It was usually consigned to the downtrodden and the poor and was often strewn about in cheap places, downtown markets, roadsides and on mobile advertising boards. Prices of Okrika were cheap enough for all like penny stock. But all that is history now. Just like all good things of life, which have disappeared or been priced out of the reach of the average Nigerian, ‘second hand’ clothes or ‘bend down’ clothes have become too pricey and unaffordable for the majority.
They are not even streaming in bales into Nigerian ports, markets and roadsides as they used to line every available space in the country before the economy slumped and many families lost their meal tickets and purchasing power.
Used clothes, which are discarded abroad but shipped as unwanted stuff to Nigeria and resold as ‘tokunbo’, are now the preserve of the middle class who cannot afford to raise enough cash to shop for fashion clothes abroad due to the astonomical exchange rates.
In Benue State, as in other states of the Federation, used clothes depots and markets are not only shrinking but the buyers are thining out due to skyrocketing prices, which most regular patrons cannot afford. One of such markets in Benue State where thousands of people from all walks of life come weekly for used clothes, is the Wadata Okrika Market, which used to be littered with buyers and sellers.
Known for its rich stock of second hand clothes, the market also serves as the major depot for dealers and distributors in the state and is open for business transactions as early as 5am on market days on Saturdays and Sundays.
Though the goods are usually sold on Saturdays and Sundays, the best quality is usually obtained as soon as the market opens on the first trading day on Saturdays. This is known to buyers and distributors who throng the market early enough on trading days to pick the best stuff as soon as the bales are offloaded and opened by the distributors.
This market had remained the main source of second hand clothes for average families to buy and furnish their wardrobes at affordable prices all year long and those who buy to re-sell to others for profit until the business nosedived due to low stocks triggered by currency devaluation and high landing. According to accounts by dealers, since the beginning of year the prices of bales of different brands of used clothings have been witnessing upward trend forcing increases in prices by retailers and gradual slump in patronage.
Arewa Voice gathered from one of the dealers, Jamilu Kashim, that since the beginning of the year, traders have had to contend with low patronage due to the increasing prices of all brands compared to the trend in the past.
He said: “Since the beginning of this year, price of bales of all grades of Okrika have continued to rise as high as 90 percent of what we used to pay in the recent years. pointed out. For example, we used to buy a bale of jeans for N110,000, but today it is going for as much as N200,000.
“We used to buy a bale of shirts and T-shirts for about N100,000 then but it is now selling for N180,000. Children and babies’ clothes which were going for N180,000 per bale, is now N270,000.
“Unfortunately the development has forced many to stop patronizing the market, while the few who pick from us and resell are also not buying in large quantities because of low patronage. Formerly, our bales ran out within four hours of opening but today we can hardly dispose of one bale in a whole market day. Things are tough. It is as bad as that.
Most of our customers complain that the clothes are getting too expensive and they would rather channel their money to feed the family than patronise us. But we are not responsible for the price increase and we cannot help it. If Nigerians cannot buy okrika clothes, which are cheap compared to new ones, it means the economic situation is really getting out of hand.”
One of the few buyers at the market who simply gave his name as Joseph, said he used to regularly pick cheap clothes for himself and also sell to his neighbours but had to drastically cut down on the quantity he purchases these days because of the sudden hike in prices and low patronage.
“The problem is that people are no longer interested in buying Okrika and fashion materials generally. The priority for Nigerians is food because prices have gone out of hand,” he said.
In her account, Mrs. Rita Kaso said, “In the past I used to patronise this market once a month to purchase clothes for the family but I must confess that today is my first in the last three months because it has to be food first before clothes.
“The situation is not peculiar to me because my neighbours who usually visit the market with me have also stopped coming because these cheap clothes that we were all relying on to look good and presentable, are getting out of our reach just like every other thing in this country. Everything we earn is now dedicated to feeding the family and payment of school fees of our children. That is the sad reality we are faced within the present day Nigeria.”