'Egunje' Pays More Than My Salary
Tipping is a social custom practiced in some parts of the world.
It is normally voluntary, so the customer decides whether to give or not. And waiters do not even have to solicit.
In restaurants for instance, people could tip as much as 10% of total spend especially when the customer is satisfied with service rendered.
But here in Nigeria, we have a version of the tipping culture called Egunje, which literally translates as ‘money for food’.
But it has become synonymous with sums given as bribes to bypass official procedures or avoid the long arm of the law.
From police checkpoints to when you walk into a public building such as hotel, airport, restaurant, hospital, people who provide these services solicit for egunje.
What motivates this? Why do people offer it? Is it a bribe? How much does it affect quality of service and staff dedication?
Bounce News went out to speak to people who work in some of these places and they shared their experiences. Read on.
Mirabel Osogu (real name withheld) works in a private hospital in Lagos as an auxiliary nurse.
Her monthly salary is 20,000 Naira. But she could make more than that depending on how many patients the hospital admits and discharges within the month.
However, Mirabel does not make more than her salary by stealing.
The money comes as gifts from happy patients when leaving the hospital. She told Bounce News in an interview that “as a woman, the only thing you gain from such money is that even if your salary is small, with the money that people give to you, you will be able to save something from your salary”.
Beyond administering medicine, she needs to show them kindness and make them feel happy. She does not have to do these things with the intention to make people give her money;
“But if you do good to somebody, they know and maybe at the end of the day, he will be like, take this 1000 Naira and recharge your phone.
“On a typical day in a hospital, about 5 people may be discharged. Do not forget that this is Lagos, hardly before anyone will give you 200 Naira. And depending on the hospital where you work, a discharged patient who is happy may feel it is an insult to give a nurse 500 Naira", she said.
Do they in any way solicit for this money, you may ask. Mirabel says no. But that does not mean they do not expect it.
“Somehow as a human being, in your spirit, you expect it as well., especially those that came to deliver babies. Sometimes they can give the entire nurses on duty, may be 5 of you, 7000 Naira. Is that not big money after sharing it?” she said.
“With that money after your own share, you can get some of your food stuffs, recharge your phone. You do not need to rely on one boy to give you money before you buy what you want.”
Mirable said the money or the expectation of it does not affect the way she treats her patients. This is because, it is unlikely to know which patient will offer money or not.
Unlike Mirabel, Tunde works at a rest room in a shopping centre. His salary is 15,000 Naira. But he does not rely on it at all. He told Bounce in an interview that on typical day he could make up to 1,500 Naira.
“To piss here na for free but na de way we go serve you when you come in go make you give us like 100 Naira or even more when you come piss. At the end of the day, I go fit make like 1,500 or somedays 2,000 Naira,” said Tunde who quickly rolled out a tissue paper for a member of the bounce team who had eased himself and was washing his hands.
According to him, “The salary is too small. The thing no even reach for transport.”
Hassan mans the gate to the shopping mall. He flung the door open with ‘Oga happy weekend’ when Bounce News entered and when we came out of the mall. So we gave him 200 Naira. He was reluctant to speak as he didn’t really have the time. But he told us, the egunje helps since the salary was meager.
“If no be this small small tips from better people we de come here, how person wan take survive,” Hassan said in pidgin.
But why do people give egunje?
Segun, a shopper at the mall told Bounce News, “Egunje is not a bribe. For me it is a matter of spiritual consideration. People beg you for money and you give them, not because you have too much but because you want God to bless you as he has used you to bless that person.”
How about you? Do you give or take egunje? What do you think about the practice?