As the harmattan season gradually sets in in most parts of northern Nigeria, traders of second-hand clothes, mostly cardigans, at the popular Kofar Wambai Market in Kano State have attributed the hike in prices of their commodities to the closure of borders, as well as high foreign exchange rate.
They said the goods they sell are now contrabands which affect their trade.
One of the traders, Sagir Dauda, said though there used to be an annual increase in the prices of goods, but the way operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have intensified efforts in seizing their wares, which is categorized as contraband, has left them with no choice but to increase the prices to make up for the seized goods.
“If you buy 10 bales for instance and three get seized, the only way you can still make a profit is by hiking the price of the other seven to make up for the seized items,” Dauda said.
He also said that sales are gradually picking up as the harmattan has not completely set in.
“I have been in this business for almost 20 years, so I know that people won’t come now till it gets really cold.
“Well, we all know how the country is. There is no way sales of this year can be the same as that of last year due to economic necessities forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But we are hopeful that by the grace of God when the cold intensifies, we will make good sales,” he added.
Similarly, another businessman in the market, Yunusa Ibrahim Usman, said their major obstacle is that of banning them from importation, since second-hand clothing has always been blacklisted as contraband wares.
“Let me give you an instance. If I buy 10 bales of fairly-used clothes, and three were seized, how will I make my profit from seven bales?
“If each is N10, 000, I have to try and sell them for N13,000 to make up for the lost bale.
“And this is why prices will increase because we must make a profit,” Usman said.
He then appealed to the Federal Government to consider lifting the ban on the goods to enable them import with ease and in turn sell at cheaper prices to people.
Malam Mahmud Isah, who was at the market to buy clothes for his family, said this year’s price is exorbitant.
“The prices are just high this year compared to previous years.
“They however attributed the hike to border closure and ban on their commodity,” Isah said.
Traders and residents in Jos, the Plateau State capital, also agreed that the closure of the land borders led to an increase in the prices of fairly used clothes.
The clothes, usually imported, are quite affordable for residents were during the harmattan season.
They said the low supply of the cloths led to over 50 percent increase in the price of available goods.
Some of the traders at Terminus Market, where a higher concentration of traders deal in fairly used clothes, said though some borders were reopened; the prices of the clothes were yet to be reduced.
A trader, Abdullahi Muhammed Hamiru, said since the border closure, a bale of clothes shot up to N270, 000.
He said a shirt was sold for between N500 and N800 but the same shirt is now sold for more than N1, 000, adding that it is better for the government to keep the borders open to help their kind of business.
Another trader, Sani Alhassan, said when the land borders were closed, it was difficult to get products as they relied on getting goods en route Aba, Abia State.
He said before the closure, they got them from different entry points.
He said tightening borders are still necessary to ensure legitimate entry of goods, but that total closure was not advisable and will rather end up crippling businesses.
Alhassan said second-hand clothes are the toast of the less privileged who cannot afford to go to boutiques and purchase clothes thrice or more the amount they could purchase it from him.
He said the prizes are yet to be reduced but since the borders have been opened, prices will surely begin to come down, but it won’t be automatic.
A customer, Asabe, said she was happy with the reopening of the borders but is yet to feel its impact.
She said it is sometimes difficult to reduce hiked prices of goods but hoped that the case would be different this time around.
Kaduna: Low patronage, lack of money worry traders
In Kaduna, dealers in fairly used clothes, popularly known as ‘bend down or okrika’, are worried by the decline in the business.
Our correspondent who visited the Kasuwar Barci market, which is the base for second-hand clothes in Kaduna metropolis, gathered that many dealers were experiencing low patronage as most of the traders lack the capacity to bring in the required clothes to satisfy customers.
Our correspondent further gathered that a dealer, who usually sold five bales in a day in the past, could hardly sell one bale in two days.
Some dealers who spoke with our correspondent said due to the closure of land borders and the increase in foreign exchange, their businesses have taken a turn for the worst.
One of the dealers, Shehu Dahiru, said the closure of the land borders and the increase in foreign exchange grossly affected his business coupled with the economic recession.
He added, “To make matters worse, this year, because the cold is not very intense, not many people are patronizing us, and the few customers who do, are pricing the items very low.”
Comparing the rate of a bale of items, he said, “A bale which used to cost between N50, 000 and N70, 000 now costs between N100, 000 and N120, 000.
He said, “Every business now in Nigeria is struggling; one has to be patient and believe in God because it is not only border closure and the increase in foreign exchange that is affecting us, we are also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and lack of money among the population.”
He called on the government to look into their plight and find a way of reducing the rising rate of foreign exchange, saying, “The rate the dollar is selling now has not been experienced in the last 30 years.”
Chairman, Kasuwan Barchi Charanchi road, Abdulkadir Rabiu, said because of the increase in foreign exchange and the closure of borders, they have had to increase the prices of goods which has made it more difficult for the common man.
He said, “People are still buying, but not like before.
“For example, if a customer came to the market to buy five items, that customer is forced to reduce the number to two or one because he cannot afford to buy the items.”
He called on the government to as a matter of urgency look into the matter so that the common man, who is the most affected, can survive adding, “These things that are happening mostly affects the poor man because the rich people have the opportunity of traveling out where they can buy their clothes but the poor man waits till they are brought in before he can buy.”
He lamented that most of the traders come and go back home without making sales.
“The items are expensive and people have no money, but if the reverse was the case, people would not mind buying the items at a high rate.”
A customer, Maimuna Ibrahim, who buys children’s sweaters, socks and caps at wholesale prices and resells at home during the harmattan season, said, “I was unable to buy the items because they are very expensive, I was only able to buy a few items for my children because even if I bought for sale, my customers at home may not be willing to buy at that price.”