• ‘Fufu’ phones, ‘Malaysian’ money reign supreme in market
• Patronages, profits fall by 80%
This is not a good time for the operators of Computer Village market, the adjudged largest information and communication technology (ICT) market in West Africa.
This is because the activities of hoodlums and cultists have serious impeded the growth of the market and have subsequently cuts patronage and profits by as much as 80 per cent.
But to avoid further fall, and quickly tackle this challenge, operators have called on the Lagos State Governor, Babajide SanwoOlu, to come to their rescue and save the market from imminent collapse.
The Guardian gathered that there are more than 3,000 ICT Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the market, most of which sell computers, phones, phone accessories, computer accessories, and other household electronics.
Prior to the influx of hoodlums and cultists into the market last year, The Guardian learnt that Computer Village generates N1.5 billion about ($4,166,666) daily.
Data shows that more than 20 million phones are sold at the village in a month. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the market contributed about two per cent to the national gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014.
But a senior market leader in the village, who spoke with The Guardian on anonymity because of fear of possible attacks from the hoodlums, said the market currently suffers over 80 per cent fall both in profits and patronages due to activities of miscreants, who have become lords in the Otigba, Ikeja market.
According to the market leader, four prominent operators of the market were recently attacked by these hoodlums. He said this action has brought fear into the market, stressing that people don’t want to talk to avoid any form of harassment.
He recalled that the Computer Village market started as a small business centre, selling computers and accessories, which occupied only Otigba street, but the developments in Nigeria’s ICT sector gave rise to several activities, which subsequently led to the extension of the market to seven other streets within the Ogunbiyi Community in Ikeja.
According to him, in the good days of the market, there were influx of customers, even from outside the country, including Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, and others.
‘‘This was because we sell genuine and affordable products, compared to other part of Africa. Then, we had a lot of patronage at the market and contributed significantly to the state’s economy and the country’s GDP.
‘‘This market too is one that has the largest number of graduates because the kind of business we do here, requires knowledge and with the economic situation of the country, which has created huge unemployment gaps, most of the young boys that graduated from the universities, but no jobs to keep them busy, find their ways into the market and they are able to do one thing or the other that are legitimate. Some had to be re-trained and get some new skills and from their become entrepreneurs,’’ he said.
However, he said lately hoodlums; most of whom are cultists, rusticated from higher institutions have now entered the market, constituting huge menace to the peace of the market, and the community as a whole.
He said the hoodlums rob innocent people, who are in the market to buy things. ‘‘This is giving us lots of challenges and damaging the reputation of the market. Their activities gave rise to street trading in the market, which is prohibited by Lagos state government. This street trading has given lots of support to the activities of the hoodlums. This is detrimental to the marketers and business operators in the village.
‘‘This is because once you come into the market, the hoodlums are the first sets of people you will see littering and loitering every part of the village. They have used their activities to drive away all our foreign customers because times without number they have robbed them of their belongings. And once beaten, I will say forever shy, not twice, any more.’’
Another prominent vendor in the market revealed to The Guardian that these hoodlums have swindled several innocent people, by employing two means, which are termed ‘Malaysian’ money and ‘Fufu’ phones.
Explaining how ‘Malaysian’ money works, he said: ‘‘this happen when the hoodlums sell an item to you, after you might have concluded the transaction with them, which is mostly done on the streets because they operate there, they will distract the buyer and handed him or her fake products.
‘‘By the time the buyer discovered and probably raised the alarm, and called for refund, though some hoodlums would obliged to return the money, but during that process they have exchange your original money with fake. They will now say police is coming so as to further distract and confuse the buyer, and tell him or her to run. By the time the buyer settles somewhere to check the money handed to him or her, the person will discover that they have added fake money to the money. The miscreants are so smart. They usually cut newspapers into money size, and add it to money returned to the buyer. The first three notes and last two can be N1000, depending on the denomination received, but majority of those inside are papers cut into money size, that is Malaysian money. By the time one realise, it will be difficult to trace them.’’
Furthermore, he said ‘Fufu’ phones are fake and counterfeit devices, which have been packed with fufu. ‘‘The casings are so attractive. I am beginning to believe that these hoodlums also use juju to lure customers, because I don’t know how someone will fall prey to the extent of buying ‘fufu’ phones, if he or she has not been hypnotised. These are the things we see in the market,’’ she stated.
Tracing the genesis of this problem, a top female operator in the market, noted that the leadership of the market, who have duly registered businesses with the Corporate Affairs Commission, have written several letters to the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, government authorities and even to the Governor, but nothing concrete has been done.
She disclosed that this menace continued to fester simply because the hoodlums have backings in high places. ‘‘On the street alone per day, the hoodlums realise almost N1 million. This is because they have godfathers somewhere. There are unconfirmed report that money realised are shared even to some officials at the local government, the Oba’s Palace and some community leaders. Their nefarious activities are impacting on the fortunes of the market, we the duly registered operators are losing lots of businesses. Income to Computer Village is going down daily, tax to government is also going down.’’
She called on the new governor, SanwoOlu to come to the rescue of the market. ‘‘The governor was here during the campaign, he got out votes, now we need him to sanitise this market. The potential of this market is huge. We need a re-engineering of this village through proper sanitisation. Government stands to benefit more from us if help come on time.’’
She alleged that the activities of the hoodlums skyrocketed with the installation of Iyaloja and Babaloja-Generals in the market.
‘‘In fact, the miscreants went to the extent of even lobbying the Iyaloja-General. So, these hoodlums are moving fast, soliciting support from higher authorities. They are able to raise money, imagine them making a million naira in a day. So, they have been able to deceive and confuse the Iyaloja-General to install them, because they know that one day, government would come and clear them, reason they lobby Madam Folashade Ojo, to come and install Iyaloja and Babaloja in the market so that they can operate freely.
‘‘Severally, they have attacked prominent marketers in the market and beat some to stupor. Many people have started leaving the market because they don’t want to lose their lives.’’
She appealed to the buying public to try as much as possible patronise registered vendors, who mostly operate from their shops and offices at the market.