How Poverty, Poor Quality Are Pushing Lagosians Into Buying Okrika

Destiny Ore has been into the business of second-hand clothing, popularly known as Okrika, for more than two decades at Kantangua market (Super).


As at 6:30 a.m on Wednesday (March 15, 2023), he had set up his open space shop waiting for customers.

Ore who described the business as profitable, believes that the reason why people, particularly low income earners, prefer second-hand clothing to regular new ones is because they are affordable and durable.

“The clothes we sell here are better than new ones. Most of the new ones out there, are from China and their quality is nothing to write home about. But what we sell here are quality stuff. That’s why people come around. They prefer second-hand to new ones, because they’re cheaper and their quality is also good,” he told THE WHISTLER.

Kantangua market, located in Abule Egba area of Lagos State, is arguably the biggest junk market in Nigeria.


It is home of all kinds of second-hand fashion accessories, ranging from shoes to bags, clothes, hats, among others.

The market, which opens three times in a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) attracts people from different parts of the country on market days.

“It’s a profitable business,” Ore continued. “Customers flow into this place on market days from different areas — from Jos, Port Harcourt, Warri, Edo State, to buy things here.”

The business is a good one, said Aramide Mustapha, who buys at the market and resells online.

Mustapha buys the neatest of second-hand clothes and package them, take pictures, make videos and post online to attract customers.


She said: “Sometimes, I model on myself. And sometimes, I model them on mannequin. That’s how I get to market my product. I take pictures, I take videos and put it online.”

Mustapha having been delivering and satisfying her customers, has built trust, and as a result has been enjoying traffic online.

“Business has been good,” she said. “It’s usually massive anyways, because when you buy something that’s neat and they (customers) get to see it when you deliver it to them, they’re always confident within themselves that you sold something nice to them, and that will prompt them to buy from you next time.

“I buy first grade and they’re like new ones,” she told THE WHISTLER.

Doyin Oso, usually buys swede shirts at the market. She said it is not all the time that one buys good stuff at the market. She thinks that the reason why buyers troop into the market is because things are affordable there, adding that many would go for new stuff if they had the money.

“Not all the time you get good stuff here. I don’t think people come here because they prefer used stuff to new ones. I think many will go for new stuff if they’ve the money. If I’ve the money, I’ll go for quality new ones, but they’re very expensive and not affordable, because they’re imported,” Oso said.


Another buyer, Irene John, said she does not buy Nigerian made clothes because of their poor quality.

John who shares similar views with Oso called on the government to support textile manufacturers in the country, by giving them incentives, so that they can improve on the quality of their products. She believes that this will help to make locally produced clothes affordable and discourage people from buying used clothes.

“I don’t buy Nigerian made clothe, Aba clothe, because the quality is really poor,” John said. “So if they can (government) start by empowering our manufacturers by giving them incentives to improve on the quality of their products, that’ll help the country.”

People are looking for where they can spend less to get quality. This is what this market offers you, said Peace Ezenwa.

She said that because quality new clothes are very expensive, one cannot blame people for going for what they can afford.

Ezenwa would love to buy new designers clothes, but she does not have the money for them.

According to her, they are too expensive. She wants the government to support Nigerian manufacturers to better the quality of their brands.

“The truth is, most of the materials we use, they’re quite poor. I mean they’re not just durable at all,” unhappy Ezenwa lamented.

“If the quality of the products of our manufacturers becomes good, everybody will go for made in Nigeria, and nobody will go for second-hand clothes,” she said.

While many Nigerians are emigrating to other countries of the world to seek greener pastures, Justice Pivaga, a Cameroonian, came to Nigeria early 2020 to seek greener pastures.

Pivaga who first worked in Cold room and did car wash before delving into used clothes business said that he is enjoying the business.

He started the business with just N15,000 after struggling for months as a car washer. Pivaga whose business has moved from hawking to delivering to customers on request, said the affordability and quality of the used clothes is the reason people go for them.

He said: “I’m a hawker. I think my business is going to a level where I just do delivery. Like today, about 50 percent of what I want to buy is based on customers requests. I’m just buying what has been requested.”

Blessing Efiong sells swim wears, sports wears, braless, brassieres, bikini, among others at Kantangua market. While China made of these items are affordable, she said their quality is not good.

According to Efiong, the new ones that are of good quality are made in the UK, which she said are very expensive, adding that there are no Nigerian made of these products.

“Some of the new ones are from China, and hand made too. They won’t last like OK (Okrika). If you want to get original one, it’s the UK, and it’s very expensive. It’s not everybody that can afford it,” she said.

A dealer in footwears at the market, Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, said his customers prefer used footwears to new ones. But lamented that Naira scarcity has impacted negatively on his business, thereby making it impossible for him to import footwears from Cotonou, Benin Republic to meet the demands of his customers.

“I sell fairy used footwears and new ones. I buy the new ones at Arena in Oshodi. But the fairly used ones, I buy them from Cotonou,” Okonkwo said.

“The fairly used are better in quality than the new ones and they’re cheaper. Although there’re some fairly used that are very expensive because of their quality. The fairly used are in high demand.

“The Naira scarcity has been affecting my business. While I can do transfer here in Nigeria to buy at Arena, I can’t do that in Cotonou, because there’s no means to do transfer. You must pay in cash,” he told THE WHISTLER.

Okonkwo said that while some of the footwears he sells are made in Nigeria, most of them are not of good quality, which is why customers usually go for second-hand footwears.

He, however, acknowledged that the quality of made in Nigeria footwears is improving, but they cannot compete favourably with most of the second-hand footwears imported into the country from other countries.

Poverty Rises

While poor quality of Nigerian made fashion accessories is a factor influencing people’s choice for them, rising poverty in the country is the biggest factor.

The minimum wage in Nigeria is just N30,000, equivalent of $65. On the other hand, inflation has been on the rise. It is currently at about 22 percent (21.91%), according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) February data.

Between 2016 and 2022, the number of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria (those earning less than $1.90 per day) increased from about 70 million to 88.4 million, according to Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer data.

In a report published in February, Statista said that in 2022, 12.9 percent of people living in extreme poverty across the globe were found in Nigeria.

“In 2022, an estimated population of 88.4 million people in Nigeria lived in extreme poverty. The number of men living on less than 1.90 U.S. dollars a day in the country reached around 44.7 million, while the count was at 43.7 million for women. Overall, 12.9 percent of the global population in extreme poverty were found in Nigeria as of 2022,” Statista stated.

Also, in its 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) survey, released in November last year, the NBS said that 63 percent of persons living within Nigeria, 133 million people, are multidimensionally poor.

“63 percent of persons living within Nigeria (133 million people) are multidimensionally poor.The National MPI is 0.257, indicating that poor people in Nigeria experience just over one-quarter of all possible deprivations.

“65 percent of the poor (86 million people) live in the North, while 35 percent (nearly 47 million) live in the South. Poverty levels across States vary significantly, with the incidence of multidimensional poverty ranging from a low of 27 percent in Ondo to a high of 91 percent in Sokoto.

“Over half of the population of Nigeria are multidimensionally poor and cook with dung, wood or charcoal, rather than cleaner energy. High deprivations are also apparent nationally in sanitation, time to healthcare, food insecurity, and housing,” NBS said in a statement.

According to NBS, citing the 2018/19 national monetary poverty line, 40.1 percent of people in the country are poor.

Lagosians are not having it easy, because of the bad state of the nation’s economy. No wonder the increasing appetite for second-hand fashion accessories.

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), an association of organised private sector, in its microeconomic report in January, projected that Nigeria’s unemployment rate will increase to 37 percent while the poverty headcount will amplify to 45 percent in 2023.

NESG said this is due to weak performance in the job-elastic sectors, low labour absorption of sectors that will drive growth, and population growth estimated at 3.2 percent, which it said, will lead to a decline in real per capita income.

Experts Suggest Effective Macroeconomic Management

To discourage people from patronizing second-hand fashion accessories, economic experts have suggested job creation and effective management of the country’s economy, so that the nation’s income will not be losing value.

The Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr. Muda Yusuf, said it is a poverty situation and the government has a responsibility to deal with it through job creation.

According to Yusuf, the way to create jobs is to support the growth of the economy; to create an enabling environment where small businesses will thrive.

“It’s not the wish of people to go and be buying second-hand clothes,” he told THE WHISTLER. “All these things are reflections of how bad the welfare situation of Nigerians is. And it’s also a reflection of the level of poverty. Because people are poor, they’ve to find a way to survive.”

The CPPE boss stressed the need for the government to tackle poverty in the country, adding that high inflation has impacted negatively on the people.

He said: “We’ve to deal with issues of poverty first, through job creation. Second and most importantly, through effective macroeconomic management. Because this high inflation has dealt a very heavy blow on the citizens.”

Yusuf regretted that the country’s economy has been so mismanaged that Naira is now worthless.

“People have dignity. Nobody wants to go and be buying underwear that has been used by somebody else. But when you cannot afford the new ones, what do you do? You’ve to survive,” he explained.

On the issue of the quality of Nigerian made fashion accessories, he identified the issue around cost per unit production as a challenge.

He said that some Nigerian manufacturers have the capacity to produce quality products, but the business environment is a hinderance. To remain in business, he said sometimes they play around quality and quantity to keep their customers.

Also speaking with THE WHISTLER, a former President and Chairman of Council of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Prof. Segun Ajibola, said nobody would intentionally go for second-hand fashion accessories if not for poverty.

Ajibola explained that second-hand fashion accessories have lots of implications on the well-being of people that use them.

“Things that are consumable – food items, drugs, medicals, wearing apparels – they’ve a lot of implications on health,” he said. “You don’t know who used them, you don’t know the condition of those who used them.”

He called on the government to ban completely the importation of second-hand fashion accessories.

Ajibola also asked the government to build needed infrastructure that would support manufacturers and provide other incentives that will make the business environment profitable for investors.

“It poses a lot of implications even for the well-being of people using them. The ultimate will be to ban importation of such fairly used wearing apparels to a country like Nigeria.

“But you know, you’ve mentioned the issue of poverty. Nobody would deliberately want to go after things like that if not for reason of poverty,” Ajibola said.


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