Beyond the shopping in Nigeria’s shopping malls
There is no doubt that the shopping mall culture has caught up with Nigerians, especially those resident in the cities and urban areas. For more than a decade now, Nigerians have been witnessing a class struggle among developers and investors competing for who builds the biggest shopping malls.
While Lagos is the major beneficiary of this modern trade boom with the coming of Megaplaza, Shoprite, Park ‘n Shop, Goodies Supermarket, Adide and lately Justrite, to mention these few, the country now plays host to no fewer than 30 shopping malls and counting as they expand to other major cities and urban centres.
The new business concept has not only boosted the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) but it has also created jobs and provided business and relaxation centres for those who have the financial capacity to patronize them.
However, some of these malls are now being abused by some patronisers who hide under the guise of shopping to engage in some indecent and criminal activities. Prominent among these are young boys and girls, women of easy virtue who see those places as photo studio to snap pictures and post on social media and a rendezvous to practise their trade.
At one of such malls located at Amuwo-Odofin in Lagos just opposite a big hotel, commercial sex workers in their large numbers always mill around the mall because of the presence of many hotels, lounges and brothels.
There is always a large presence of commercial sex workers at the mall, especially between 10am to 8pm daily. The Guardian checks revealed that apart from the three-star hotel located opposite the mall, there are not less than 15 hotels, brothels and lounges, along the road between the popular Rainbow bus stop along Oshodi/ Apapa Expressway, which is an entry point to Amuwo-Odofin and FESTAC extension.
Also immediately after the link bridge between FESTAC extension and Amuwo-Odofin, there is one big brothel on the road where many commercial sex workers throng to practise the oldest profession.
It is observed that some of them dress well, visit one of the eateries in the mall or other relaxation centres there, buy a bottle of soft drink and sit down for hours, looking for patronage.
Speaking to The Guardian, a staff at one of the eateries in the mall who pleaded anonymity said the management was aware of the development but seems to be in a dilemma on the best way to handle it.
“I have been working here since it opened for business. As a lady I can easily identify ladies who are into prostitution. From their looks and dressing, one can easily identify them. They come here often, but buy nothing much, unless a man brought them. Some buy meat-pie and malt and spend hours here eating them.
“Many men have fallen for their antics, making one to think that the girls are diabolic. If not, why should a man fall for a strange girl easily, pay her bills and pick her up without questioning. Why we do not bother because our job is to sell our products.
“Sometimes, these sex hawkers come here half-naked in the morning with the men they slept with overnight. Immediately, the men drop them and leave, they will buy something and wait for another man to pick them for short time,” the staff said.
She however, said the trend was not affecting their business, adding, “It is not affecting our business. What is our business? So far they do not fight and they pay for what they buy, there is no problem. We cannot chase them away because it is not written on their faces that they are sex workers.”
It was observed that there is always seamless movement in and out of the mall due to the presence of many Okada riders in the Amuwo-Odofin and FESTAC area. Although, there is restriction of Okada movement into the mall, the restricted area to Okada is not far from the mall and major road that links Amuwo-Odofin with FESTAC.
A resident who lives close to the mall, Chief Godwin Ukwudi told The Guardian that they have been enjoying relative peace until the mall was located here. Ukwudi said: “Since this mall was built and the hotel close to it, we are not finding things easy here. There are too many strange faces, especially ladies who go in and out of the place aimlessly. I don’t know what they are trooping in there to do. Some of these ladies will go to the mall twice a day and go out empty-handed. Does it mean they don’t go there to buy things or eat? If we had had our way, we would not have allowed the location of the mall here. It is too close to residential area.”
Also speaking, one of the commercial sex workers who gave her name as Favour said she usually come to the mall to catch fun and see her sugar daddy.
Favour said: “Yes I do come to the mall to buy ice cream, hot bread and enjoy with my sugar daddy before retiring with him to his hotel room. He is a Southeast-based businessman, but he is always in Lagos for business every two weeks. We usually meet at one of the eateries in the mall. I am here to make money, see my customers and life goes on.”
In his remarks, one of the security men at the gate of the mall, Kehinde Olaleye said that the management of the mall was aware of the activities of the commercial workers and some youths who are using the mall as a rendezvous.
“They are being monitored closely to ensure that they do not constitute public nuisance here. We cannot stop them from coming into the mall because we don’t know what they want to buy. There is no way we can know what is in their mind. They have not broken any law, but we are watching everybody coming in and out from here adequately. It is not only about the ladies but about security of lives and property here. That is why we are here. There is no cause for alarm,” he added.
Malls Becoming Dens Of Criminal Activities
From Akin Alofetekun, Minna
ALTHOUGH the Obasanjo Shopping Mall is presently not the only shopping mall in Niger State, it is about the first functional mall in Minna. Built by the Niger State government in 2007 and commissioned by former President Olusegun Olusanjo, it is unarguably the biggest shopping mall in the state capital. It has the highest business activities with about N14 million exchanging hands in various transactions on daily basis.
The complex, which has close to 60 shops is being managed by the Niger State Development Company (NSDC) and can be likened to the famous computer village in Otigba, Ikeja, Lagos. The major items sold at the mall include phones, computers and their accessories, boutique among other businesses. No fewer than 2,000 people visit the mall daily for various business transactions.
However, the mall, conceptualized to be a major avenue for legitimate business transactions has become the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah with criminal activities overtaking the legitimate business activities.
Apart from the sale of stolen items like phones, computers, laptops and their accessories, the mall has been turned into a hideout for criminals and miscreants, where Indian hemp and other dangerous drugs are sold and consumed openly.
In the last two years, the mall has played host to three serious armed robbery incidences while a major dealer in mobile phone recharge cards was ambushed and assassinated along the Minna-Suleja road. One of the armed robbery incidences in which armed robbers numbering about six invaded the complex in the early hours of that day, led to carting away of mobile phones, computers and accessories, recharge cards and cash worth over N10 million.
About 500 criminal cases have been recorded in the mall in the last three years with over 800 suspects arrested while valuables including phones, computers, laptops and other goods have been recovered from the suspects. These items stolen from the complex and other places in the state are traded openly at the mall, which has led to increase burglary cases in Minna in recent times where residents have lost valuables running into millions of Naira.
On the average, no fewer than 10 houses are broken into every week and most of items stolen from these burgled houses find their way to the mall, where there are always waiting buyers. Those who deal in the stolen items do not have shops in the mall but always hang around within the complex to carry out their illicit trade in the open.
Chairman of the Shop Owners Association in the mall, Abiola Jimoh said the activities of these criminals hanging around the complex have defied every solution as several attempts by security agents to chase them away have proved abortive.
“More worrisome is the fact that the complex is less than 50 meters away from the area command of the state command of the Nigeria Police Force and most of the boys arrested always find their freedom almost immediately.
“From one victim to another, it is all tales of woes as they narrated how they have lost their properties, especially mobile phones, laptops, computers and other belongings only for them to be traced to the complex. If they are arrested today, tomorrow you find out that they are back. Their activities have given the complex a very bad name such that customers find it difficult to enter here,” he said.
A 300 level student of the Niger State College of Education, Minna, Larai Suleiman told The Guardian that she had her laptop stolen from school but two weeks later, the same laptop was sold to her at the complex when she attempted to acquire one.
“It was like a dream to me, my laptop that was stolen was being resold to me when I wanted to go and get a fairly used one from the complex. I couldn’t believe it!
“I immediately raised alarm and the person was arrested, but after a week, the laptop was released to me and I didn’t border to know what happened next because all I was interested was my property.”
But Dan Atori of New Telegraph Newspaper, Minna had a nasty experience recently. Dan had his two handsets removed from the car at his Church on a Sunday morning while charging them but immediately he noticed it, he quickly organised a search party and rushed to the complex, where he met the thief at the point of flashing the phones.
“When I got to the complex, my colleague and I moved from one shop to the other and luckily for me, I saw my handset at the point of being flashed. The boy actually escaped, but we arrested the technician who wanted to flash the phone and I was able to recover it,” he said.
Speaking further, Jimoh accused the security agents of not doing enough to rid the complex of miscreants, in spite of the fact the management of the complex had reported the activities of the bad boys severally to the police. But when contacted, the Niger State Command Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Bala Elkana exonerated the police from any blame over the activities of the miscreants, saying that the management of the complex lacked organisation.
He said: “The complex is the most disorganised shopping centre that I have seen. A shop that is originally meant for one person now has over ten occupants so how do you manage such a situation.”
Elkana pointed out that it was difficult to separate the criminals from the real shop owners in the complex, adding that: “We have made some arrests in the past but later found out that they are shop owners in the complex.”
The police spokesman disclosed that the area commander of the Nigeria police has set up a task force to rid the complex of all criminal activities with a view to sanitising it for genuine business transactions.
Talking of love rendezvous, there is no way one can talk of the complex without going on the historical journey of its location. Where the complex is located was formerly known as kasuwan dare (Night market).
A visit to Minna remains incomplete when a visitor has not visited kasuwan dare, where apart from the normal buying and selling, it was love nest for young people looking for life partners. However, the mall which replaced the old night market is now a haven for romantic tendencies where married and unmarried women wait to be picked up by their lovers.
Concerns Over Insecurity, Prostitution Mount At Shopping Malls
From Owen Akenzua, Asaba
BEFORE the coming of shopping malls in Asaba/Warri in Delta State, the two cities wore the typical civil service environment laced with local food vendors and eateries, where traders including labourers meet to struggle for food popularly called “mama put.”
Asaba, the ancient town of the Delta Igbo among other tribes is known to be city with a litany of traditions including the popular “Asaba-Amaka” a rich culture in the South-South region of the country.
It is presently an economically viable and fast growing capital city with more than 70 percent local investments, until the shopping mall syndrome came into being.
Asaba prides itself as the treasure base of culture, particularly with the local textile known as “Akwa-Ocha” cloth popular among its Igbo residents. Asaba parades the good, the bad and ugly in most cases. Some of the residents are from neighbouring states, especially Onitsha, Anambra State.
While many of its residents and government functionaries enjoy Asaba because of its various “joints”, the Shoprite shopping mall located on Summit Road/Okpanam Road in the last nine months has increased activities among the youths, men and women who besiege the place 48-hours to shop for a variety of items.
The busy nature of Asaba shopping mall more often creates unending traffic gridlock that lasts sometimes between one and two hours. The State Commissioner of Police, Zanna Ibrahim has ordered 24 hours surveillance within the area and inside the premises.
But one day, no sooner had the traffic congestion eased out, than unsuspecting hoodlums who disguised as customers unleashed untold pains on customers of the mall. The hoodlums, investigation revealed, dressed corporately and positioned themselves in strategic places within the mall where they stole from customers and cars parked at the mall under the watchful eyes of security agents.
A media consultant simply identified as Godfrey had his car parked at the premises stolen while shopping with his family members. He told The Guardian “My car was stolen right inside the mall premises when I went for shopping. I reported the matter to the police but until now nothing has been done to recover the car.”
Workers at the Shopping Mall who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity said most of the hoodlums who were arrested on account of the crimes being committed there claimed they work with charms.
Also at night, commercial sex workers are seen clad in skimpy dresses to lure randy men, especially white men who patronize the shopping mall. The ladies of easy virtue, checks revealed, are either school dropouts or undergraduates.
The management of the mall has been uncomfortable with the illicit activities of the girls who have no specific business at the mall other than prostitute.
Speaking on the development, the State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Andrew Aniamaka assured members of the public of protection at all times, adding that the Police was on the trail of the hoodlums who pose as customers.
Victims who have fallen prey to the antics of the commercial sex workers said: “They hang around like those shopping only for them to swoop on men hungry for sex. That was how we were deceived and after the whole exercise, it was bad”.
Malls Now More Of Rendezvous
From Abba Anwar, Kano
THE shopping mall in Kano State came into existence at the peak of insurgency in some parts of the state. That paved way for the commissioning of the place, which was named Ado Bayero Mall amidst tight security.
There are other petty business outfits close to the mall, which is cited on Zoo Road, one of the busiest streets within the metropolitan town that also houses many other businesses.
As one approaches the main gate of the shopping mall, one notices a busy environment where people visit to make purchases and mystery shop. Some visit just to buy ice cream while others go for the purpose of finding new friends, especially the youths.
You see boys searching for girlfriends and vice versa. Right inside the mall, you see beer parlours where youths are having leisure especially on weekends.
Every shop inside the mall has special security system, which makes would-be-customers and real customers to behave themselves while making purchases or enquiries.
It is closer to Sahad Stores, which already existed before the shopping mall was built. The number of visitors to the mall has been increasing as the days go by. The two shopping malls are directly located opposite each other. Another big shopping mall, called Jifatu is just a few metres away from the mall.
Also close to the Kano State Trade Fair ground, the shopping mall has an added advantage of receiving more visitors during trade fairs most of who take advantage to visit the shopping mall for sightseeing.
A worker at the mall who pleaded anonymity said: “From the time we started here, I came to realise that the issue of modern business is here to stay in Kano.
“I am also at the same time dispelling the issue of economic recession the government and citizens are talking about. See how people storm our shopping mall on daily basis making all sorts of purchases. It is amazing.”
A security personnel who declined to identify himself, assured that the kind of security gadgets being deployed in the shopping mall was more than enough to check the nefarious activities of criminals.
At Ikeja Mall, It’s Different Agenda For All Age Groups
By Daniel Anazia
LIKE in other climes, shopping malls in Nigeria have become venues of hangout for the Nigerian youths and leisure destination for families.The rarity of these shopping malls imbues a sense of exclusivity and brings to fore the growing middle class with spending power and the rapid expansion of major cities like Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Warri, Ibadan, Awka and Asaba, among many other emerging state capitals in the country.
While some stroll into Shoprite without buying a single item, others do real time shopping. For instance, at the Ikeja Mall Alausa, adjacent the Lagos State Secretariat on Obafemi Awolowo Way, children wandered inside and wide-eyed at the plenty, even as teenagers and adults take selfies and group photographs.
A visit to the Ikeja Mall on Thursday showed that some walk into the shops within; see the goods and items on display and even talk to the shop attendants without buying the products eventually. They rave about the convenience and ambience that is soothing, necessitated by the air-conditioning system, security and leisure.
At the entrance to the mall, three teenagers, clad with skimpy tops and jeans, were seen taking turns in their bout of photo shoots, before finding their way into the store in search of Snicker chocolate, which they had apparently come to buy.
When The Guardian sought to know what drives most people to the malls daily, a businessman, Ronald Odiase was quick to say that he does so for various purposes, adding that he comes to the Ikeja Mall from his Egbeda home to relax on Thursdays, which is his day from work.
He said: “Shoprite is a one-stop market, so, some people come to the mall to buy what they need, ranging from food items, household items to appliances and clothes. For me, I come here on Thursdays being my off day to relax.”
“While some people come here for sightseeing, I seize the opportunity whenever I come with my family to buy what we need at home. As you know, there is a gradual shift from the traditional market to the shopping malls now. Most people now prefer to buy their items from the mall, because they believe that products sold at malls are genuine and authentic.’
Another regular caller at the mall, who simply gave his name as Ben noted that beyond the normal shopping at the mall, some people also use the place for meetings and hangouts.
“Aside my regular Thursday off-day, I bring my family out to the mall for hangout and relaxation at weekends. The mall is usually busy on Saturdays and Sundays. My kids enjoyed it; they are always happy when I tell them we are going to Shoprite. I buy them ice cream and sometimes clothes,” he said.
For Kemi and Timilehin, both NYSC 2016 Batch B Corp members serving in Sagamu, Ogun State, and dealers in Oriflame cosmetics, some people, especially young girls and married men see the mall as a haven for meeting.
“Truth is that most people see the mall as a place to catch fine girls for the guys, and fine boys for the girls. So, everyone comes to the mall with different agenda. A lot of people just come here not for shopping. Some come to take selfie, others engage in window or mystery shopping, while others come to savour the chilling ambience,” Kemi said.
John Monday, a systems analyst said the shopping mall culture has in some way broken the status barrier that was so obvious in the country as most middle-class people can now go into the mall and feel a sense of belonging.
It’s Different Strokes For Different Folks At Lagos Malls
By Henry Ekemezie, Temitope Makinde and Kemi Sokoya
AT the shopping mall located on Adeniran Ogunsanya Street in Surulere, Lagos, The Guardian observed that people, especially women and ladies troop in and loiter around to attract men. Some of the ladies visit the mall dressed almost naked in the name of modern fashion.
A lady who dressed half-naked and claimed to be a student of the Lagos State Polytechnic, claimed she has challenges meeting her financial needs in school.According to her, the best and only option to meet up with her financial needs was to visit the mall and try her luck with men.
“I am a student of Laspotech, Lagos. There are some challenges of payment of fees, buying handouts and most especially feeding. My parents are unable to afford it due to the current economic situation, so the only solution is for me to meet with those who can help out. They can be found here in this mall, hotels and other places,” she said.
Another lady, Funmilayo Adedipe told The Guardian that apart from shopping, the mall is a place where you meet people who end up developing interest in you and are willing to pick your bills.
At the shopping mall in Apapa Lagos, a resident of the area, Akin Ogundokun explained his passion for going to Shoprite to do most of his shopping.She said: “The major thing that comes to my mind whenever I think about malls is shopping. Shoprite is a place you can maximise advantage due to the varieties of goods. There are less people in shopping malls than in the open market.”
Ademuyiwa Taiwo, a youth corps member said: “Shoprite is a place where one can get a lot of goods in one place. While some people go there for sightseeing, and window shopping, others go there to eat good food and enjoy a neat environment.
According to a security official at the Apapa Shopping Mall, who pleaded anonymity, people come to the mall for different purposes. “Some people come to the mall to steal items, while some applicants come to look for job. Others come for ulterior motives. For instance, some young girls come to wait for whitemen here. Some people also come to do business and meetings here. Young girls come to wait for their sugar daddies to buy something for them and take them out. It is different strokes for different folks, if you like,” he said.
At the Maryland Shopping Mall, a staff who pleaded anonymity said: “Youths come to the mall just to take pictures and upload it on social media. Some will come and buy bottled water for N200 and spend three hours drinking it and taking pictures, which they will upload on social media captioned ‘enjoying life at KFC Maryland’ whereas he only bought just N200 bottled water.”