Sale of second hand clothes has become a thriving business in Nigeria despite the federal government’s ban on the importation of the items
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Feb. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
GENERALLY, people in Nigeria like to wear western clothes like suits, shirts and trousers as well as skirts and blouses. But these items have become increasingly expensive. Consequently, those who want to wear them resort to buying the items as second hand clothing. So it is not out of place to see children, young men and women, working class individuals and students patronising second hand clothing markets to get their required clothes at cheaper rates. This trend has led to a boost in the sale of second hand clothes in the country.
The sale of second hand clothes has become so popular with Nigerians that, in spite of the ban on the importation of the clothes by the federal government, the sector has continued to boom. While some would never want to have anything to do with it, there are others who can’t do without it. Notwithstanding the fact that second hand clothes are contrabands, how they still find their way into the Nigerian market is a question security agents in charge of Nigerian borders have not been able to answer satisfactorily.
It is estimated that 80 per cent of Nigerians wear second hand clothes. It is also a known fact that many relatively poor or absolutely poor people prefer second hand clothes because most often, they are of a better quality and also because wearing them associates one with the western culture and matches what they see on television. The sale of second hand clothes is a lucrative business and that explains why there are markets in many cities like Lagos, Kano, Aba, Ibadan, Enugu and Port Harcourt.
Some traders at the Katangowa market in Lagos, one of the most popular second hand markets in the state, said the clothes are smuggled into Nigeria from neighbouring countries like Benin. Nkechi Eloka, who sells second hand clothes in the market, said the business was not only profitable but also enjoyable. “There is money in second hand clothes business. I make a lot of money from it. The business does not require an enormous capital to start; you can start picking from traders that open bales depending on the start-up capital you have at the moment or how much you can deposit to pay the balance after sales,” Eloka said.
She acknowledged that it would be difficult for the government to successfully ban importation of second hand clothes. She believed that the roles played by neighbouring countries like Benin would always frustrate the efforts of government. “If you close the Nigerian border today, within two to three weeks, Benin Republic’s economy will be shaken. Because the revenue they get from these goods that Nigerians import through it goes a long way in helping that country,” she said.
Dada Umaru, a second hand clothes trader in the market, also said he got his goods from people who travelled to Cotonou in Benin Republic to buy them in bulk. He explained that the ban was affecting their business because those that import the materials would have to bribe their way through. “The effect of this is that the rate at which we get bales of clothes fluctuates between N60,000 and N70,000 or even higher depending on whether or not the goods were seized by Customs men. Sometimes when Customs seize the goods, we hear that the importer has to bribe with as much as N50, 000 or more to get the goods out and this will affect the rate at which the items are sold,” Umaru said.
Market traders’ union leaders in the market declined to talk about how they source for the clothes from abroad, but acknowledged that most of them come from western countries. When Realnews asked one of them how they get the clothes, he said “I can’t tell you how we bring them in because you will spoil business for us.”
But Chike Ngige, public relations officer, PRO, Customs commands in-charge of Nigeria /Benin border, said the command has intensified its efforts to curb smuggling at the border. “On a daily basis, we have been recording seizures of Tokunbo vehicles, frozen products, rice and second hand clothes among other unwholesome imported goods. Although we have porous border points dotted along Nigerian border with the Republic of Benin, we have been doing our best to curtail smuggling,” he said.
However, the trade in second hand clothes have provided jobs to thousands of Nigerian youths. The job within the second hand trading ring ranges from those who trade on second hand clothes, the tailors who repair any torn cloth to those who wash and iron them to make them more presentable and appealing. And nothing goes to waste. Rejected pieces of clothes are quickly turned into children’s wear by the tailors.
As long as consumers get their targets from the second hand clothes and the traders make their profits, it’s unlikely that the business and use of second hand clothing in Nigeria will stop anytime soon, regardless of government’s policy.