’s important for her child to learn a skill, it will not be hair dressing. She is optimistic that her children will secure a proper education and get better jobs after school. Lilian hopes to own a salon one day in a plaza not a market.


However, a common challenge faced by these hairdressers is the fact that since they cannot afford to pay for shops and stalls, they are often pursued by the market task force. A few of them complained of their work materials being seized by the task force and they are left with the option of paying certain fines to retrieve them. Some even mentioned that the task force sometimes used forceful means to pursue them out of the canopies they work under and that they’re often exploited by task force officers.

Mr Innocent Amaechina, who is in charge of corporate affairs at the Wuse Market, explained that the market is built to contain a certain capacity of people and has zero tolerance for people who decide to work in the market without owning shops or stall.

He explained that because Wuse market is the most popular market in Abuja and has more potential customers, most of these traders have made up their mind to sell in the market and disregard the ground rules of the market. “There are shops and stalls in our market. These structures were put in place to meet the needs of both the big traders and petty traders. So, if you must stay in the market, you must decide to pick any of the structures that match your finances otherwise there is no room for you in the market and this is what many of them fail to understand. It’s our job to make sure that common areas like passage ways and car parks are free and safe.  If given the opportunity, a lot of people will want to be in Wuse market, and the space is not there,” he said.

Regarding the use of force and harmful means to pursue those considered as squatters out of the market, Amaechina said the task force has never been instructed to use any kind of force on the traders, saying traders who claim to have experienced any form of brutality from the task force know the appropriate channel to lay their complains.

He also expressed shock when told that the task force exploit traders by asking for money from them. He, however, noted that issues regarding use of force and exploitation of traders by task force will be investigated.