25 years after, university graduate hawks ‘pure’ water

Like several others in the streets of Nigeria’s major cities, Glory Effiong Ekanem, a university graduate, hawks sachet water for survival. Glory buried her certificates in her wardrobe and settled for trudging the streets and campuses of higher institutions to hawk her wares because she has mouths to feed.

Glory’s existential story became handy when Saturday Tribune sighted her hawking with two transparent plastic buckets. She stuffs one with iced sachet water and soft drinks balancing it on her head while holding firmly to another containing snacks around the University of Uyo classrooms. Ironically, the 43-year-old mother-of-four, who’s now hawking before undergraduates, graduated from the University of Calabar some 25 years ago.

This is her story: “My name is Mrs Glory Effiong Ekanem from Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area. I am a married woman with four children and my husband is working with the State Ministry of Works. I am 43 years old. My first child is 14 years old and she is in Senior Secondary (SS2).

“I am a graduate of the Department of Animal Science, University of Calabar, Cross River State. I graduated in 2000.

“After my National Youth service, I went for an interview in the Ministry of Health, Akwa Ibom State, but I couldn’t get a job there. I went to the State’s Fire Service, wrote their recruitment exams, came third but  they didn’t take me.

“I went for another one after some time and we were asked to pay the sum of N300,000 to get the job. I don’t want to mention the place, but what I don’t understand is why would these people ask us for money when we were looking for a job?

“Would I be job-hunting if I had that kind of money? I don’t think so. After doing several interviews in various sectors with no success or employment, I decided to go into business, no matter how small, instead of hoping and waiting for a job.

“I am doing this business (hawking sachet water) because I need to have my own money to assist my husband in taking care of my family.

“The economy is hard, so every man needs all the support they can get and that is why I am selling “pure water” and soft drinks. It’s not every time you ask your husband for money.

“I have a shop where I sit down and keep my goods of soft drinks and sachet water, but I always come out to hawk because that way, I sell more.

“I started this business in 2022 after teaching in a private school. There, I was receiving N20,000 as salary. I had to stop the work because the cost of living was seriously increasing.

“In that same 2022, my sister introduced me to this business and helped me purchase packs of biscuits, water and drinks and looked for an open space in the University of Uyo.

“I started the business with N10,000. Then, things were not that costly as we could still buy a carton of biscuits for between N1000 and N2000 and we bought a pack of sachet water for N150 and sold it for N10 per sachet.

“The business was profitable then because things were not that expensive. Now, we buy a bag of sachet water for N300 and sell N30 per sachet.

“Then, I normally sold five crates of soft drinks and five cartons of biscuits daily and so I was making profits. But now, it’s not like that. What I sell daily then, I struggle to sell in a week now. Because of how expensive a bottle of soft drink is now, students no longer buy it. I can hardly sell a crate of soft drinks these days.

“It is not easy to make ends meet in this economy but I thank God. I am not too affected by the rising prices of some foodstuffs especially garri because I have cassava farms.

“I have a plantain farm and also a pineapple farm. So, most times, I make garri from my cassava farm and keep in the house for my family and that is how God is sustaining us. If not, it would have been very difficult to feed six mouths with the increasing price of garri. Even with that, it’s not easy to eat things.

“Fuel is the major problem we are facing in this country. If the price of petrol can be reduced, things will become better.

“The government should do everything possible to reduce the fuel price so that poor people can afford basic food in order to survive.

“There are empty spaces in government establishments, I am also calling on the government to give employment to everyone with the requisite experience and requirement.”

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