Katangua Market which situates in Abule Egba, a suburb of Lagos, apparently remains Nigeria’s biggest second-hand clothes hub.
Indeed, a visit to the market is a sad reminder that fairly used clothes shipped from foreign countries not only spin big money but a hindrance to growth of local production of fabrics in Nigeria.
FLORENCE UDOH, Assistant News Editor, reports
Shipping containers arrive in droves in the Katangua Market, Abule Egba, a suburb of Lagos, filled to the brim with plastic-wrapped bales of second hand clothes from the United States of America (U.S. A), United Kingdom (UK) and other western nations. Traders scour, barter, hem and haw over T-shirts, bras, pants and shoes sent to help clothe a significant percentage of Nigeria’s population of 170 million people where the textile industry largely collapsed over years.
But while much comes in as Western donations, those on the receiving end sell them, instead of giving them away; creating a massive industry that makes it even harder for Nigeria’s remaining clothing manufacturers to complete against a tidal wave of cotton and polyester.
“More often than not, what people call donations actually end up being hijacked by people who profit from it,” said an economics professor at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), who craved anonymity. “So even though it starts out in the U.S. or the (United Kingdom) as a donation, it ultimately becomes a business on this side.
Katangua market, corrupted from the name of the original founder of the market, Alhaji Mohammed Gatan Kowa, from Katsina state, who started the business in the late 70s with second hand clothing shipped from neighbouring Benin Republic, is located along Lagos- Abeokuta express way, close to Iyana Ipaga area of Lagos State.
A visit to the market by Daily Champion showed piles of clothes ranging from jeans to underwear littered everywhere in the market. Traders rummage through them, and select which ones they want to buy. Some also sell the clothes directly to customers.
Nearby, rows of tailors sit at foot-cranked sewing machines, mending clothes and resizing some large shirts. Piles of bras and panties litter the ground. T-shirts bear strange, cryptic slogans, like a cartoon character saying “My money grows like Grass “A jersey with the No. 3 reads “Pittsburgh.” Other shirts are more recognizable, like an Obama 2008 campaign shirt or an “I Love NY” T-shirt.
“We need this clothing,” said a trader who deals on wears, Mr. Steve Obinna, “Most of the factories that produce all this clothing materials have folded up and the ones remaining sell at high prices”
It was gathered that some clothes sell here for as low as N300, much cheaper than foreign clothing.
Further investigations showed that locally made clothing like Ankara is still in hot demand by smany Lagosians .
Analysts point out that sadly, Nigeria once had a thriving textile industry, largely based in the northern city of Kano. But in recent years, the mills slowed and finally stopped. And coupled with many other problems, the textile sector gradually folded up.
Some companies, like Omas Nigeria Limited, still produce clothes for government agencies and private businesses, but operating profitably, has become a tough task for the few surviving textile mills in the country.
The Company’s director, simply identified as Orubu, said; “The cost of production is very high. Electricity, water, the rent and other charges are very expensive compared to what people bring in from abroad. If you compare the price you’ll find out that after production, the cost of the ones we produce here are very, very expensive.”
While undercutting costs, the importation of donated clothing provides jobs in the country’s massive gray labor market. Salesmen drape the secondhand clothes over their arms, walking through neighborhoods to show off their wares. However a few indigenous tailors still sew clothes for some of the populace , but the percentage is low compared to those who prefer to buy the cheaper second hand clothes.
Marketers decline to talk about how they source the clothes from abroad, but acknowledge much of it comes from donations. Some of it also investigations showed that is ferried over from neighboring Benin Republic as contraband.
Lagos Chambers of Commerce of Industries ( LCCI )President, Yusuf Muda, reacting to the boom of second clothes compared to indigenous growth of the nations tailoring and textile sector said all hope was not lost, pointing out that government was putting in place all necessary infrastructures and enabling policies to reverse the ugly trend.