Behind every cloud, they say, there is a silver lining. That much is true of the dark cloud the spread of the deadly coronavirus constitutes to humanity. While the virus has infected millions of people worldwide and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands others, it is not only a story of gloom and tragedy as it has led to a turnaround in the fortunes of many people, particularly in Nigeria where facemask business is booming among neighbourhood tailors.

Clearly, the storm that brought disaster into the paths of some is clearing the paths of others to good fortune. Samson Ademuyiwa was shocked a few days ago when his wife, Omolola, offered to loan him the sum of N35,000 for the family to restock their home with food. Samson, a 42-year-old electrical contractor, had been left crestfallen after his hope of recovering the sum of N60,000 a client owed him was dashed. The said client had hinged his inability to pay the Oyo born contractor on the lockdown arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
Omolola’s gesture came at a time the family had exhausted their stock of foodstuffs, prompting Samson, a father of three who also had three other relatives holidaying in his apartment, to leave his Abule Egba, Lagos home for his debtor’s place in the hope that that latter would pay his debt. He, however, returned home disappointed.
Understandably, the frown on his face gave way to a smile when Omolola, a backstreet tailor, told him that she could afford to assist him with N35,000. Whatever doubt he nursed about Omolola’s gesture vanished after he took her in his car to the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) of a nearby branch of a commercial bank to withdraw the said sum and subsequently bought the needed food items from the nearby Ile Epo Market.
Omolola would later reveal to her husband that the money she withdrew from the ATM was the proceeds of the numerous facemasks she had sewn and sold since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Omolola said: “At the onset of the lockdown, I was lamenting that customers had stopped bringing fabrics for me to sew for them. In the first week of the lockdown, I returned home empty-handed each time I went to my shop because there were no clothes to sew. But the awareness about facemasks changed all that as emergency traders started bringing materials for me to sew face masks which they in turn sold to other people.
“It is from the jobs that I have so far made more than N50,000 as people keep thronging my shop because of my creative designs, which include using designer jeans, damask, ankara and satin fabrics to sew face masks.
“Now, I work very late. I have also had to engage my apprentices more than their work hours just so we can deliver the masks to my teeming customers.
“It was a woman in my neighbourhood who introduced me to a trader in Oshodi. The trader had liked the design of a mask the neighbour bought from me and subsequently contracted me to sew special masks for her and another friend of hers.
“I sew between 2,000 and 4,000 masks weekly and they even pay me in full before collecting their jobs. The pandemic has really affected social life and I pray that it should end before long. But it has been a blessing in disguise because I am making good money every week.”
But Omolola is not the only tailor that has found a ‘gold mine’ in the production of face masks. There are others like 40-year-old Lydia Osarewhen who has been making good money from the business too. The Edo born tailor and single mother of three, who plies her trade in the Agege part of Lagos, said the business was the only thing that had kept her home intact.
Osaremwhen said: “In the last few weeks, I have produced thousands of face masks for traders around here. Face masks have become good business. I constantly get orders from traders. It was from the proceeds of the jobs that I was able to renew my rent of N50,000. Even my landlord was shocked that I paid without delay for the first time.
“Since customers have stopped bringing their personal fabrics and aso ebi (ceremonial uniforms) because the ban on social functions is still in place, face mask production has become a huge compensation for me.
“It has more than put the food on my table as I have been able to do charity or palliatives for poor neighbours as well.’’
For another fashion designer, Hakeem Owolabi, the risk he took veering into face mask production has paid off in the last few days. Before then, Owolabi, who runs a shop off Afariogun Street in Ikeja, had suffered low patronage for his craft. But the 38-year-old artisan said that face mask production has brought him good money lately.
He said: “But for the money I have been making from producing face masks, I wonder how I would have been able to cope with the lockdown.
“The precautions against the spread of coronavirus pandemic, including social distancing and ban on public gatherings, have put a stop to parties and social events on account of which people usually bring fabrics for us to sew.
“The pandemic had affected my income level so much so that I had to beg some of my friends for money to stock up food in my house, until I was introduced to face mask production by a colleague and it has been a profitable venture so far.
“Now I make between N5,000 and N7,000 weekly from face masks because my designs are very catchy. In fact, my customers who sell the masks in parts of the metropolis have deposited money for their jobs so that I can deliver the masks on time.”
A tailor around the Railway Line area in Agege, Hashmi Ibrahim, said he had switched to making face masks after seeing the huge sums his contemporaries were making from the venture.
“If you cannot beat them, you join them,” he said.
“Since customers have stopped patronising us, I decided that the best thing was to join my colleagues who have switched to the production of face masks and making plenty money from it.
“I have since been making money from masks. I make between N5,000 and N6,000 weekly because the vendors who sell the masks have become so many so that I now close late from my shop, which is right behind my residence.’’
Culled from TheNation