Lagos, the fast rising City of Excellence may be towering above other states in the federation, but there are certain landmarks, traits and lifestyles of the people that make up Cosmopolitan Lagos that refuse to be relegated into the trash bin of history. One of them is the popular Night Markets across the state.
As its name, it is a busy market that sleeps in the day and bubbles through the night hours, hence it is fondly called “Oja ale” (Night market) by both buyers and traders.
Even a first time visitor cannot fail to identify the markets by their gleaming and shinning lamps, either hung over their wares, or held by hand. A recent addition is the introduction of recharchable torch lights, tucked under the scarf of the sellers to illuminate their goods displayed before them.
Night markets can be found throughout the Lagos metropolis. The Daily Times investigation discovered it is another platform for poor families to make additional living besides running other businesses during the day.
In the major trading hubs of Lagos, it was found that major markets at central points like the new look Ojodu Berger, Oshodi, Mile 12, Yaba, Mushin, Ketu, Alaba, Idumota etc, actually runs dual shifts: the first shift starts at dawn through the day to about 6pm, then metamorphosis into a new world of life and business that begins from 6pm to the wee hours of the night. Even the popular Aswani market along Osolo Way has its night shift that runs to near midnight.
Sellers engage in different kinds of songs to attract the attention of their potential buyers; song like, “buy your fine fine trousers, two two hundred” etc rent the air. A trader at the Yaba market who wants to be known only as John told our correspondent the songs are necessary to persuade people to at least stop and look. “When they hear N200, or less amount, they will turn and look up the market. It works all the time.”
This was corroborated by another trader in Mushin, Iya Shaki and others who have all composed their respective songs to attract the massive crowd of people in the market places.
Most traders opt for this night business for various reasons. A trader who spoke in confidence said some of them opt for night market because they can’t afford rents for the not-too-cheap shops and stalls.
“Some of us use the night market trading to provide services and meet needs of workers coming back from work late into the night hours, those who may not have the opportunity of shopping during the day. Also, we make more sales at night than during the day,” she said.
Market with a human face
Another face of the market is the presence of roadside eateries or canteens. This could be a mother and few of her children; they cook with their normal household domestic appliances and sell cooked foods to people may not have time to cook when they return from work, or to bachelors who do not have even a kitchen to their name!
They would sell just about anything from soup, jollof rice, yam, etc into black nylon poly bags so customers would just get home, turn the soup or rice into plate and eat some good home cooking at very affordable price range.
One Madam Oluwatoyin, an elderly woman at Yaba market, who has seen a lot of years, recalled with nostalgia that night markets used to be an open space in the community, but now, shops and stalls have replaced that. “It used to be strictly groceries and foodstuffs market in those days, but now, people sell virtually everything from shoes and clothes to plastic wares and rubber slippers!”
Oluwatoyin who herself also sells shoes in the market at night had called out to our correspondent to patronise her. During the haggling over the price, she explained why she chose to sell at night hours:
“My child, night market is an opportunity for many of us to make more sales; the night rush hours most times give us more sales and more profits than in the day.”
A trader and mother of three at Ketu night market disclosed that she always brings her children to the market to help her cope with the night rush.
Of her children who should be in bed reading or resting for the next school day, she said frankly that night market is their only source of livelihood.
“When government refused to provide shops and stalls we can afford, what can we do? Imagine paying N5 million per year or N20,000 monthly for one government shop; where am I supposed to get such amount?” she lamented.
The poor woman also blamed officials of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) who harass them during the day. “Many times, my petty trade has been seized and they force us to pay huge amount to bail ourselves.”
Sadly, the little ones have adjusted to their fate. Children barely 10 years old were seen advertising their parents’ goods deep into the night. “Aunty, we have skirt and blouse and it is just N200,” a child called out to our correspondent at Idumota market.
The dear child told The Daily Times that she can’t sleep by this time because she has to help her mum in the market.
Ayomide, a girl of about nine years of age who sells all kinds of ladies wears with her mother, said she comes every night to help her mum.
It was gathered that in the process of looking for potential customers for their parents, some children had gone missing or kidnapped.
Some customers who spoke with our correspondent frowned at involving children in night trading. “This orientation might make them believe that the only way to succeed in life is through business and lose the zeal for education, besides the danger of exposing children to different kinds of assault, even sexual harassment by customers under cover of night like this,” Mrs Titilayo Olasope said.
She suggested that only a good government can resolve this situation. “If government can consider the poor masses and provide shops and stalls they can afford, families would be able to raise their children outside this harsh and dangerous platform called night market.”