BN Photo Stories: Breaking A Sweat on the Streets

Nigerians are a hardworking people; more so, in Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital where a motley crowd is ever ubiquitous. Every day, we all are up for work before the sun, only to retire several hours after the sun’s bedtime. Just as the ‘suit-and-tie army’ march into their cozy offices, millions of ‘foot soldiers’ disperse into the several corners of the metropolis. Many itinerant traders spill into the streets, under the scorching sun and sometimes in the rain, to eke out a living. The city is ever so busy.

Fueled by the slow pace of economic development, mismanagement of funds by public officers, loss of formal jobs, and persistent rural-urban migration of mostly unskilled migrants, the informal sector of the Nigerian economy continues to grow bigger. World Bank estimates put the contribution of the informal sector to the Gross Domestic Product in developing Asian and African countries between 25% and 40%. From independent research, in Nigeria, Africa’s largest country, it might be close to 65% of the Gross National Product. According to the International Labour Organisation, the informal sector is broadly characterized by a low level of organisation, with little or no division between labour and capital as factors of production and on a small scale. Labour is mostly based on casual employment, kinship or personal and social relations rather than contractual arrangements with formal guarantees. The activities are mostly outside the purview of the government.

The contribution of the informal sector to Nigeria’s economic growth is quite significant as it is better placed to absorb unutilized resources from the public and organised private sectors. Moreover, through partnerships with large-scale enterprises, informal sector enterprises could easily constitute the production base of the economy. Therefore, it is hoped that the government continues to pay more attention to the ‘underground economy’, providing strong linkages to the formal economy for national development. In the budding city of Lagos today, it is not uncommon to see and hear of government agencies and officials clamping down on the activities of street vendors, whilst seeking to obtain tax and regulate the activities of other traders. This post is dedicated to the resilience of our people on the streets. We do hope that the government strikes a balance between the provision of a proper structure for increased job creation and the enhancement of alternative means for those who have to sweat it out on the streets.



Bayo Omoboriowo is a freelance photographer and photo artiste. A double-finalist (Still Life & Lifestyle) at the maiden edition of the Nigeria Photography Awards in July 2011, his works have appeared on,, and in Y! Magazine. He loves documentary photography, though he also dabbles into events and portrait.
Twitter: @BayoOmoboriowo | Blog: | Facebook Page: Bayo Omoboriowo

Jide Odukoya, a graphic designer and (front-end) web designer, decided to build a career in photography barely a year ago after purchasing a Canon 550D with which he had experimented for a while. A Photoshop faithful, he dabbles into several kinds of photography, the top three being documentary, street, and wedding photography, in that order.
Twitter: @jideodukoya | Blog: | Facebook Page: Jide Odukoya Photography

Gbenga Awomodu is an Editorial Assistant at Bainstone Ltd./ When he is not reading or writing, Gbenga is listening to good music or playing the piano. He believes in the inspirational power of words and pictures, which he explores in helping to make the world a better place. He writes from Makurdi, Benue State, where he is presently on the national youth service programme.

Twitter: @gbengaawomodu | Blog: | Facebook Page: Gbenga Awomodu

101 Comments on BN Photo Stories: Breaking A Sweat on the Streets
  • ammy October 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm


  • Bimbo S October 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Wow! Just Wow! is all I have to offer. I know where I am going to cite for a my country study now. This is a job well done.

  • Glory Edozien
    Glory Edozien October 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm


  • moses October 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    this is NIGERIA……

  • Temi October 14, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Nice pictures and story.Well done Musketeers!!!

  • moi! October 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Salute to all our tireless and hardworking people.We never give up!

  • Mike October 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I love the pictures..this is a wonderful idea.You can just see the hustle in their eyes.THIS IS LAGOS!
    Thanks bella naija and the contributors

  • Ebony’n’Ivory October 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Wow, I can’t fight the nostalgia I’m feeling right now…it’s like I’ve just been transported back home. I miss Lagos…it is truly the city of hustlers.

  • Olu October 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Wow..this is touching. May the Lord reward the works of our hands in Jesus’ name. Sad to see people sweating hopelessly for peanuts in the land of plenty. God dey o!

  • adelegirl October 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Very poignant pictures… On one hand, I saluted the strength and courage of the people depicted going about their “everyday” life, trying to eke a living in the most pitiful circumstances, in some instances. On the other, I felt deeply sad by the fact that some people have to live this way – struggling to make a living in the midst of abundance…

  • lily October 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Naija people are born hustlers….only wish we all got our rewards *hisses*

  • Buki October 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Wow, these pictures say a lot. All I can say is always be grateful for what you have because there are people that will kill to be in your shoes. uhm!

  • Gennyz # 1 Fan!!!! October 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    So proud to be Nigerian!!!…its amazing how the lady with a tray full of fish still manages to file her! such great balance

  • OloladeB October 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I wish the pictures where labeled according to who took them, they are indeed very true, looked like images from the eye of a person, not a mechanical device…

  • Written October 14, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I know these picture are meant to pay homage to the resilience of Nigerians…but it makes me sad.

  • tinu October 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    these pictures are so real and emotional. God bless the fruits of our hands o. nobody wants to be fund hussling on the streets but u need to in the bid to survive sometimes with the high rate of unemployment.its so sad really. i always feel sorry especially for the lil kids in traffic. so unfair really.

  • Missy October 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    love the pictures!!! very arty and colorful!!….nice job!

  • tinu October 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm


  • Gracie October 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Proudly nigerian!!! Welcome to lasgidi….my home sweet home. 🙂

  • Gracie October 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I want me some ice cold Lacasera pleeeeeease!!! lol

  • Tunmi October 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    The perseverance of the human
    Nature is amazing

  • Tiki October 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Wow, I just said a prayer of gratitude for my life. Money hard for work am, no be lie…

  • someone October 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Beautiful pictures

  • Ndidi October 14, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    The images are beautiful, powerful and yet hauntingly sad. The dignity of Nigerians shine through, yet I felt a pain in my heart, that my people who are noble and proud, still have to labor so hard, so long under such conditions when they should be enjoying the vast natural wealth our country has in abundance. We are a proud and hard-working people. These photographs capture that so eloquently. Well done to the photographers!

    • Beverly October 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      Your comment is everything I wanted to say. Thanks.

  • esther October 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    man must survive

  • Ms. Jayee October 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm


  • Ms E October 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    beautiful picture, hard life

  • Lil fiz October 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Beautiful work

  • Wizzy! October 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Awesomely creative!!!

  • someone October 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    When you see La Casera you know you are in Naija

  • Hadassah October 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    awesome shots, guys. absolutely fantastic. I’m proud to be a UNILAG alumni x

  • Gorgeous October 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    These pictures just show that Nigerians are suffering. Look at kids hawking and risking their lives in such an oil rich country. When they should be protected from all these dangers. So sad! The government should remember that everyone is only in this world for a season and a reason. What you do with that time has its own karmic consequences even if you dont believe in God. You will still leave families behind who will in generations to come suffer in the same way from the rot you created.

  • IDK October 14, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Now this Is the real Nigeria. Not the red carpets, the flamboyant weaves, the high class weddings and the countless fashion lines. I’m glad we are finally able to acknowledge the not so glamorous side of Nigeria. These people need to be celebrated more.

  • kemi October 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    OMG! These pictures gave me goosebumps, thanks for sharing, truly loving the simple work of art of the Nigerian people, I love the pictures, please keep sharing more!

  • lekwe October 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    you can almost touch the hustle

  • Naija4show October 14, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    mtcheeeew, suffering and smilling…se na like dis we go de dey?

  • oma October 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    the hustle and bustle of naija

  • Della October 14, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    So much is being said in these beautiful pictures.
    Well done.

  • It has to get better October 14, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Stunning pictures but they make me think hard. Our government needs to provide better for our people. The hardship on some of these peoples faces…

  • Pizzazz October 14, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    So real! This is Lagos as we know it. From the mainland to the island, its a land for all. Kudos to the photographers for capturing these priceless pieces.

  • Uchechi October 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    So Nigerian!

  • Aibee October 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    These pictures capture the true hussle and bussle of making a living in Lagos. These pictures, not the lit Marina at night pictures; these pictures not the VGC interlocking blocks paved streets; these pictures not the human hair wearing, blackberry holding and colour blocking red carpet attendees; these pictures are the true representation of what life in Lagos is for about 80percent of its inhabitants. Well done guys/

  • partyrider October 14, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    really nice really captured the hustling spirit of Nigerians..
    …if only we had a good government to back that up.oh well..thats story for another day..
    weldone to the team that put this together.

  • faith October 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Lack of professionalism will eventually kill evrythimg in dis country…evrybody ȋ̊§ into evrytin J̲̥̅̊u̶̲̥̅̊s̶̲̥̅̊t̲̥̅̊ τ̅☺ make money…. U̶̲̥̅̊ go τ̅☺ a salon n dey treat U̶̲̥̅̊ badly n still make nonsense hair for U̶̲̥̅̊…mtshewwww…

    • oluwatobi October 15, 2011 at 11:44 am

      Are u saying the photos lack professionalism the way they were taken or what??? and what exactly does your hair have to do with the photos?? and if you get rubbish hair done at the salon and receive rubbish attitude with it, YOU TOO RUBBISH THEM IN RETURN!

      • Baby Dee October 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm

        lol.. I know right. What does hair have to do with this?

    • fairangel October 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      I don’t understand your comment. What has hair got to do with the pictures. Some just want to write somethning sha.

  • alext October 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Nigeria is a sleeping giant

  • Olatokunbo October 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    I absolutely love these images, they tell a story of a country especially of Lagosian, that we are resilient. Against all odds, we still make it happen!

  • Aba October 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Blimey! i thought Nigeria was only full of rich people who wear Loubs, holds Chanel bags, wear brazilian weaves and have outrageously expensive weddings!! oopps, my bad! and Bella, post my comment!!! :((

  • Grace October 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    i love this!!!

  • Xorra October 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Surprise Surprise! No one is shouting “First” on this ….
    Beautiful pictures, we need a revolution in Nigeria, Nigerians or at least a larger percentage of us need to enjoy the money in Nigeria!!!

    • aaamelia October 17, 2011 at 11:07 am


  • True October 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Beautiful yet sad:(

  • mee2 October 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    ki lo de? 9ja- we dey hustle, and it seems lyk it doesn’t get any better. i know dere’s a bright light down d tunnel. HOPE.

  • Dee October 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Wow…beautiful pictures and extraordinary people….God bless Nigeria

  • Obi October 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Lagos na wire.

  • zeenie October 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    really beautiful pictures…

  • Chinazar October 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Keep up the good work, guys.

  • Iyosi October 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Nigerians are definitely hard working people!

  • Chiomberrie October 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Pictures speak a thousand words indeed- this is a true portrait of the everyday life of the common Man in Nigeria- Its a rough world out there…….but still man must survive!!
    The Nigerian Spirit- Very Resilient!
    Good job guys

  • @_Iyore October 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Hustle,Hustle, Hustle Hard. This is Lagos

  • missme October 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Hmmmn if this was a marriage/relationship/wedding article we would have hundreds of comments by now oh…

  • Tope October 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    God bless the Nigerian man’s hustle!

  • Queenie October 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I will not over labour the point people have been making about the government cos they rightly deserve the anger but what of us? We are a giving people but we have not channeled our giving aright. If for example our tithes pay the MOG a befitting salary and the rest goes to a pool where communal boreholes, schools/materials for the less privileged kids, screening centres for diseases, maternity/post maternity health care, clothes/food/white goods, shelters, public toilets, lobbying/pressure groups to ensure the government does what is right, etc are done, our country would be a better place. There is power if we pool our strength together. Instead we live in constant fear of the witch in the village and pay the MOG cos it will assuage our fears, let us not forget justice for the weak amongst us. I feel more than half of the deaths on roads, health related issues could have been avoided, a more knowledgeable people not beclouded by fear will lay the blame where it squarely belongs, at the feet of the government and not on hocus-pocus old ladies. The day we know that we know that we know this fact, we will be emancipated from our fears and pursue what is rightfully ours. God bless.

  • iTawa October 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Amazing shots but yea quite sad…e go better! I pray for my Nigeria, my motherland, my home!

    Thanks BN for posting stories n photos like these…you guys are amazing n pls keep up the good work! I live in Calif. but whenever I’m on your website, it feels like home…I miss Naija so so much 🙁

  • Ikenna11 October 14, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Makes me sad to see all the suffering and despair..Are we truly our brother’s keeper?

  • Yinka Ogunbajo October 15, 2011 at 12:26 am

    It is truly amazing that the Nigerian government / people do not see it fit to make Nigeria a nation that provides for the Welfare of Children, Widows, Orphans and even people with no jobs. It all comes down to one word : TAXES!! People from all socio economic levels need to be taxed based on their income: no matter how small. Government welfare programs need to be provided for people in need. How long is Nigeria going to continue like this?? A country where officials only see it fit to steal all the natural resources and not care to provide for its own!!!

  • ashi October 15, 2011 at 1:28 am

    i feel inspired by this pictures …just beautiful, highly impeccable

  • LeBa October 15, 2011 at 1:29 am

    ha ha ha at ABA. ….And yet, some of those same people will spend their last dime on this:

  • Funmie October 15, 2011 at 2:03 am

    This saddenns my heart, my soul and my body. The pic (tray of candy, gum, kolanut e.t.c) got me most… dats an older man! prolly has a wife and kids… even if he’s lucky enough to sell off his goods daily… what is his take home? papa God please help ur nation NIGERIA

  • SMH October 15, 2011 at 4:49 am

    Nice shots.
    Socioeconomic commentary: Nigerians/blacks really need to learn how to improve their societies on their own. Most of these pictures are of people engaging in UNSTRUCTURED, UNORGANIZED retailing. Where are the Nigerian businessmen with all there stolen funds who can set up large-scale modern retailing infrastructure and distribution/logistics companies that can basically allow these people to do the same thing but in a professional commercial way and earn a decent wage in an air-conditioned environment??? (SMH). No worries, the white South Africans are on their way to save/modernize the blacks again, this time in Nigeria…move over street and boat hustlers…here comes more Shoprites, Woolworths, Spars, and I even hear there is an INDIAN guy trying to set up a Costco style bulk shopping retailer in the middle of Lagos mainland! Now these women can work in inventory warehouses and at checkout counters. Oh I forgot, the rich Nigerians who go abroad to Marks and Spencers and Targets will now say “you are trying to ruin the essence of naija”….right, the essence that you get to stare and sneer at while you dey enjoy inside and abroad. Naija is changing oh….but because of foreign investors!

  • rosellar October 15, 2011 at 6:09 am

    These pictures are sad. It just reminds me of d pains and sufferings of some people in this nation. Sometimes we get used to seeing these things and we often adopt them as ‘normal’. I recall having a Canadian friend in Nigeria some years back, who was deeply traumatised by †ђξ sights of children barely up to 10yrs old walking to school, hawking and begging for money on †ђξ streets. She wept from †ђξ airport till we got home. Sadly this things have not changed and it’s just one of those things we as Nigerians have chosen to adopt. Child labour has to stop men. I can’t bear †ђξ suffering and pain written all over some of these faces. Sad!!!!

  • erica October 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

    this is beautiful and inspiring. i can’t begin to express the emotions i feel looking at these pictures…let’s just say pride is one of them. I am proud to be Nigerian.

  • Ayomidotun Freeborn October 15, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Like fela kuti said… “…suffering and smiling”, its the nigerian way. In the face of hardship, we never say die… that’s the nigerian spirit.

    I love this collection. Keep up the good work sir(s)

  • pyneapples October 15, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Lovely memories forever frozen in the eye of the camera…

  • nonny October 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    God loves Nigeria! God loves Nigerians and he will never 4get our hardwork,love and dedication to survive here on earth…God bless, keep, honour, favor and weep away the tears of many children,mothers,fathers in NIgeria that need your jelp, peace and favour…IT IS WELL WITH ALL HARDWORKING NIGERIANS!!!peace***

  • Lia October 15, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Truly beautiful…heart-wrenching as well.

  • Fisayo@Iroyin October 15, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Great articles and Nice pictures. We are so hardworking….

  • cathy October 15, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Real living for you! nice of you people at BN, taking us back to the reality of it all. tired of the fake lives some live

  • omoibo October 15, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Having spent half my life living outside of Nigeria, I am always humbled & appreciative of the opportunities that I’ve been afforded whenever I visit Nigeria and see the type of diversities that people have to deal with on a daily basis. God Bless 9ja……….

  • Omoboriowo October 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    This is an heart rendring,eye opening write up,a wake-up call to all n sundry.Nice work there by every contributor n thumbs up 2 my one n only broda,Adebayo Omoboriowo(smiley concept) am proud of you!!lol

  • babs October 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    great photos…very humbling. pray things get better in Nigeria

  • omo October 16, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Really sad however, we are a strong people.

  • RUTH October 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    i love this….

  • Tolu October 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Dear God…this is sad,beautiful but sad.I’m at loss for words. Now this is POVERTY! i mean i see poor people here in DC everyday but its nothing compared to this magnitude.

    Lagos seem to have gone down the drain, i had to do a double take because i was like “wait, this is so not the Lagos that i know”. If anything, this definately reinforces the fact that folks are suffering out there. (And my silly cousins are always talking about how Lagos is so much fun and “mad money to be made” yeah, right!) Every priviledged person should be thankful for all they have and at the same time lend a helping hand. Images like this need to be a constant reminder to us that this infact are some people’s story….and thier financial constraint is not a result of thier poor work ethic or values but because they are unfortunate to live in country that has failed them.

    Thanks for sharing this Bella, that was very insightful of you. For most of us the few minutes we get to see things like this is probably on our way to MM airport or back.

  • shonnywilliam October 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    first i think u were bored!!!and it not new….we see it everyday…it hw can we change dis a not make it artistic.seriously……..(man dey try make ma)u det take foto…..hmmmnnnn….u guys

  • peter October 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    nigerians are the most hardworking in the world. Up naija.
    For latest and hot gists visit and join

  • Oluchi October 17, 2011 at 7:52 am

    I did my youth service in Lagos plus spent an extra year there & it was touching to see how hard people struggle to make very little money…hawkers pursuing vehicles at breakneck speed used to get to me big time.
    There is heaven and hell in Naija.

  • Rue October 17, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I love this story and your site! Its great to get to see so many sides of Nigeria and hear these stories from Nigerian people!

  • nony October 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Suffering and Smiling…..

  • Lue October 17, 2011 at 10:09 am

    these guys are good.

  • IGBOFILLE October 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    This na real Lagos. The photographers are fabulous. Some of the pictures made me feel so bad while some made me stiffle a smile. Naija we dey hail o. If only our billion naira thief leaders can give the poor man a better chance to life.

  • NaijaBizCom October 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Its said No food for a lazy man. They must eat to survive, so they have find their daily bread. There is dignity in labor, every body has a starting point in life. Join me @ small scale business opportunities in Nigeria

  • Truth Teller October 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    These pictures show how unfair the system is to the masses. This is a note to anyone that gets any leadership position in this country, care for the masses. My God! when would all the looting end? our people need to start living right but don’t even know how to because most were born into untold hardships. It’s pathetic to say the least. I LOVE NIGERIA!

  • vanitychaser October 24, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    these are amazing images… i want more

  • Ama October 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I’m proud to be one of these people. Doing honest work when I can imagine the pressure their under to be prostitues and robbers… This is our economy. These are the real Nigerians who share a bathroom with at leat ten other people… It is for them you wish that we had little things like stable electricity and good hospitals…

    • AkuaP November 12, 2011 at 1:38 am

      ama if I may ask…arent u Ghanaian according to ur name?

  • Teetee November 2, 2011 at 7:22 am

    This is a job well done…the title said it all, though there is hustling and bustling in Nigeria it is everywhere else in the world and we don’t have to be ashamed it is happening here in Nigeria…if we all can decide to work hard and collectively, we can make it work here in Nigeria like anywhere else in the world…I’m a proud Nigerian…wouldn’t change my NATIONALITY for anything in the world.

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