Commercial Nail Trimming: Craft That Defies Modernity In The North

BY ANKELI EMMANUEL

 ……commercial nail trimming by itinerant Northern youths has remained impervious to modernity and continues to attract patrons despite the health hazards it poses.

For Atiku Abubakar, an almajiri (Quranic scholar) who engages in commercial nail trimming within the Sokoto metropolis to earn a living, the trade is all there is, despite the weariness that comes from wandering about all day prospecting for costumers.
Abubakar, as a Quranic student at the Zawuya Shehu Muhammadu Bello Gusau Islamiya School in Sokoto has chosen nail trimming as a means of livelihood.
For him, as an almajiri, he has been cut out by nature to either be a nail trimmer, or something just within same bracket because all he needs to arm himself with in order to excel in the trade is dexterity and a pair of scissors. His service is affordable and there are always patrons, which explains why commercial nail trimmers have remained relevant in the North.
As Abubakar settled down to trim customer’s nail, the 18-year-old who hails from Malamawa Village in Bakura local government area of faraway Zamfara State divulged that he has been in Sokoto for about three years now, roaming about trimming nails and studying the Quran.
According to him, contrary to the belief that, almajiris majorly engage in begging for survival, they are rather engage in various trades such as itinerant tailoring, shoe mending and polishing, buying and reselling of used bottles, plastic materials and waste disposing from residential houses at pocket-friendly rate.
As an insider, he reveals that about 70 to 80 per cent of those who engage in the lowly services are almajiris of the North.
Sani, who is now a commercial motorcyclist, popularly called achaba in Sokoto told our correspondent that he came to Sokoto from Niger Republic to be an almajiri, and that he started off life as an itinerant nail trimmer from where he progressed to selling colognes before winding up as achaba rider.
Sani said he enjoyed being a nail trimmer, revealing that nail trimming was one of trades almajiris learn in Islamiya schools. He disclosed that for this reason, the business of nail trimming by Northern Muslim youths would hardly ever be a thing of the past despite the strong wind of Western life style and modernity, blowing across the North and the health campaign against sharing unsterilized tools among persons.
As Abubakar quickly rounds off to enable him trim the next waiting customers’ nails, he douses the fear that his tool is a potential transmitter of ailments, by igniting a flame from a cigarette litter with which he burned his scissors for about one minute. Crude as this sterilization process is, everyone in Sokoto and elsewhere in the North who patronize commercial nail trimmers believe it works.
When asked if he sometimes cut customers’ flesh or skin, Abubakar answered in the affirmative. He, however, said, on a very rare occasion do such happen.
According to him, their tools sometimes mistakenly cut a customer’ flesh when they are trimming absent-mindedly.
How much do they make in a day? Isah, another nail trimming almajiri said the takes was not predictable.
Isah who hails from Kwoni in Niger Republic reluctantly reveals that he garners between N500 to N1500 daily, depending on how well luck smiled at him in a given day.
Though, the trade of commercial nail trimming in the North is as old as the region itself, one wonders why it has remained in the Stone Age format it began with till date; after all, change, they say, is the only thing that is constant.
Nail trimming eloquently illustrates that change in the ways of doing things hardly come easy in the North, even if the practice is deadly or harmful.
Some of these practices that continue to defy modernity in the region include, local circumcision, tribal marks, use of knife in commercial barbing as well as using animal horns to extract contaminated blood from the body system.
Fact is that both those earn a living from these practices as well as their patrons are aware of the dangers, but remain stuck to them because of culture and tradition.
Much as it’s commendable to note that almajiris learn trades in Islamiyya schools for survival during the course of their studies, some believe is time to give red card to the unhealthy commercial nail trimming which they are taught.
Expressing his displeasure over the ugly development, an Islamic scholar who preferred anonymity told our correspondent that the mallams who give almajiris’ tutelage should be blamed for the trade of nail trimming.
The scholar, however said, he cannot conclusively say the almajiris bring returns to their mallams or not as believed by many, but that the teachers’ encouragement of the trade gives support those that hold such opinion.
Registering his anger and that of other concerned northerners in a media chat to mark his two years in office Sokoto state governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal affirmed that Islam abhors the kind of almajiri scheme that is operational in today’s Northern Nigeria.

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