The proliferation of those who sell roasted corn by the roadside in Abuja has been absolutely un-ignorable. The popular Nigerian snack has gradually found its way into the warming hearts of both the eminent and average Nigerians.
Corn is popular in rainy season, and it is expected that we see both the boiled and roasted corn in abundance. One will wonder what makes it so irresistible; aside its health benefits and satisfying taste, it is among the cheapest vegetable available to all during its annual season.
Corn or Maize is called different names in different Nigerian languages: agbado in Yoruba, masara in Hausa and Oka in Igbo. The snack is accompanied with either coconut or pear, but mostly sold with pear in Abuja.
Unlike Lagos where the hustle and bustle affords roadside sellers to leverage on the opportunity of meeting people’s needs that may either be stuck in traffic or cannot afford to cook before stepping out of the house, in contrast, Abuja has been a less hectic city with better road networks and a handful of me-time.
However, the proliferation of the roadside sellers, especially those who sell roasted corn caught the glimpse of The News Chronicle. Opeyemi Ologun went out to meet some of these sellers to find out the reason behind this.
Mama Daniel from Kaduna State said she has been in the business for 3 years and came to look for job in Abuja, but when her job search became fruitless, she opted to sell roasted corn by the roadside. She further said, “I have four children and I don’t have husband. I only went to primary school, after which I got married.”
Asked her who introduced her to the business, she responded that, “If I enter market I used to see that plenty women are doing it, and when the suffering was much I also thought of doing it.” When asked how her daily profit is? She jokingly asked in Pidgin English; you won give me work? She later said, she makes roughly 10,000 Naira per day, but the profit becomes meagre after the deduction of the cost of corn purchase.
Niya Ali said her sister introduced her to the business, and she has spent 5 years in the business. She confessed that she is doing the business to avoid just staying home, so she can get little money to sustain herself and her family. However, she complained bitterly about the low turnover from the business, but admits the income settle some family financial challenges. When asked why there is a sudden rise in the number of people selling roasted corn by the roadside, she said
“It is the way the economy is, and there is no money to do another business. The gain is so little and I have to use it to pay school fees and feed my children. Since my husband does not have money, I have to do something to support him.”
Another seller who identifies herself as Chinwendu said she learnt the skill of roasting corn all by herself, and she perfected it through experience. She also affirms the low profit of the business, but said she trust God to give her business a boom. She trains her 6 children from the business with the profit she makes.
When asked what she does when corn is no longer in season, she responded “in Abuja here, corn season is from January to January, so you can do the business all year round, but some go into selling of fruits and other things.”
For many others who also spoke with The News Chronicle, their responses were similar. Most of them got into the business because it was seen as the cheapest business to venture in, and they have only remained in the business because their options are minimal.
During the interview, the reporter noticed many exotic cars that parked to buy roasted corn and pears, despite the complaints of the sellers about the low turnover of the business. However, it could be hard to ascertain their profits considering the highly competitiveness of the business, especially in strategic locations where there are throngs of customers.