Daily Trust (Abuja)

17 November 2012

Nigeria: 'I'd Succeed As a Female Truck Driver'

Kaduna — Very few will see truck driving as a befitting profession for women, but Mrs Mba Mabel Akwugo sees it differently. Presently the only lady undergoing training at the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), Zaria in the Dangote Graduate Truck Drivers Scheme, the mother of two opens up to Weekly Trust

Mrs Mba Mabel Akwugo is a 2007 graduate of Estate Management from Abia State University. Being the only female in the midst of about 100 participants in the Dangote Graduate Truck Drivers Scheme, Mrs Akwugo is feeling on top of the world. She believes that she would excel in the training and subsequently as truck driver.

"I saw the advert on the internet and I decided to apply. When I saw the advert reading Dangote Graduate Drivers Scheme, it looks interesting. I began to ask myself why Dangote should begin to look for graduates as drivers. I told myself that there must be something special about the programme, which I have to find out and that was how I applied," Mrs Akwugo said.

She said she is aware of the challenges of being a truck driver before applying to join the scheme.

"I thought about the challenges and I know that it would really be a challenging job but I felt that I can overcome the challenges. I know that even ordinary driving is not an easy task not to talk of driving a truck. The fact that I have seen females driving trucks is still one of my motivating factors. This also triggers my interest to the job. I have taken up the job and I believe I can overcome all the challenges.

"Honestly, when I saw Dangote, driver and graduate, I began to put two and two together and this really triggered my interest because I know Dangote is a big name internationally. I feel that a scheme like this coming from a man like Dangote would really be a good offer. This, honestly, helped in informing my decision to apply," Mrs Akwugo explained.

On how she would merge the challenges of her matrimonial home with her new chosen profession of truck driving, Mrs Akwugo said there is no cause for alarm.

"Of course, it took some little efforts before I convinced my husband to allow me to come down here to Zaria. You know it is not easy for any man to let his wife go and engage in a career that is seen as risky. The risk factor in driving truck is high. But I thank God that I have a husband that is young and understanding. At the end of all our discussion, he ended up encouraging me to come. He encouraged me having known that I have been doing other things that are challenging. I really appreciate my husband for that," Mrs Akwugo said.

After her NYSC in 2008, Mrs Akwugo has been working with an estate firm until she joined the Dangote Graduate Drivers Scheme.

She said she has high expectation from Dangote Group of Companies on her monthly pay.

"I have high expectation from the scheme because the career is not an easy one. I expect high pay from the company. I think comparing what our colleagues are getting in other industries, I expect a monthly pay of N400,000 to N500,000. This would at least give confidence to my husband and my parents that the work is worth doing.

"Generally, people are always scared of truck drivers because of the way they drive. Most of our truck drivers don't observe safety rules and this is why if people see them on the highway, they clear away for them. I feel as a graduate driver, I would make a difference. Having undergone training, I feel I would observe the traffic rules and regulations. I feel I would make a difference on the highway as a truck driver, hence the need for me to be paid well," enthusiastic Akwugo said.

On the training, Mrs Akwugo said all is moving smoothly for her. She said the simulation aspect of the training is the most interesting.

"The simulation exposes one to the art of driving before moving into the driving proper. I have started learning driving and I think I would soon perfect my driving skills. The stay here in NITT is not a bad one. The treatment is alright. The training here is going very well.

On her family, Mrs Akwugo said; "I have two kids; all boys. I left them with my husband and my brother. I am really missing them more than I expected. This is the first time I am leaving home for a long time since we came together as a family but I hope I would find time to see them before the end of the training."

It would be recalled that Dangote Group of Companies has initiated a scheme where about 2,000 graduates would be trained within four years and employed as truck drivers. So far, Mrs Akwugo is the first lady among the pioneer batch of 100 graduates.

If Mrs Akwugo successfully completes her three month training at NITT, she would qualify as the first female graduate to be driving truck in Nigeria, observers said. Those observers are keeping their fingers crossed to see the difference she would bring to the sector and the accolade she may earn for herself.

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