Watt Market, unarguably, the biggest in Calabar, witnesses a large patronage. People troop in there, daily, to buy goods of different types, ranging from food items, wares and other commodities that enhance human comfort.
It is practically a cynosure to behold for any visitor into the market as it is structured in the mould of popular markets in other cities like; Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Aba and other commercial cities in the country.
No wonder, it has become a place where people of all works of life rely on for business.
An interesting site to behold on this market is the second hand(bend down boutique) section otherwise known as “'okrika,” as traders of this wares display them on the Calabar Road section of the market, a very strategic place where commuters and passers-by can easily see wares of different shapes and colours displayed. They are usually neatly starched and hung at the top of the open shop. Much to the delight of most customers is the availability of mobile tailors permanently stationed to mend clothes that may not fit the buyer. They deal particularly in male wares and in most cases white clothes that look irresistibly attractive on a very first visit to the section of the market.
Tailors, predominantly from the Hausa community in Calabar, are readily available to mend any cloth that may not fit the taste of a buyer. The art of mending is one aspect they have mastered in the area. Confidence is highly reposed in them to mend thoroughly. Every man to his own sewing machine is poised to earn just enough to live on, from this business.
The passion to get customers from owners of displayed wares makes you have a second look. The traders, mostly youths in their late 20s and early 30s, beckon on customers to patronise.
In an economy that has nosedived in the past three years and mind boggling statistics about Nigeria as one of the poorest, coupled with rising unemployment in the country, a rational mind can easily understand the passion these traders exude to cater for themselves and their families, the traders are very unmindful of the challenges of standing on the hot sun, only taking cover in the vertical shade at intervals. According to Ekene Ude, a student of the University of Calabar, a regular buyer of this shirts who spoke with TNN correspondent said, it was better to engage in a legitimate business than to drag the country's name in the mud in the comity of nations.
When TNN visited the area, the tailors said they were more comfortable operating from that spot than hawking on the streets. According to Abass Adams who said he left Jigawa because of insecurity and lack of better opportunities, he and his friends were in Calabar to eke out a decent living.
“We use to sew shirts for N100 and N150 for trousers and we make between N2,000 and N2,500 daily from this business. We have a very good business here because you don't have to carry your machine on the streets. Here, you are relaxed while waiting for customers.”
For Edet Anisha who seemed relaxed sitting on the pavement, second hand wares sales is a business that is chosen by any serious minded person who is conscious of the dangers of cutting corners, which may have negative effects. He told TNN that he believed buying those wares and undergoing a very rigorous process of dry cleaning them to look attractive takes time but added that determination was required in the business.
He said he makes daily sales of between N35,000 to N50,000 in the business, having been engaged in it for over 10 years on the popular spot in Watt Market.
“I won't say it is a hard business but it takes determination in this case. We take time to process the clothes in order to bring them here”.
On why there is no clear demarcation in the vertical shop, Edet disclosed that, “we that are selling here, we know our shirts even if the shade is joined”.
The fear of being imprisoned if he resorts to illegal business guides Jacob from Yakkur Local Government Area of Cross River State into selling second hand wares on the spot. He told TNN of a likely horrible experience of being detained or killed for criminal activities as seen in recent beheading of Nigerians in Dubai. Jacob noted that even if the process deserved a lot of energy, it was most uncharitable to jettison hard work for criminality.
“The process demands a lot of energy and in most cases, we rewash them when there is dust on the clothes. I am very comfortable in this business than engaging in crime. My friend, I make about N10,000 and N15,000 sales daily. So, why should I not suffer under this hot sun?”
For Oga Fresh who calls himself a digital marketer as he displays his instagram handle showing his advertisement online, it is not true that they sell only white shirts. He told TNN that he particularly deals on neatly tucked trousers in his bag and few displayed for people with different choices. Fresh also said the tailors within have mastered the art of mending.”
This popular stand on Watt Market in Calabar South is always a beehive of activities on daily basis, except on Sundays. It is a delight to students, corps members, civil servants and many others. One key attribute, according to some customers, that makes the area a place to shop is because the wares are less expensive. Ndifon Ejung said, “with 4,000, I can buy over six shirts and a trouser. You can see how cheap it is; but most importantly, the clothes can last for a long time.”
So, the next time you want to shop on a low budget in Calabar, find your way to the bend down boutique at Watt Market. Let's meet there.