Odd Jobs: Interview With a Nigerian Garment Fixer

Travel Interviews: Lola Akinmade meets a guy in Lagos who'll fix the shirt right off your back

11.19.10 | 9:36 AM ET

Photo: Lola Akinmade

Meet Mikailu. He’s the answer to any unexpected wardrobe malfunctions you may encounter while strolling around Lagos. Skillfully balancing a worn-out Singer sewing machine on his left shoulder, he treks for miles, clicking his metal scissors loudly to let potential customers know he’s nearby. He’s known as a roaming garment fixer, or according to the Yoruba tribe, “Ejika ni shop,” which means “My Shoulder is My Shop.”

World Hum: How old are you?

Mikailu: I am 30.

How long have you been doing this?

For seven years now.

What exactly do you do?

I fix any tears. From trousers to dresses. I fix zippers and buttons too. I charge 20 Naira for repairing the tear and if I have to sew new zippers or buttons, I charge 100 Naira [less than $1].

So how much do you make in one day?

On a good day, I can make anywhere between 1,500 Naira to 2,000 Naira [roughly $10 per day].

And how far do you walk in a day?

I start from Jakande, walk all the way to Ajah and back [roughly 20 kilometers one way along Lagos’ Lekki Expressway].

Do you work for someone?

Ha. No! I work for myself. I bought my machine five years ago for 5,000 Naira. Now, it costs 7,000 Naira and I am happy I bought it then.

Are you married?

Yes. And I have five children too.


Lola Akinmade is a travel writer and photographer based in Stockholm. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, British Vogue, Fodors.com, Sherman’s Travel and Matador Network, among others.

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7 Comments for Odd Jobs: Interview With a Nigerian Garment Fixer

Eva Holland 11.19.10 | 6:27 PM ET

I really love that photo, Lola.

Lola 11.20.10 | 11:04 AM ET

Thanks Eva.

adanna 11.20.10 | 8:43 PM ET

wow!!! dis is a hustler if i’ ve seen one. Wish him the best, its not easy trying to fend for a family of 7 including him of course. Keep it coming Lola and good Job. IF u r going to be in Nigeria through December, my team of medical prof. and volunteers will be at Makoko, Kogi State on a medical mission trip. If u want to check them out, they will be there.

Lola 11.21.10 | 11:09 PM ET

Thanks Adanna! Please keep me posted. Not going in December, but would love to travel with your team one of these days and document the medical mission via photography/writing.

Serena 11.30.10 | 1:23 PM ET

Great picture!

Lola 12.02.10 | 8:47 AM ET

Thanks Serena!

Corfu Villas 12.22.10 | 2:28 PM ET

I guess his walk tell everything we wanted to know about him and his work and his needs. I knew Nigeria is a weak economy and people struggle for money and food. I am glad that Mikailu works for his livelihood.

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