Call it Okrika, Bend-down select, Boutique or whatever you like; Katangowa market is the most popular second-hand clothes market in the outskirts of Lagos. There you can find different grades and shapes of used items. JOY EKEKE takes you to the world of Okrika in Katangowa.
Katangowa Road in Agbado/ Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, buzzes with daily commercial activities. Beyond this, it wears no spectacular appeal.
Walking down the road, there is no signpost to announce the existence of a growing enterprise. But an interesting cloth business, now attracting customers from far and near, booms there.
Around Abule Egba and environs, the place is known as the Katangowa Market, an Hausa name derived from its peculiar sale of second-hand clothes. Buyers besiege the market from several parts of the country, even from outside Nigeria to shop for rare cloths. A walk deep into the busy market is like walking into a choking embrace of clothes. Many people from the middle-class to the working-class prefer to buy the second-hand clothes which they call “Okrika”, some call it Bend down select”, while some call it “Wash and Wear”.
No matter how downgrading the names, the bottom line is that the business of secondhand clothes across the nation will continue to thrive and remain a major source of livelihood to many households.
In most cities of the country, the second-hand clothes which are termed “contraband” by the government are imported from different countries like the United Kingdom, United States, Dubai, China, Korea and other European and Asian countries, through Cotonou in the Republic of Benin and Togo.
Items like undergarments, clothes, shoes, socks, bags, curtains, bedspreads, weave-on, used jewellery, especially different shades of female clothes like shirts, tops, skirts are in abundance in the market. Some are on hangers in different shapes of umbrellas, while some are in heaps on polythene materials spread on the ground along the roadside.
Abayomi Olalekan, a trader who sells used female shirts at Katangowa was yelling in the local language that most Lagosians understand, Pidgin English: “If you wear this shirt, you go get double promotion and your oga no go no you again”. (Translation: If you wear this shirt, you are assured of promtion at your office, your boss will not recognise you again)…
The silent lesson is that there isn’t much sense in wasting money and time buying clothes in boutiques because the same quality of clothes can be bought at Katangowa at much cheaper rates.
As a bonus, comic scenes would always leave a visitor roaring with laughter as he struggles to meander his way through the milling crowd.
Chukwuemeka Oke, who sells female undergarment at the roadside, was engaged in a funny dance and shouting ‘’Buy ur bra here and if u no see ur size, u need deliverance’’ (Translation: Buy your bra here and if you don’t get your size, then you need deliverance).
As far as Blessing, a customer is concerned, the second-hand cloth is not just for poor people; even the working- class people and the middle-class patronise the market.
“This is where I get my clothes when I am going back to school. I just budget N5, 000 and I get as many as I want and they are cheap.
“People keep saying Okrika cloth is not good because it’s second-hand, but when you wash the cloths with hot water and soap and you iron, it looks like brand new,’’ she said.
Adaeze Ugochukwu spoke in same vein, “Before, I buy my clothes in Oshodi or Suru- Alaba, then my friend took me to Katangowa in 2013. Since then, I have been buying clothes from here”.
“Most of my clothes are bought here, even my children Christmas cloths were bought here and I get good clothes depending on their market days.”
Market days are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, that’s when you get good first-grade cloths, she said.
Ngozie Victor, came all the way from Ogun State:‘’I buy in bales and sell at retail price because it’s cheaper. I get a bale of female tops for N8,000 and when I get to my shop in Ota, I sell each top for N500, so my gain will be much more than buying in retail price here.
He added, “I buy the first grade and third grade then I mix them together because you find some clothes in the third grade that are finer than the second or first grade, so what I do is to mix them and then I get my profits.”
Some traders who expressed satisfaction over quick sales of clothes and shoes during the festive period told Daily Times how happy they are during Christmas periods.
Chidi Kenneth insisted that imported used clothes were of better quality than the new ones. “A lot of people prefer to buy imported used clothes and shoes because they are of good quality; strong and not common, like the new ones you see everywhere.”
Last year Christmas and New Year was wonderful, he said, because there were good sales of clothes from the children wears and adults. ‘’ I sold a lot of clothes last year and it was my first year of doing this business. Though Okrika clothes do not really have season, we sell very well during the festive period.”
Madam Grace Chigozie, who sells first-grade shoes beamed a lovely smile when she spoke with DailyTimes about her last sales in 2014: “Last year, me self sell very well; even some of my customers come from Delta, come buy market for my shop and the people many well, well.” (Translation: Last year, I made a lot of sales, some of my customers came from Delta state to buy from me and I had so much customers)
Grace Chigozie further stressed that “As you can see, my shop is empty because I have not gone to Togo to get new shoes but I will be going this month.”
‘’I just came to the market to dust my shop and feed my eyes”.
Emmanuel Israel buys in wholesales (bales) and goes back to Ijora Market to sell: “I love Christmas period because of the flood of customers to the market; even when the cloths are not fine you still see people that will buy them. The quality of the clothes however determines its price”.
“Some buy to wear and some will clean and resell in their boutiques.”
According to Nnamdi Orji, who sells bales of Okrika cloths at Katangowa and brings the clothes from Cotonou, explains the difficulty sellers face “customs officials usually disturbed us, sometimes impound our goods. So, at times when they seize our goods and we manage to get the goods with huge amount, we will put high price on the goods to break even and some customers will start complaining”.
If katangowa was this busy on a normal day, you wonder how the market days will be like. You can find out easily.