May 5, 2023

Nail-cutting business booms in Niger despite health hazard

Nail-cutting business booms in Niger despite health hazard

By Wole Mosadomi, Minna

THE old adage that health is  wealth no longer seems to have any meaning to many men living in Niger State. They rather prefer to obey their instincts when it comes to taking care of their health than to normative safety standards and protocols put in place by the state. 

One noticeable area of drifting away from the norm is the patronage of local mobile nail cutters who move about rendering their services to anyone who patronises them without paying any attention to the hazards associated with such traditional practices.

In Niger, many men still patronise nail cutters who use locally fabricated and crude tools for the service. Such men are mostly found sitting under trees or in any shade or relaxation centres while having their nails cut the traditional way. Neither the nail cutters nor their patrons appear to know the grave negative health implications  associated with the operation. Some of the operators of the nail cutting business have, however, been very smooth in rendering the service to their customers without injuring them with sharp objects like razors, knives, and clippers, while others have not been so meticulous. That is why some of the clients of nail cutters suffer routine cuts and end up dripping blood from their heads, while others are lucky to complete the process without sustaining any injury from the sharp instruments used. 

A typical toolbox of a nail-cutter consists of various sizes of scissors, a fire lighter, and spirits, among others, used for the cutting and dressing of nails. In the past, the service was provided by elderly men, who were very careful in rendering it as a form of beautification and relaxation for men and women. But that has since changed as older men do not find it easy and comfortable to move about in search of customers to cut their nails. For this reason, mostly young and jobless men who have been frustrated by unemployment and hardship in the land, now dominate the trade and define the standards of operations all by themselves. Again, neither the state nor any health agency has any control over nail-cutting businesses, either in Niger State or any part of Nigeria, even as the practice escalates crudely. 

Across Niger State, the nail cutters can be seen moving about with small scissors, oil, and foam, all wrapped in a small rag for the business. The charges for both hand and foot fingernails have risen from N50 to N100. In an interview with Arewa Voice, the young boys said they went into the business because it is one of the quickest means of meeting their daily needs and does not involve heavy capital. One of them, Abdullahi Hussaini, who graduated from the Almajiris Islamiya Centre in Tunga, said that he took to the trade in order to fend for himself, especially feeding. 

Hussaini said: “With about N2,000, I was able to acquire the tools to start the business. I am from Kano State but brought to Minna to acquire Islamic knowledge, and since there is no means of livelihood, I resorted to this nail-cutting business and sometimes go home with between N500-N700 daily at least to feed”. Musa Mohammed, an 11-year-old nail-cutter from Kebbi State who does business in Minna, said he was attracted to the trade by others whom he saw carrying out the work professionally. “I am in an Almajiri Centre in Barkin Salleh here in Minna, and when we are on break from the Islamiya, I seize the opportunity to run the business by moving from place to place in search of customers, and at least, I get a token on a daily basis to feed myself. I have ruled out going to school because there is nobody to sponsor me, so I wait for the future to see what I will become,” he declared.

There are no fewer than 20 young boys who fall into this category of nail-cutters in Minna, and they are not sure of what the future holds for them. Out of the lot interviewed, only two once had knowledge of education but dropped out due to a lack of care either by their parents or guardians, and they have vowed never to go back to school. The use of crude and unsterilised instruments by the nail-cutters for their operations raises the potential for the transmission of contagious diseases such as AIDS/HIV, a dreaded ailment that has killed millions and rendered others useless to themselves and their families.

The Director General, Niger State Agency for Control of Aids, NGSACA, Adamu Baba, said though the state’s target is to bring the prevalent rate to zero per cent by 2030, it currently stands at 0.7 per cent. It has been confirmed that one of the easiest ways to contract the dreaded disease is by using unsterilized metal objects, especially those used by these nail cutters, which are highly patronised by educated people who know the implications. Many of the elites interviewed said they have been patronizing the local nail cutters for many years without contracting any ailment and vowed to continue patronizing them. 

One of the nail-cutting customers, who pleaded for anonymity, simply said: “We are Africans, and we have natural immunity to all these diseases. Some of these nail cutters, in fairness, use firelighters to burn the scissors before commencing work; but to me, I think, these are mere formalities as we cannot contract the dreaded disease by merely cutting our finger nails,” he boasted. Mrs. Dele Antonia Oyesikun, who operates a hair saloon and pedicure shop, said in an interview, that the safest way to solve these medical problems is to adopt a more advanced and hygienic way of doing things.

“It may look or sound expensive, but it is safer. For pedicures, which are for the legs, and manicures, which are for the hands, it will cost between N2,500 and N3,000 for men in the shop, while home service will be N3,500 depending on the location.”

 Such service can last for between six months and one year depending on the pedicure or manicure, and such customers are free from contracting any form of disease because we apply Dettol to soak both legs and hands to kill germs, use foam baths, pedicure peppermint, foot scrubs, apply creams after the scraping, and use cream to massage and smooth the leg. This may look expensive, but life is precious,” Mrs. Oyesikun explained. Above all, the clarion call to all, especially for those who patronise the local nail cutters, is for them to be more conscious of their health by insisting on the cutters to sterilize their tools and use clean foams to clean up the fingers after the exercise.