Once more, women are venturing into occupations that were seen to be strictly for men. This time round it is the risky business of fuel black marketing in Abuja.
Just like their male counterparts, they always hang around filling stations which are normally out of products. The female fuel black marketers are waiting for motorists who are in dire need to refill the tanks of their vehicles. They would then swoop on vehicles that make attempt to pull-up near them. Bearing their consignments in jerry cans, bargain would ensue immediately.
These women have decided to join the hard and dangerous vocation of black marketers occasioned by the scarcity of Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) to make ends meet.
There are both the young and old, married and singles. Some of the married ones even involve their children in the trade.
These desperate women are spotted opposite Dutse junction along Bwari road. They positioned themselves strategically just by the petrol stations opposite the junction.
Besides the fuel black marketing trade, some of the ladies do sell other items. They also sell banana, sachet water and local automobile lubricant, among other items.
Twenty-two-year old Dorcas John, one of the female black marketers, said she was introduced to the trade by her neighbour and is not regretting it.
"My friend has a brother who works close to the filling station and she invited me to come with her when the fuel scarcity started. The first day I went with her, we made good money. I cannot actually recollect exactly how much we made, but she gave me N2,500 to take home. After that day, I then decided to learn and join the trade as well. That was how I became a part of it.
"It is not easy, but it is worth it. I just thought of it, as a young lady, even if you have a boyfriend, for how long would he keep giving you pocket money? Of course, he cannot give you every day, so the best thing is to look for where you can help yourself."
Dorcas claims that now that she operates the black market business independently, she makes at least, N4,000 a day when there is adequate product at her disposal.
Like Dorcas, a lot of other young single ladies are now involved in the trade because of its lucrative nature. Another young lady who pleaded anonymity said she enjoys the trade, because it helps her economically but with all honesty she is sometimes shy.
"I used to be shy, but I am getting used to it and the shyness is reducing. I believe that it is better than going out to engage in immoral activities to get money."
However, most of the ladies dress in trousers and are as agile and active as their male counterparts. They confirmed that agility is one of the major secrets of the trade. "If you are not fast, your product would remain and become left over while others are busy making the money," one of the ladies said.
They have their modus operandi of getting their supplies. Weekly Trust gathered that they have their men among filling stations' attendants. The moment there is supply at the filling stations, the attendants alert them after which they will come in with their jerry cans to purchase the product. But they are made to pay above the official rate. Meanwhile, if there is no fuel, they return to selling the other items.
Madam Chika Oscar, 46, said she enjoys the trade but recognizes the fact that it is very tedious. She said on a lucky day and when there is serious fuel scarcity, the profit is always high, but the sacrifice is also the price that they have to pay.
"One of my sons is here assisting me with the other items. At least if the market is dry in drinks, something would come from fuel. It is not easy, we do come out from our homes as early as 5 or 6 am, and stay till about 7 or 8 pm. Although some black marketers stay beyond that time I mentioned, but for us the female, we mostly leave before it gets really late."