Clothing is one of the essential basic necessities of life. However, with the harsh economic realities in the country and the high cost of new quality clothes or other imported materials in the markets, most Nigerians, including residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have resorted to buying second hand clothes, popularly known as okrika.
Okrika has always provided stopgap measure to help families meet up with their clothing and other material demands. Their choice of used imported clothing materials comes with various reasons ranging from quality, availability to affordability.
Although with the ban the Federal Government placed on imported wares, it has made the good grades become expensive, the love, fascination and demand for the used items have continued to be on the rise. Many Nigerians cannot just do without okrika.
Perhaps, for reasons related to glut of the materials and the proliferation of the items, they have continued to enjoy high patronage by the Abuja residents. Interestingly, the ease in sourcing them, mostly at cheaper rates, has led to the boom in sales by the merchants. Okrika comes in various ways such as clothes, shoes, bags, belts and undies.
Markets where second hand clothes could be easily sourced and usually gotten at cheaper rates are mostly at the outskirts of the FCT. Many individuals travel far from the highbrow of the city to those places to buy in large quantities. While some resell in town, others buy just for use.
Okrika markets, usually weekly, are located at suburbs like Nyanya, Mpape, Dutse, Karimo, Kuje and Goza. The differences in the days of the markets provided opportunity for the dealers to engage in what they jokingly call “shifting cultivation.”
The reality is that okrika is a booming business in the FCT and it has for several years provided succour to many low income families. It has equally become a source of fame and fortune to some dealers because Abuja residents have accepted them as indispensable products.
But beyond the boom, Daily Sun gathered that unscrupulous elements are now taking advantage of the crowded population at most okrika markets to perpetrate all manner of criminal acts, including picking pockets, stealing phones and even okrika materials
Their modus operandi is to move around the markets mingling with genuine buyers, targeting the usually crowded opening of new bale of okrika materials. They would pretend to be jostling for the materials. Once they saw victims absorbed in the struggle to outdo each other in cornering the best, they would strike by picking pockets or steal phones inside their pockets or bags.
On succeeding in their operation, they would pick quarrels with their victims, accusing them of either taking what they sourced or claimed that they have injured them during the struggling. They would then leave the spot pretending to be angry. The victims even usually apologised to them unknown to them that they have lost their belongings ranging from cash, purses to phones.
Some of the victims lamented the increasing rate of crimes at okrika markets. As antidotes, they emphasised that they are careful with their bags when they are selecting the materials while others said they have even stopped carrying their phones or making calls in the markets since they are usually very congested and noisy.
Justina Ibe at Wuse Market, noted that it has become a matter of serious concerns and recalled the day she fell victim: “A man in his early 20’s, who was beside me, just screamed, ‘madam you have injured me!’ I was alarmed and started apologising; not knowing that he had stolen my phone.”
Another victim who requested for anonymity, recalled: “When going to ‘bend down select’ markets, you need to be very careful because not everybody there came to buy things. One day when I went to the market, a man who was beside me when we were sourcing for shoes, just screamed angrily, ‘this woman you have killed me, see the way you have cut my hand with the bale’s rope’. Though I didn’t see any blood I pleaded with him
“Immediately the man threw the shoes he had selected back and angrily left the scene. I never knew he had taken my phone and was looking for a way to leave. It was when I was through with my transactions and wanted to place a call that I discovered that my phone was not there again.
“When I raised the alarm, everybody started asking of the person I stepped on but he was nowhere to be found! We searched all through the market but to no avail. The phone is not my main issue but the contacts and what I saved on the device.”
Blessing John, from Maitama District, recounted how she went to source for second hand clothes and lost her handbag: “I kept the bag very close to my leg so that before anybody would carry it, I would feel it, but I didn’t know when they took the bag. It was like magic because I was constantly touching it with my leg to be sure it was still there. Since that incident, I stopped carrying handbags to ‘bend down select’ but started using waist bag.”
A Kuje resident, Jerry Adanu, said: “I went to one of the ‘bend down select’ markets with my waist bag. The bag was still on my waist but everything inside was removed, the money and the phone. I mean everything in it disappeared. They did not tear the bag and the zip was still intact. So it is not about waist or hand bags, it is all about you being at alert.”
Florence Aka from Mpape District said okrika markets are becoming a different world altogether: “I don’t know if they are the ones perpetrating those evil acts or they are just enjoying the body contacts they exchange with people because you see them happily touching people anyhow. I nearly slapped one the other day because I was not comfortable the way he was touching me from behind.”
Madam B a trader at Nyanya Market agreed: “There is high rate of crime carried out silently in this market. It is not only customers’ belongings that are being stolen. We also lost our materials and money to them. Whenever you are in this market, you need to be very careful because it is not only men that do it even young ladies are also involved, so everybody is a suspect.”