Haven of Street Engineers

Ezejindu at work
Ezejindu at work

Without formal engineering training, hundreds of young men earn a living by repairing telephones, computers and other electronic gadgets at the Computer Village, Ikeja

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Apr. 1, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IN A small and poorly lit cubicle at Olaniyi Street Ikeja, Chima Ezejindu is surrounded by junks, tool boxes and about six customers waiting to be attended to. Like a medical doctor examining a patient’s x-ray files, he bends his head, squints  his eyes under a dull fluorescent bulb and blows dust out of a computer chip. “This will take a while sir”, he says to an anxious customer as he begins to rearrange the scattered computer before him.

Adio working on a phone
Adio working on a phone

Enter, Rauf Adio whose dexterity with Blackberry phones and other technological gadgets has earned him a reputation as one of the most sought-after engineers in Computer village, Ikeja.  Like Ezejindu, his shop is a beehive of activities on a daily basis. People throng in and out in search of solutions to their faulty telephones, laptops, iPods and other electronic gadgets.

Ezejindu and Adio are just two out of the hundreds of engineers at Olaniyi, Otigba and other streets in computer village, Ikeja. They eke out a living from repairing phones, laptops and other gadgets for customers at the market. Without a degree in electronics or any other branch of engineering, they dissect even the most complex gadgets and put smiles on the faces of their customers.

On a good business day, they make between four to five thousand Naira. It gets better when the customer has to replace a part of the gadget. They do brisk business by buying and selling such parts at exorbitant prices to unsuspecting customers.

When Realnews met ‘Engineer Chima’  as he is fondly called by his customers, he was busy with a laptop that had stayed too long in his workshop. He said he was determined to fix it for fear of drawing the owner’s ire who had paid him a part of the bill for the repair some weeks back. “I must fix this system today because I don’t want trouble. The owner paid more than half of what I charged him when he brought it about two weeks ago”, he siad.

Recounting how his foray into the trade began, Ezejindu disclosed that he had plans to further his education when he left secondary school in 2003 but was discouraged after three failed attempts. He added that repairing electrical gadgets started as a pastime but became a source of income when he started coming to the computer village.

“I wanted to study engineering in a university of polytechnic but I had problems with Physics and Chemistry which are major requirements for the course. I tried about three times after I left secondary school in 2003 but I later gave up and concentrated on the business. I have always liked to repair things, but I didn’t know I could make money from it until I started coming to the computer village with my friend”. Ezejindu said.

Waiting for the next customer
Waiting for the next customer

Despite his predilection for gizmos, Ezejindu still had to learn the ropes of becoming a street engineer right there in the computer village. It took almost 14 months of informal training from superior engineers to learn the trade and own a shop where he now has two apprentices working for him.

According to him, “People think we don’t know what we are doing because we didn’t go to school. I learnt this trade from someone who was trained abroad for more than one year. I learnt all I needed to know before starting my own shop”.

Unlike Ezejindu, who dropped out after secondary school, another street engineer, who identified himself only as  John, bagged a National Diploma in Business Administration from the Federal Polytecnic Oko, Anambra State before his odyssey into street engineering. He started off as a sales assistant for his brother who sells laptops in the Computer village but ventured into repairs which held better prospects when he began in 2008. “I used to sell for my brother in his shop and learnt how to repair from one of his friends here in Ikeja. We used to call him anytime our customers had problems with their systems. But when I learnt from him, I started doing things myself, John said.

For the customers, it is a mixed grill. While some see the engineers as reliable and would willingly hand over their gadgets to them, a few others think otherwise. To the latter group, the likes of Ezejindu, Adio and John are rookies who employ a trial and error approach of getting things done.

“I can’t trust any of these boys with my phone let alone my laptop.  Many of them are not engineers. They just use trial and error methods and sometimes make your gadget worse than they met it”, a regular visitor to the Computer Village who identified himself only as Tunde said.

Victor Ativie, another customer, said he prefers to patronise engineers who look matured and have their own shop. He dismissed claims that the engineers are rookies. Said he: “These people are trying. I know there are some bad ones among them especially those ones who stay on the streets, but some of them are really good at what they do”.

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