Beware of Swindlers

Peter Uzoho, who visited the popular Computer Village in Ikeja, reports that swindlers have infiltrated the market
The world class Information Technology market, known as Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos, is a Mecca of sorts. Hundreds of people from different walks of life troop to the IT market on daily basis to transact one business or the other.
Around the market are offices of  different law enforcement agencies; the conventional Police, the National Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Kick Against Indiscipline (KIA) and other security outfits. Their men are strategically positioned to arrest hoodlums who may cash in on the intimidating crowd within the IT market to cause trouble.
At the Computer Village, all kinds of computer hardware, phones and their accessories are sold, and maintenance services rendered at the market. As early as 7am, business activities begin. People in their large numbers, with different motives, troop into the market to do one business or the other. Customers lurk around shops, choosing their preferred items, and then haggle for prices.
“Computer village is a place for the gathering of engineers and sellers of IT businesses, like computer desktops, laptops, and some office-related devices, like printers, copiers, scanners, fax machines, typewriters, and so on,” said Onajobi Olayiwola, who works with MD Koffi Tech and Systems, a computer outlet at the market. “This is the largest computer market in the whole of West Africa and even the Sub-Sahara Africa”, Olayiwola added.
He said the market used to be a place for typewriter repairs and maintenance, but the emergence of computer brought computer engineers and sellers together at the market. “The market evolved as a typewriter repair and maintenance centre, but the emergence of computer now brought both typewriter and computer engineers and sellers in this location that’s now known as Computer Village.
“I came into this market in 1999, about 17 years ago and I met a lot of people here. I started coming here during my IT years in 1993, and some people had been here before then, but they were not many. We started having the influx of people between 2003 and 2005, after the emergence of GSM in Nigeria. That was when the Igbo traders started relocating from where they were staying to come into phone sales here. And so, that’s how this market blossomed like this,” he said.
When THISDAY visited Ibeto Treasure Enterprises, which is situated in one of the plazas inside the market, the environment was buzzing with activities. “Computer village is one of the leading computer markets in West Africa. It is an international market that is well-known,” said Paul Ibeto, who deals on wholesale and retail of GSM accessories. “You have diversity of businesses going on here with regard to information and technology business,” he said.
“Those who may be hearing about this market for the first time may think it’s not as big as said, but when they come here, they will believe that, really, computer village is a big market. So this is where both local and international IT businesses are done on daily basis,” Ibeto added.
 Computer Village is a commercial environment where all manner of people meet with different line of business, different individual character, attitude and intention. Computer and GSM phone wizards, who have at their fingertips, solutions to any computer or GSM faults, are there plying their trade.
One of such is Abdulahi Ishola, a GSM technician, found in his desk at Idowu Plaza, displaying his technical dexterity while trying to fix a customer’s phone. Although he admitted the market is big, he said that there was little difference between Computer Village as a market and other markets in the country, except for its daily market operations and the international patronage it attracts.
“Computer village is a big market. There are sales of phones, laptops, and phone and laptop accessories,” said Ishola. “There are a lot of things here just like other markets, the only thing that makes it different is that it’s a daily market and people come from other countries of the world to come and patronise us here because of the service we render and the kind of products we’re selling. So, there is nothing more special about it than that,” he said.
According to him, the largeness of the market is not measured by the size of its location, but rather by the population of customers and by the volume of sales.
“The size of this market is not measured by size but by the population of customers we have here every day, and also by the rate of sales we make.  Here, business starts from 7am till around 7:30pm and from that 7am, you will see people moving around, doing their transactions. You will see different people with different attitudes and intentions; the good people and the bad ones. Also you will see good products and bad ones here, just like what happens in other markets,” Ishola further explained.
Apart from being a commercial centre, the market is also a social setting where different behaviours and actions are displayed. In the market, there are bad eggs, the miscreants and the criminal minded-hustlers, mostly young boys, who have come to look for a way of survival, either by hook or by crook. They swindle customers on a daily basis.
“There is a place they call New York here. There, some boys who claim they sell phones, will put soap or fufu in a phone pack and sell to people in the name of phone,” said Michael Ojo, a customer at the market. “They did it to my friend when she went to buy phone. She was told that they don’t open phone packs when payment has not been made. So she paid them N15,000 as agreed, only for her to open the phone there and found out that what was in the pack was soap. She looked for the guy that sold it to her, but it happened that he had disappeared.”
Also, a computer seller who pleaded anonymity confirmed that there are truly some mischievous elements among the traders in the market, who defraud customers in the guise of selling phones. But he noted that most of them do not own shops in the market.
“To be honest, it’s not everybody here who claims to be a computer or phone seller that is genuine. There are those who come here because they don’t have any means of getting money, so they will come here and be robbing people of their money, claiming to be selling phones or computers. Most of them don’t have their own shops, so they can corner a customer in any shop and do whatever they want to do and run away,” said the source.
“We have been battling with them through our market leaders because they’re damaging the image of the real traders here. And we keep telling people that whenever they are coming to buy phone or computer here, let them come with someone that has good knowledge of what they want to buy. Also, when they come they should enter the major shops and buy, instead of going to those hidden places where the bad boys hide to do their bad business,” the source advised.