Clad in coffee color brocade, with a traditional cap to match and looking refreshed and ready for the day's job, Malam Ya'u as he gave his name, stepped out of one of the "pay-as-you-use" bathrooms at the popular Utako motor park in Abuja.
"I came into town yesterday to buy second-hand wares and transport them to my place in Lafia, Nasarawa State. My manager was ill so I had to come myself. I left my station late thus; I arrived around 1am and slept in the motor park and I have already taken my bath as you can see, getting ready to go and make my purchases from the Panteka boys. The transporters are on standby, the moment I am done, we will be on our way."
He said his business trip will take him just few hours,therefore sees no reason to spend his meager resources on accommodation.
"Here, all I need to spend to shower with warm water is N50. If I like, I can give them N100 and that is all. Meanwhile, I came into town a few hours ago and I am almost ready to return. It makes more sense to me and my pocket."
There are many Malam Ya'us who come into Abuja for one business or the other and cannot afford decent accommodation for the night, end up sleeping in places they could get. They visit these commercial conveniences in and around the capital city to clean-up and re-fresh.
Abuja has recently witnessed the proliferation of privately-run toilets. Weekly Trust learnt that there are two types: those built and operated by individuals or organizations, and the type built by government and leased to individuals to operated and remit some money monthly.
Malam Isa Mohammed runs the government built type at the Jabi motor park.
He told Weekly Trust that the facility belongs to the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and given to him to run. He manages the facilities and pays money to the authorities at the end of every month.
"The government gave me the facility but I maintain it, because the authorities are keen on hygiene. I am conscious of that and I keep it up to standard.
"We charge N30 for bathing with cold water while those interested in using warm water pay N50.And N20 for defecating."
He also revealed that they have different segments for both gender, but said when people are too many; they go for anyone whether male or female. "Clients respect gender rule only when they are not many, even as enforcing such at peak time is difficult," he noted.
Investigations show that majority of those who patronize the conviniences are travelers, local traders, mechanics and hawkers, among others.
Ibrahim, a man in his early 20s who manages one of the conveniences said charges were increased recently because of the hike in water and electricity rates. "We were charging N20 for bathing but had to increase because of the high cost of operation."
Baba Isa Mohammed said he has about four staff under his employment and he pays them on a daily basis. "I am acting like the manager; I supervise two staff who collect the "pay-as-you-use entry fee." Another set of staff are employed to clean and inspect the facility after it has been used.
The traffic of customers at such facilities is a clear indication that the business is a money-spinner. However, the cost of putting up a facility that is reasonably decent is expensive.
Chukwuemeka, another user of one of the facilities within Jabi Park said he has never taken his bath in the facility, he claimed that all he uses there is the toilet.
"Haba! How would I bath there? I have a decent bathroom in my house, so naturally I do take my bath before coming to the shop, whenever you see me here, it is just to use the toilet facility. I am not saying the bathrooms are bad or unhygienic, at least the people are trying by maintaining it, but I cannot use it. It is mainly for people who do not have any choice. Most of them are homeless people; though I understand even some travelers use it."
He said he smokes more than a stick of cigarette any time h uses the facility, if not, he will find it difficult to do so, adding that although the place is not very unbearable but it is always wet, which makes him feel uncomfortable.
"In fairness to them, water is not a problem here; there is always more than enough for te users."
Female clients are not left behind in the rush to use the facility. Most of them use more of the toilet facility than the bathroom. A woman accosted using the facility refused to speak, but a staff of the facility confirmed that she works in one of the local eateries within the area.