Witch market: The wicked dynamics of Nigerian markets

From years of experiencing and subconsciously studying the nature and behaviour of Nigerian market, I have come to the conclusion that Nigeria is the perfect evidence that there is no ideal. The common principles and structures of markets taught in today’s colleges and universities do not really apply here.

Nigerian markets are very difficult and dangerous. They feel like a real witch market, a market of wicked people, end to end.

The condition of a market often comprises of the nature and behaviour of the market players I believe, the market would always reflect this nature and behaviour consistently in varying forms.

Nigerian markets are what they are because Nigerians are difficult and dangerous people themselves. On the supply end, employers, service providers and manufacturers are ruthless and bent on making profit at all cost, with or without integrity and standard. Meanwhile, on the demand end, employees, customers and consumers are desperate, uninformed and vicious, and would stoop to any low. There are several past and current cases that show and prove this.

In Nigeria you will find people trading suya (grilled spiced beef), akara (beans ball) and yam fries over stinking gutters, a Nigerian journalist noted these as one of those ugly experiences in local food market.

The same journalist highlighted how a Lagos resident he spoke to described the rot of the bread-baking industry that serves a huge mass of the local population. He said he was told that: ‘If you visit bakeries where Agege bread (the popular name for bread produced by local bakeries) is processed, you may not want to touch that commodity again. Some workers wipe off their sweaty arms into the dough when mixing it, arguing that the heat from the oven will kill all the germs. Most have no labels on them. A lot of them are hawked in open spaces beside the woman selling akara by the gutter’.

Several times I have refused to buy Agege bread because the seller grabs the naked bread with bare hands to bag it in the nylon. Most of these sellers either tell me to ‘buy or go away’ or rain insults on me. They clearly have no appreciation for quality product and service, no basic understanding of hygiene either.

Those are examples of one of such market abnormalities experienced daily.

The journalist mentioned earlier also pointed out that a manager with one of the fastest growing fast food outfits in Lagos also said that after having worked in a fast food outfit, he would not risk his life eating in any one of them. The manager said:

‘About 99% of these outfits prepare their stew, rice, fish, chicken, rice, porridge with large doses of saccharin, a substance with suspected adverse effect on human health.

‘What you see in the cozy room where customers eat is a stark contrast to the kitchens where the meals are prepared. They use cheap ingredients, cheap labour and make their employees work long hours.’

Even at that, people still walk into fast food outlets to buy and employees still agree to work at these kind of workplaces under such unpleasant conditions. Very sad, is it not?

For me, the worst of all is how the government and regulatory agencies continue to be passive about these market problems and pay lip service to making reforms.

Foreigners who are entering Nigerian markets must be ready to deal with all these problems if they intend to remain and record any success in the market. Change is a long way as far as I can tell. Survival is the only option for now.

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