A Point of Sales operator in Abeokuta, Sulaiman Olawuyi, who became the cynosure of all eyes when it was discovered that he was charging N50 for N5,000 withdrawal, while other operators were inflating their charges, tells DAUD OLATUNJI why he decided to be sincere in his dealings with people, among other issues
What is your state of origin?
I was born and brought up in Gbongan, Osun State.
How old are you?
I am 30 years old.
What is your educational qualification?
I am a BSc holder from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
What course did you study?
I studied Building.
What year did you graduate?
I graduated in 2017.
Have you served and what year did you serve?
Yes, I have served. The NYSC deployed me to Abeokuta in 2018.
You studied Building; why are you into PoS business?
After my youth service in 2019, I sat down and thought of what to do to make money since I can’t steal or get involved into Yahoo Yahoo (cybercrime), I decided to make good of the little money I was able to save during my service year in order go into a profitable business. So, I ventured into PoS and sale of cooking gas.
When did you start the PoS business?
I started the PoS business late 2020.
You started the POS business in 2020 when many businesses were not thriving. How were you able to cope then?
Yes, but I was able to make use of the little profit and was able to make a living out of it.
Are your parents still alive?
Yes, they are alive; they are in Gbongan, Osun State.
Do you have siblings?
Yes, I have younger brothers and sisters. They live with my parents.
Why did you decide to stay in Abeokuta to do business after your service?
When I got to Abeokuta in 2018, I got a place to stay in Ijeun-TunTun, and the way the people here behave is lovely. So, after completing my service, I decided to stay, hoping for a good time and job to come.
Where did the NYSC post you as your place of primary assignment?
Actually, I was not posted to Abeokuta, I was posted to Adamawa State for the three-week orientation, but due to Boko Haram insurgency, I had to work towards getting redeployed to Ogun State after the camping because I have a brother staying here. When I got here, I was posted to Ogun State Property Investment Corporation as my place of primary assignment.
Why did you not bother to work as a building constructor after your service with the NYSC?
When I got to OPIC as a corps member, on my first day on site, one engineer, Mr Sulaiman, who happened to be the project engineer of that site called all corps members and asked us to introduce ourselves and tell him the relevance of the course we studied in school. A guy who was a graduate of LAUTECH, who studied Civil Engineer, stood up and described Civil Engineering as like a father course to Building and other construction courses. I spoke against his position and said that Building as a course originated from London, and in London, we have Building as a separate course apart from Civil Engineering. I engaged him in an argument that lasted for almost four hours.
Who won the argument?
When the conversation got to a certain level, he paused and was speechless while the conversion had to be between me and Mr Sulaiman. At the end of the day, Mr Sulaiman had to give a pat on the back, saying I was a true graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University.
Let’s talk about your business; how much did you use as your capital when you wanted to start the PoS business?
I will take you back to what I said earlier; after my youth service, I was able to save some money, NYSC was paying N19,800 as monthly allowance. At that time, OPIC usually gave us N10,000 as our monthly stipend, and every 15 days, they gave us allowance. So, I was able to live my life the little way I could and still saved. I was able to save about N110,000. I had to send the money home to help me buy some gallons of red oil so that at the end of the year, I would be able to sell them, make profit and set up a business. However, the reverse was the case because there was no increase in the price of red oil and I suffered loss. Nevertheless, I was able to gather a little amount of money before speaking to the Imam of my mosque in Abeokuta that I was interested in the monthly contribution that was being organised within the mosque. I explained to the Imam that I did not really have the money, and that he should allow me be the first or second to collect the monthly contribution and add the money to the little I had saved to enable me to start up my business with the intention of paying back from the profit, and he accepted to assist me.
How much was the contribution and how long did it take you to pay back?
The contribution was N100,000, and it took me three to four months to pay back.
In your PoS business, how much do you charge your customers for withdrawal?
Before this hardship started, we were collecting N50 for the withdrawal of N1,000; N100 for N1,500 up to N6,000. Any amount greater than that like N7,000 up to N10,000, we charge N150; from N10,000 to N14,000, we charge N200, and from N14,000 to N20,000, we charge N250. Now that the country is in this kind of situation, we can’t say because people do not have any choice, they should pay outrageous charges to withdraw money. We can’t say because of that, we increase the charges to whatever we want. In whatever you do, you have to consider two things. First, your Lord, and ask yourself that if you do this, what will likely be the reward from God? Secondly, service to humanity is something you must also consider because the way you treat people when they need you is the same way they will treat you when you need them.
Are you aware of the amount other PoS operators charge their customers?
Yes, I am very much aware because there was a day I wanted to travel to my state, and I had exhausted all my cash the previous day. So, on getting to Asero Motor Park, I had just N200 with me and the driver told me that he would not accept transfer and that I had to get cash. So, he directed me to a woman that sells oil opposite the park. When I got there, I greeted her and I told her that I wanted to withdraw N5,000, he replied that he would charge N300 for N1,000. I was surprised, and I told her that the amount he was charging was too much, but she told me to go away if I would not be able to accept the charge. When I got back to the park, a man asked me what happened; I explain to him that I was stranded and he asked me how much cash I needed. I said I needed N5,000, and he gave me the money without collecting any charge. I was very happy because it was something I never expected.
Amidst the cash crisis in the country, do you still sustain the same charges for withdrawal?
Yes, I still maintain the same charges up till now. It is N50 for N1,000; N100 for N1,500. It is N150 for N6,000 and above up to N10,000.
So, where do you get the cash you use to transact your business?
Whenever people ask me this question, I don’t answer it directly because I have to appreciate those who usually make this happen. The number one person I can never forget in my life is Mummy Ore; she sells foodstuffs. Anytime she makes sales, she gives the money to me so that I can give to people. The second person is a woman living in my house. She is my neighbour. She sells foodstuffs and provisions in Kuto market. There’s another woman; Mummy Korede. She’s a very good woman. Whenever she makes sales in her shop, she brings the money down here, and some of those that even come here to withdraw money; whenever they see someone in town with cash, they used to direct them here to come and do transfer. So, that’s how we’re able to make money.Was there no time you disappointed your customers?
Many people always call me on the phone before coming to ask if I have cash, and I used to tell them the current situation on the ground. Most people know that we usually give money early in the morning. When I get home at night, the old woman in my house usually gives me between N60,000 and N70,000. So, when I get here in the morning, the money will be with me because I don’t give out money in the midnight. When I get here in the morning, people who come early in the morning always get cash.
Why do exhibit this kind gesture even when other PoS operators consistently inflated their charges?
Just like I have been saying, one must do it for good because the way God will reward you will be in a way you don’t expect at all. Actually, I never knew people would celebrate my actions in this way. I always have it in mind that people should not suffer in an environment that I stay and I can’t be of help to them. So, that was exactly what triggered my action. The moment you take advantage of the current situation to impose a certain amount of money that you know people will not be able to afford, and because they don’t have a choice, you now impose high charges on them, Allah will ask you.
When are you getting married?
Very soon, and God knows the time.
Are you aware that you have been trending?
Oh! I saw all the posts on WhatsApp and on Facebook.
Have you been getting credit alerts?
Yes, some people asked me to send my account number, but I have refused to do so. Some of them even went to the extent of contacting Kasnaty, the broadcaster that discovered me, to tell him that I refused to send my account details. So, Kasnaty came here yesterday (Wednesday) and asked me to call my account number to the public which I did.
Do you have another job aside from your PoS business?
I have PoS as a business; I also have gas business and at the same time, I have a tutorial centre where I prepare and register students for exams like JAMB, WAEC, NECO and others.
When did you start the tutorial centre?
I started the same year, 2020.
If you get a big job, will you forget the PoS business?
Yes, the main reason for working is to make money and make life worthy of living; maybe if I have the opportunity to get a better offer, and I’m able to make enough money. I will leave the business, but one thing I cannot leave; one thing I cannot put behind is service to humanity. People will continue to enjoy it from me.
People say you charge N50 for every N5,000 cash you give out, N100 for N10,000. How true is that?
Yes, it is true. The amount of money we give out depends on the amount of money we have on the ground. If we have the opportunity of getting like N100,000, and we have limited number of people on the ground, we can start with giving out N5,000, but whenever I discover that the money has reduced greatly and may not be sufficient for the crowd, we reduce it from N5,000 withdrawal limit to like N2,000 withdrawal limit, just to make sure the money circulates.