Roadside manicure services boom in Nigeria

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A comfortable salon may be the ideal place to have a manicure-pedicure, but in Nigeria’s sprawling economic capital, the curb above a open sewer works just fine.

The roadside ‘mani-pedi’ is something of a Lagos institution and one of many examples of how residents in the mega-city of 15 million people defy what could be considered personal grooming norms.

Privately tailored suits delivered to your home or office are a luxury reserved for the wealthy in some cultures, but in Lagos, many in the middle class are also in regular contact with their personal clothier.

And, while paying for your toe and fingernails to be soaked, scrubbed, trimmed and moisturised is considered a luxury in some parts of the world, in Lagos, “it’s for everybody,” said Bashir Haruna, 32, a groom at a polo club who also hauls boxes at an appliance store for extra cash.

During a recent evening rush-hour, Haruna squatted on the dusty sidewalk of the chaotic commercial street where he works, with the scent of sewage wafting up from below, while his preferred nail-care specialist tended to his feet and hands.

“Indian oil to make it soft,” he said, as manicurist Mustapha Abdulrahaman rubbed lotion on his feet, part of the $0.37 (0.24 euro) treatment.

The informal nail care sector in Lagos is dominated by people from the northern, mainly Muslim, Hausa ethnic group, like Abdulrahaman.

The north is racked by crippling poverty and considered worse off that the mostly Christian south, while an insurgency by Boko Haram Islamists which has killed hundreds in the region since 2009 has further hindered the economy.

The 30-year-old Abdulrahaman explained that he has been travelling around Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, for the last 12 years, with his collection of nail clippers bundled in a handkerchief, visiting regular customers in need of a trim.

“I don’t stay in one place. I walk along the street. People that know me say ‘come and cut my fingers,'” Abdulrahaman said in Hausa.

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