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‘Small Dubai’: Kebbi market where you shop at your own risk

 The Kalgo Thursday Market is one of the major markets in Kebbi State. The market is popularly known as Small Dubai because of its variety of goods; particularly electronic and telephone products. For this reason and because of the rare cheap prices of secondhand products, it is mostly patronised by traders and buyers from within and outside the state and from neighbouring Niger and Benin republics.

At the market, there are common products such as computers, phones, calculators and their accessories. Other common products include generators, water pumping machines, bicycles and motorcycles. Traders also bring used clothes, cows, sheep, goats and fowls. 

Over the years, the Kalgo Thursday Market has gained so much popularity that it is now referred to as Small Dubai. 

However, Small Dubai appears to be waning in integrity because of the many cases of stolen products, especially motorcycles, computers and phones that are often linked to the market, hence a widely held belief that when an electronic product is stolen, the next place to find it is Small Dubai. This has made Small Dubai in recent times to come under the watchful eyes of security agents. Many of its traders are often harassed and their goods often tagged as stolen.

Recently, a motorcycle belonging to a police officer was stolen at Kardi, a remote area close to Birnin Kebbi and Kalgo. The man who allegedly stole the motorcycle was arrested and the motorcycle was recovered at the Kalgo Thursday Market. 

Beside this, last year, a military man was alleged to have stolen about 12 sheep of his colleague from the Duku Army Barracks in Birnin Kebbi. The soldier was apprehended while bargaining with the would-be buyer. 

Also, last year, burglars broke into one of the students’ lodges in Kalgo Town at night. The students’ phones and laptops were stolen, but when the students mobilised and went to Small Dubai, the stolen phones and laptops were found there.

A resident of Birnin Kebbi, Malam Isah Ahmed, who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday, said the market’s leadership needed to wake up to the challenges facing the market, especially its reputation associated with stolen goods. 

Malam Ahmed said because of the frequent raids by security agents at the market, prospective buyers were scared away for fear of buying stolen products and possible arrest by the police. 

“I was at the market on a number of occasions. There are many useful products there, but like I said, when items like generators and other electronic products are stolen, you hear people advising their owners to visit the market for possible recovery. This is not good for a market with huge patronage and potentials. I think there is the urgent need to sanitise it,” Ahmed said.

The Chairman of the market association, Alhaji Mainasara, said the Kalgo Thursday Market was the most patronised market in Kebbi State. He said there was hardly any brand of secondhand product that was not available in the market at very cheap prices when compared to how much they cost in other markets.

Mainasara said, “Beside the fact that it is the only market people can get secondhand type of any product, it is also the most patronised market by farmers and buyers from different areas of the state and beyond. The farmers come here to buy secondhand water pumping machines and other farm tools for dry season farming. They have discovered that this is the only market they can get fairly used pumping machines for as cheap as between N7,000 and N8,000. 

“Also, commercial motorcyclists often come here too because they can get used motorcycles for as cheap as between N15,000 and N25,000. It depends on the brand of the motorcycle, some sell for as high as N60,000 to N70,000. Even used generators cost between N8,000 and N15,000. This is why the market is always busy, especially on Thursdays. There is no market like the Kalgo Thursday Market in Kebbi State and that is why it is called Small Dubai.”

While lamenting over their dilemma and the challenges the traders are facing in the hands of security agents, the Secretary of the market association, Malam Abdullahi Hassan Kalgo, said, “The major problem we often face here is from the police, SSS, and other security agents. They come here to take away many of our electronic products. Sometimes they would come in their Hilux jeeps to pack all the motorcycles, pumping machines and laptops and even arrest our members. What they normally say is that the items are stolen goods. We are tired of the trouble they are giving us. To stop the harassment, we now make sure that anybody who wants to bring any item to sell must show us the particulars and receipt of the item. 

“Last week, the police came here to pack all the pumping machines displayed for sale. That was how they came a week earlier to move some motorcycles to their station. 

“This market was established in 1999 by the then Gov. Adamu Aliero’s administration. There was a big baobab tree where the market is today. It was cut down when they wanted to construct the market. Since it was built, we have been witnessing some level of progress and development. When Gov. Abubakar Atiku Bagudu came, he also helped us to develop the market further. He is the one who built those stalls at the other side of the market. We are happy for the progress that we have witnessed here, but we want the authorities to help us solve the challenges we are facing with security agents. 

“These days, people are afraid to come here to do business for fear of being arrested by the police or other security agents. This is not good for the market. On our side, we are already taking measures to make sure people don’t bring stolen goods to the market. 

“Most of the electronics are from Lagos, Niger and Benin Republics. But the security agents always come to say they are stolen goods and sometimes they would allege that they don’t have the necessary papers. Yesterday they came to check the particulars of some motorcycles in the market and they were satisfied with some and they took the ones they claimed they were not satisfied with to their station. We really don’t allow people that cannot produce particulars for their products. We want the authorities to help us solve this problem.

“This market is generating a lot of revenue for Kalgo Local Government Council. It is the major source of revenue for the council. They make huge revenue from the traders. The revenue collectors are always here, he said.

A phone seller, Malam Umar Hassan, said he made good profit every Thursday. He said, “These phones you are seeing are sold without testing them. Those who buy them only take risk. They may or may not work and that is why we sell them at very cheap prices. Look at this Nokia phone, its price is N500. That Itel phone there is N300; they are very cheap. People bring phones such as Nokia, Tecno, Samsung, Itel and others for us to sell from Lagos and from other communities in Kebbi. Some of them are phones that were disposed of. Scavengers like Area Boys in Lagos who pick from the garbage also sell damaged phones. We in turn sell to those who patronise us at cheap prices. I also sell batteries and phone chargers. Some of them are already damaged, but people still buy them with the aim that they can still repair them. We sell them under the condition that they would not be tested before they are paid for because they are disposed products which may or may not work. Even with such condition, people buy them to try their luck.” 

Another trader who specialises in computers, Aminu Kalgo, told our correspondent that used and untested laptops and computers were between N4,000 to N6,000. 

Kalgo said, “Sometimes people buy laptops for as cheap as N3,000 from me. We buy the laptops and other electronic products from people who claim they are the owners. Some give us receipts, while some don’t. But we cannot know they are stolen items. This mini laptop was sold to me for N4,000 by a student of the federal university here in Kalgo. She told me she was charging it when it just went off. People have been coming for it, but I am not ready to sell it at the prices they are offering me. The last price I will sell it is N6,000. It is possible that it has just a minor fault. Anyone who is ready to take risk will buy since I won’t have to test.”

Malam Abubakar Dangoni sells generators and water pumping machines. He told our correspondent that the prices of water pumping machines varied from N7,000 to N8,000 as against the N46,000 for the new ones. 

“That big yellow electric generator is N20,000, the second category is N15,000 each and the tiger types are from N8,000 to N10,000. 

“The owners of these products often sell them to us at cheap prices and we in turn sell them at cheap prices. Everything is cheap here, that is why people rush here every Thursday to buy one or two things. Some come from as far as Kamba, Bunza Birnin Kebbi and Aliero and even from outside the state and Niger and Benin republics,” he said.

Interestingly, Small Dubai, even with its notoriety for transacting in stolen products, still flourishes with more and more business transactions taking place, especially on its special days, Thursdays. The progress of the market is also progress for Kalgo Local Government Council as it means more revenue to its treasury.

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