When the handful but sizeable hub of GSM phone mart formerly located at Ogunlana Drive in the heart of Surulere, Lagos was relocated to the serene and docile environs of Otigba in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State, little did anyone realise that the market would assume the largest ICT accessory market in Africa, generating about N60 million annually from levies for Ikeja local government council, collected from about six thousand different categories of shops in the market.
When it comes to phones, computers and other devices, this market comes first to the mind. Buyers and sellers of ICT products and accessories converge daily in the market to transact various businesses and there is actually no brand of phone that is not available in the market; ranging from the authentic ones on display in lock up shops to counterfeits which are sometimes on display by traders on tables and make shift shelters.
Aside gadgets and computer accessories, the market also deals in the sales of software and repair of mobile phones and computers.
A Bustling Time on the Street of Otigba
Presently, the Ikeja ICT market, popularly called the “Computer Village” is undisputedly the largest hub of such in the continent of Africa. Remarkably, no single individual has a hold in determining the prices of goods and services rendered in the market. It is a highly competitive market where everyone is a player in what he has to offer. It is an open market that is under the administration of Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN).
The market is opened on a daily basis except on Sundays and public holidays. This daily business transactions and popularity has attracted new investors and ICT dealers across Africa thereby expanding the market size and population with profound effects on Lagos State economy.
Walking along the streets of the market, one is endlessly harassed by hawkers of used phones and gadgets who constantly bellows, ‘you wan buy phone or you wan sell’? Countless number of youths have found a thriving source of income in the market as engineers, technicians and marketers of all types of gadgets found in the market.
It is an open market with no barriers to entry and exit from the market allowing great influx of people regularly.
However, in recent times, the market has gone beyond the sale of all types of ICT gadgets to trading in other essential commodities. Sales of ‘hand me down’ clothings which we popularly refer to as “Okrika” in local parlance have gained popularity in the market and the traders of such commodities enjoy huge patronage.
Other items one is bound to find in the market ranges from fashion accessories to edible fruits. If there is another trade that thrives so well in the market and that generates a very good source of income, it is the sale of cooked food. The market has food vendors of different tribes and each showcasing its tribal delicacies. There is virtually no type of the common local dishes that can’t be found in the market. The aroma from those dishes would make any passerby to want to stop and have a fill.
On the other hand, the glory and deportment that are bestowed on this ever lively and vivacious market tends to decrease gradually in intensity and power. The purpose of its existence in the initial setting is gradually being forfeited as a result of its ever-increasing crime rate that is being carried out on a daily basis.
Computer Village noted for its unmatchable popularity in InfoTech world and marketing is now a market place with an enviable record in notoriety. It is now a depot for counterfeit and phony products and also a den for petty thieves, pick-pockets, fraudsters. Stolen phones from other parts of the country somehow find their way into the market and offered for sale.
It is also a haven for manufacturers of fake phones and accessories. Countless of people who have had bitter experiences in the hands of fraudsters who parade themselves as road side phone sellers. So, while trading in computer village you need to move with caution. This is not to say that there are no longer genuine brands in the market but the bad eggs are rubbing hard on the good ones.
The case of Toyin Balogun, a student of University of Ilorin who had travelled all the way from Kwara State to Lagos to purchase a cheap phone at the market is pathetic. “I have been hearing of Computer Village for a long time, even before my first visit to Lagos some years back, and many of my friends have been telling me how cheap I can get phones of different types. I have been planning to visit the market on my next visit to Lagos.” But Toyin’s visit left gory tales to her memory when she eventually visited Computer Village.
According to her, she patronised a roadside vendor who brandished an Infinix android phone before her and she got attracted to it. After much negotiation, the seller sold the phone to her for N35,000. He tested it and it worked perfectly okay. She went to her friend’s shop nearby to have it charged and also fix her SIM card but alas, she got the shocker of her life!
The supposed phone was a mere carcass stuffed with cooked fufu, a local food made from cassava. She and her friend rushed to the shop where she bought the phone and to her dismay was told the phone wasn’t sold by the owner of the shop. The receipt she was given bore a different business name from that of the shop and the person that attended to her was nowhere to be found.
Innovating to Reduce Risk
Such cases and many more are commonplace in Computer Village market. These and many other reasons are enough factual evidence for the recent resolution of Lagos State Government plan to relocate the market which consist of over 3,000 traders to a new location in Kontangowa, Ile-Epo, the suburb of Lagos.
On combating the sales of substandard devices in the market, Mr Ahmed Ojikutu, President of Computer and Allied Product Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN), expressed the association’s readiness to work with relevant government bodies to force out substandard products out of the market.
If there were cartels cloning others’ phones, it wouldn’t be like they can’t be stopped, but without direct involvement of constituted authourities like the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to clamp down, it is not going to be very easy. Therefore, we need their direct collaboration to rid the country of these substandard or cloned phones which constitute problems to the innocent citizens. We are open to partnerships, needing the backing of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). If you want to clamp down, we are ready to volunteer information that will assist you.
When the cartel know it is not profitable any more to import substandard products, they will naturally leave the market and the public will be the direct beneficiaries, CAPDAN is coming up with a product called “Phone-Range” an online platform to assist buyers check the genuinely or otherwise of any device they want to buy at the Computer Village, Ojikutu says.
Although, the Lagos State Government based the reason for relocation on the population density of the market in the once-upon-time residential area but it’s obvious that crime rate in the market community could damage the reputation of the state capital and the state which is fast priding itself a megacity and it’s a strong undertone for the relocation.