Two Sides of Ikeja Evening Market

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The market in session
The market in session

Ikeja evening market along Obafemi Awolowo Way is where buyers and sellers encounter the good, the bad and the ugly

|  By Chinwe Okafor  |  Aug. 19, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

OBAFEMI Awolowo Way leading to railroad in Ikeja, Lagos, is unusually busy in the evening. Right from 6pm when most Lagos markets are closed for business, a make-shift market on the road is just coming alive. Along the street right from the new garage, different items of merchandise are on display. Here, people from all walks of life do their shopping. It is handy for housewives and bachelors who need food stuffs after the close of work, while many others flood the area to buy various items they need. A young man who needs a shirt, a pair of trousers and shoes can easily shop for the items here.

Some clothing items, shoes, meat, pepper, onions, rice, second hand clothes, recharge cards, bags, baby toys, kitchen wares and other household items that are found in day markets are all on display in this market. Some of buyers believe that the night markets are places where items can be bought at very cheap and affordable prices. Here, traders sell their wares without much harassment from government officials who go after street traders. Some of the traders, who spoke with Realnews, cited the ban on street trading in Lagos State as the reason why they changed their business hours from day to night to avoid the long arm of the law. Others said they were forced to start evening marketing because of the high cost of renting a shop. Ngozi Adara, a corn seller, said she used to sell her corn during the day but since the ban on street trading, she has chosen to sell her corn at night. She, however, appealed to the governor to let them to continue to trade in the evening.

A palm oil seller at the market
A palm oil seller at the market

Chudi Oduma, who sells made-in-Aba shoes at the night market, said that proximity and reach to his target customers were the reasons why he left the confine of the regular market to the road to sell at night. “I sell my wares at the Ikeja Computer Village in the afternoon but come down here to sell at night because of the heavy human traffic along the street at night. This is Lagos where people do all sorts of trading to make ends meet. Traders pay for any available space, including walkways, street junctions, roads and footbridges which they use to display their items daily contrary to popular opinion that it is free. We buy council permit from Monday to Sunday, otherwise we will not be allowed to sell. We pay all manner of fees like the security fee, which has no receipt, we pay council fee which has a receipt but one can swear that it does not bear the semblance of a document issued by the government,” Oduma said.

According to him, the only problem the sellers usually face is the harassment of Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, personnel, who come to arrest them all the time. Oduma and his co-operators, said they also decided to sell in the night when area boys and regular market supervisors who usually collect fees from them are not around. “We pay so many fees here, yet they don’t protect us from arrest when the KAI people are around. Some weeks back, I had to bail myself with N10, 000 when I was arrested. The amount was even small because I had a brother in the army who pleaded on my behalf. As a result of this, we don’t come out in the morning or afternoon when they are around but we all troop out in the evening when they would have closed for work,” Oduma said.

Another victim of KAI arrest is Ada Odiuko, who sells second hand clothes. “Just last week I was arrested by KAI officials; they picked me up, bundled me into their car and I had to part with some money after spending a night in their office before they released me. As you can see, I don’t carry big clothes anymore to sell, rather, I tie up few clothes which I can easily run with whenever they come around. I resorted to this method to be able to run away on time because the last time I was trying to gather my clothes to run away, they caught up with me and I swore that they won’t be lucky next time,” she said.

Nevertheless, the night market has provided convenience for some Lagosians. Take for instance, Augusta Udah, a banker, who doesn’t have time to go to the regular market because of her job. “I am a banker and do not have time to go to the day market. So whenever I am going home from work I prefer to buy food stuffs here because of the busy nature of my work. It is very convenient for me,” she said. Udah is in good company with Anthony Orji, a trader at the computer village market, Ikeja, who also does his shopping at the market. He said the market has provided him the opportunity to do his shopping after the close of business.

Bukky Akinola, another customer, enjoys the cheap goods she finds at the market. “I believe that at night these traders would want to sell off their goods by all means, so they tend to sell them off at cheaper prices. It is better for me as a student because prices of goods are unreasonably expensive in the day market but in the evening they are better and affordable for me,” Akinola said.

Woman selling vegetables
Woman selling vegetables

Not everybody is happy with the night market trading. Eunice Nkem, a civil servant, said that some of the night sellers sometimes take advantage of the informality of the market to offer counterfeit, pirated or bad products. “I have stopped buying certain items at night: these traders can be so mean and wicked. I cannot buy food stuffs at any night market because they will sell rotten food to you. You will be so happy you are getting foodstuffs at cheaper prices not knowing that you are throwing away your money. Two weeks ago, I bought eggs from a lady in this market at a cheap rate of N20, but when I got home to prepare the eggs I bought, to my greatest surprise, they were all spoilt and since then, I had learnt a valuable lesson,” Nkem said. A similar experience was narrated by Oluwakemi Adeola, a sales girl at the Computer village market, Ikeja. On a fateful day, while she was on the way home, she bought a handbag at the market but on getting home, she discovered that it was reworked and had patches. “I have stopped buying here no matter how cheap the article is because I had once been a victim,” Adeola said.

Okey Eze, who sells jewellery at the market, said it could be risky at times because when they closed for the night, the traders sometimes fall victims to street hoodlums. “They dispossess us of our earnings; it is God that protects us. I cannot afford a shop, that is why I come out at night to pick a spot to sell my jewellery,” he said.

But that is not the only danger that they face. Traders who sell at night on the rail lines are even at greater risk of being crushed to death if a train derails or a vehicle skids off the road. They also run the risk of collecting counterfeit currencies and could also be victims of robbers when they close late at night.

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