Super International Market located on the Lagos-Abeokuta Express road is acclaimed the biggest vehicular parts market in Africa, boasting of clients from all over the Continent. GUBEMI GOD’S COVENENT SNR visited the mega auto parts mall and discovered a massive market of manifold dimensions. His report.
Our correspondent pushed through a massive explosion of human beings from the Super bus stop on the express road to access the auto market; it was like being caught in the belly of a shark.
Every square inch of land was occupied by a trader, a buyer or the stuff being sold. There was not a place to stand still for a moment and there was not a shop or land space that was free. If nature had not made oxygen abundant and free in the atmosphere, suffocation would have become a medical emergency here every second.
Daily Times discovered upon inquiry that Super International Market shares unmarked boundary with the famous Katankowa second hand clothes (okrika) market.
52 years old Otumba Olabode Afuye, from Ikare-Ekiti in the South-Western State of Ekiti is the President-General of Katangowa and Super international market.
In this exclusive interview at his office inside the market, Olabode took Daily Times to the genesis of Katankowa that has become a household name.
“Although Katankowa is the popular name known everywhere, we didn’t register this market in that name: the real name of this market is Super International Market.
“By interpretation, Katangowa means God will provide for all of us; and the person behind this name only registered a street after his name around here in the days before the market built up and became popular. Just because people always use the name to direct or describe the location of the market which developed and increased over time, Katankowa became synonymous with the market and it gained ground since then until now and that was about 34 or so years ago.
“So Katangowa is just a pet name, you know, an acronym of a sort. It’s like where I come from in Ekiti, we have some people there that acronyms have taken over their family names; that’s exactly what is happening here.”
The market structure
“There are two major wings in this market; as you can see for yourself, the place is very large. The second hand clothes area to the far end of the market is known as Abule Egba International market because that wing is located on Abule-Egba land along the Abule-Egba Express area.
“The second wing is the auto spare parts wing which is the Super International Market. Now, both the second-hand market wing and the auto spare parts wing are registered under one name and that is SUPER INTERNATIONAL MARKET and that is our officially recognized name.”
The making of the market
The market has been in existence since the name of the man was muted about 35 years ago, but it didn’t attract much public attention until the late 1990s. Olabode recounts the build-up that metamorphosed into the mega market we have now.
The auto market foundation
“There was a time in the late 1990s when Lagos State Government started some development at Yaba, and the traders who used the railway line and Tejuosho environment to sell second-hand clothes were driven from that area, and most of them came and continued their businesses here.
“Similarly, when those automobile spare parts dealers were driven from Lagos Island, some went to Owode Onirin (the steel and motor-parts market after Mile 12 on your way to Ikorodu town); while some of them came to this place. This was how the automobile section suddenly sprang up and continued to develop to what it is now. As you approach Super bus-stop from Iyana-Ipaja you can see the auto spare parts section, just like you have at Owode-Onirin but Super is a more standard and well planned version.”
The main business that dominates the Katangowa market are purely second-hand clothes which includes second hand bags, shoes and things like that, he said, “While the core business of the spare parts section is automobile spare parts market where one can buy completely knocked down (CKD) auto parts. Engine blocks and part-units of all manner of vehicles can be found here, and you can also buy FBU (Fully built up) engines and stripped chassis in this market.”
The president is unclear about the geographical area of the market but is certain it is as big, even bigger than some major markets in Lagos mainland and Island in terms of land space.
How is the president able to coordinate a human explosion of this magnitude?
“Just as you have rightly observed, it requires matured people with high sense of responsibility and level-headedness. In this automobile and motor spare parts section alone, I have about 15 Chairmen who oversee the administration of particular areas. There are people selling airbrush, some sell springs of different kinds, even engine parts of different makes and kinds, and these chairmen must know everything that is going on in their particular areas, so they form association each according to their section. Every Tuesday and Wednesday they hold a meeting where everybody will come together to share their ideas and experiences as to what is happening and bring suggestions for improved infrastructure and management.”
“If you’re talking about status, people come from Ghana, from Mali, virtually from everywhere to buy spare parts here, and I can assure you that Super International is one of the biggest auto spare parts market on the African continent.
“If you’re talking of International Trade Fairs, you will be talking of this place. Go there and see the Super International auto spare parts section, you will see it’s a standard market. Then go to Ghana magazine which is another big auto spare parts market in Accra, and you will hear of this market because they come here to buy from us. If you go there and you say you are from Nigeria, they will ask you, do you know Super International market?
It would be recalled that the demand for auto parts in the pre and immediate post Nigeria Independence was limited to the small population of expatriates and Nigerians, apart from the military and other security arms of government. Supplies then were either brought in directly from Britain by Government or imported and used exclusively by the few motor companies like Leventis Motors and Mandilas.
The vogue of that generation was placing of orders to car manufacturers abroad which made them to specification for the elite class, notable among them was the first Federal Minister of Finance, Omimi-Ejor, Festus Okotiebo; the Henry Fajemirokuns; transport magnate, S.B. Bakare, the tire mogul, Chief Odutola, and so on. The cars in vogue then were branded pleasure cars in the range of Chevrolet, Pontiac, Citroën and few faces of Volvo; the Peugeot brand made its debut shortly afterwards.
Then came Volkswagen of Nigeria with its Completely Knocked Down (CKD) vehicles. With its assembly plant in Ojo town, the company shipped in CKD parts in crates and had their helicopter fly them from Wharf to the company.
Now the CKD innovation by Volkswagen of Nigeria opened the floodgate to the auto parts market as many of the crates smuggled out of the company found its way to the open market. Few Nigerians who worked with Leventis Motors and Mandilas pulled out of their employment and started their own mechanic workshops which heralded the road side mechanic business. Staffers of Volkswagen plant who were either sacked or resigned increased the indigenous mechanic population that blossomed to what you see today.