Kabir Abu Bilal is a Nigerian professor who works as a welder in the Northern city of Zaria. His side hustle has drawn attention because it is considered one of the menial jobs in Nigeria and West Africa.
Prof. Bilal, 50, works at the faculty of engineering at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria’s largest university. He has spent the last 18 years teaching and supervising research students at the university. What is more, he has published several books on physics and electrical engineering and he is considered an authority in his field.
Prof Bilal, who said he makes more money from his welding job, told the BBC that his side hustle has shocked many of his colleagues.
Responding to his colleagues, Prof Bilal noted, “I am not ashamed that I work as a welder despite being a professor. I make more money from welding.”
He launched his welding shop in Zaria almost 20 years ago. He started the business in a mini shop but moved to a larger space in 2022 due to a large inflow of customers after he was promoted to become a professor.
The expansion has made him take on bigger jobs with customers asking him to make things such as metal doors and window frames, according to the BBC.
“I collect the job no matter how small it is, even if it is one door I will weld it happily to get paid,” he said.
Prof. Bilal said his current work and side hustle were influenced by his childhood ambitions. He recalled taking apart and putting back together gadgets and things like radios.
“Unfortunately I found out engineering here was more theoretically based and I needed a place to express myself,” he said. “That desire culminated in me starting this welding workshop.”
Academics in Nigeria earn between $390 and $555 a month, which is inadequate to meet their monthly needs. However, Prof. Bilal said his welding job has allowed him to be more self-sufficient. What is more, through his side hustle, he said he has been able to buy a more reliable car – a Mercedes.
He currently has 10 apprentices at the workshop where he is teaching them the skills of the trade.