Call it Okirika, Gwanjo or Second Hand Clothes; it has come to stay even in Abuja, the nation’s capital, where middle class and high society men have found a good way to cut cost in an economy where belt tightening has become a must. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE (Abuja) reports.
If you are one of those with the conviction that only the ‘Poor’ or people on the lower realm of the divide are permanent customers of anything second new or second hand as popularly known in the country, you may be wrong.
Called it second hand clothes; ‘Okirika or Gwanjo’, the reality is that it’s a market that has transcended the known customers over time to the middle class and even some who are still within the upper class in Abuja.
In the past, second hand wears market had no place in the metropolitan city of Abuja, the nation’s capital, not including its sprawling satellite towns.
Such markets were popular in Nyanya in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mararaba in Nasarawa State and the popular Sunday Second Hand market of Suleja in Niger State.
Today, the narrative has changed in Abuja with exotic stores selling second hand wears to special clients usually of high class in the city.
This crop of customers include top bank managers, senior executives of top organisations, businessmen, top civil servants, amongst others who are further divided into VIPs and ordinary in the selection and buying of these ‘exotic’ second hand wears.
The selection and buying by these Abuja ‘big boys’ does not go without its drama. The hunger for classic shoes, sandals, belts, trousers, shirts, suits, under pants (boxers) often comes with its hilarious show by these supposedly high society men.
These exotic shops are not located on the main streets of Abuja neither are they located in the big malls of the city. You must be introduced to the shops or recommended by one of the customers as they are well hidden from the probing eyes of the general public.
The traders deploy the use of technology particularly through the social media where contacts of their clients are captured in data format and broadcasts are made to these men when new arrivals hit town.
The broadcast goes in this format: “Good morning sir, we are having VIP opening today by 4pm, shoes clothes woman bags etc.”
The second broadcast for the general clients goes thus: Greetings from YPG, New Arrivals, Men Shoes, Sandals, Flat-Shoes, Slippers, Office shirts. 20-09-2018 time 4pm.”
LEADERSHIP Friday had access to the general display day as the VIP day is highly limited to a few customers. Our correspondent was reliably informed that some of the so-called high society men would rather send their cronies to come and do the selection while some are supplied to their homes directly in a discreet manner.
The presence of exotic cars on a street in the Garki area of Abuja where one of these second hand clothes boutiques is situated, will leave any passer by with the impression that a sort of conference is taking place near by. The cars seen by our correspondent were actually parked by those who had come to select from a variety of ‘classic’ second hand wears.
Meanwhile, the main drama among these Abuja socialites was yet to come. The shop owner, in order to have some level of decorum, arranges some sets of chairs for his guests who will be seated as though a roundtable discussion is about to take place.
LEADERSHIP Friday was privileged to be part of the selling where the men had gathered for opening of bags of these wares. A brief speech was giving by the shop owner welcoming them to the sales show and urged for some attitude control in the race to pick the best.
After delivering his speech, the big bag is open signalling the start of business, with trousers and the drama starts. The race to pick the finest among the clothes creates a mild commotion among the men who sometimes fight for control.
“That is mine, I saw it first, give it to me,” screamed a middle aged man as he pushes his way to grab a pair of trousers in the fight for the best piece.
“Kai! I have desired to get this type of trouser. Oh boy! This wan you bring make sense,” said another customer as he picked his choice in the mild commotion.
Also, similar show ensued when the shoe, belts, jeans, and other items were opened to the customers.
What is now attracting these supposedly Abuja socialites to the second hand wears in the city, LEADERSHIP Friday asked a banker, Mr James (preferring anonymity), who said he was introduced by a colleague that was always looking classic in the office which prompted him to ask for the secret behind his outfits.
“I must confess to you, I was jealous of his superlative styles of dressing at work, I decided to confront him and he told me his source of wears and I discovered that he spends far less than me and comes to the office with classic shoes, belts, ties and suit among other clothes.
“As you know, as bankers, the money is not flowing like in the past, we have to device a means of saving our money. In a typical Abuja fashion shop, some of the shoes I buy here for N20, 000, at these shops in town, go for N120, 000. Some of these shoes, although second new, are pretty solid shoes I can tell you for sure.”
After struggling to pick about 15 pairs of trousers, Mr Samson Mmahi, a businessman, told our correspondent that the reality of today does not respect your status in the society.
“Must you be told of the economic reality of Nigeria? Where is the money to buy a trouser for N25, 000 when I can get even a higher quality for just N5, 000? I have responsibilities at home, I can’t tell my wife that I bought a shoe for N100, 000, some are even N200, 000. She will roast my head.
“By the time I dress tomorrow in this piece of trouser, you will be shocked to know its second hand-‘bend down boutique’. This is belt tightening time and that is the reality in this town,” Mmahi said.
He further stated that, many of his likes are patronising the second hand clothes markets, although in a discreet manner. He argued that the quality of the material is driving more people to the market.
The new found markets for second hand wears are helping the middle class in Abuja to save monies but the big exotic boutiques are not smiling as some, which, LEADERSHIP Friday visited along the Ademola Adetokunbo road in Wuse II, the big shopping malls in Jabi, Wuse Zone 5, Apo, Asokoro and Maitama, lamented low patronage.
A manager at one of the boutiques with exotic wears, who wants to be identified as Mr Cool, said the patronage is low and that has been the trend over two years now in Abuja.
“The number of people buying things from us has declined in the last two years, the economy is a bit tight for many, and we are also in a difficult state because most of our goods are imported with hard currencies and you know the exchange rate,” he said.
Asked if he is aware of the growing second markets where Abuja socialites now patronise, Mr Cool didn’t claim ignorant, admitted that the market is actually giving them a run for their money.
“It’s a free world and market economy, people buy according to the cash available to them. I do not doubt the quality of these clothes because we do visit the market for price survey. We pray the economy improves,” he stated.
LEADERSHIP Friday findings has revealed that some of the clothes and wares are imported from Italy, United States, United Kingdom and Spain through some West African countries to Nigeria.
Checks on the list of banned imported goods into Nigeria show that on number 18 it stated that: “All types of Foot Wears, Bags and Suitcases but excluding Safety Shoes used in oil industries, sports shoes, canvass shoes all Completely Knocked Down (CKD) blanks and parts.”
Recall that some African nations as Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have agreed to ban second hand clothing, mostly imported from the US and UK, in order to support their own textile industries.
The ban, according to these countries, is to try and support their domestic textile industries, but pressure from the US and a flood of cheap clothing from China are making it difficult.
But for Africa to continue to benefit from Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) Scheme, which came into being in May, 2000, the US Government has advised African countries against banning importation of used clothing.
AGOA is a US Trade Act aimed at significantly enhancing market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries.
The argument by the US Government is that, if Africa turns down used clothing from the US, 40,000 people would be out of job in US.
Some experts have argued that more than 200, 000 textiles workers are out of job since the textile industry collapsed over a decade ago in Nigeria.
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