There is a roundabout in Maiduguri close to Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL) office. It connects Ahmadu Bello Way in the city to Shehu Laminu Way, Jos/Kano road and Baga road. The area is fondly referred to as the Post Office by residents of the city. The choice of this name is not unconnected with the colonial Post Office structure located nearby. It is safe to refer to the area as “heart of town”, a nucleus of sorts from where other parts of the city are linked. Until recently when the expediency of security required drastic measures in the embattled capital, entrepreneurs and artisans dotted the landscape: shoemakers, book-binders, book-sellers, makeshift phone booth operators, business centres, fruit-sellers, grasshopper sellers, preachers, entertainers and several people eked out a living on the pavements and median strip in the area in a manner reminiscent of displayed pavilions of old middle-eastern bazaars. As a result, the Post Office area looked densely populated and rowdy until a government directive led to the ousting of traders from their open and makeshift stalls. Jobs were lost because of this.
Popularly known among residents of Maiduguri as “kasuwan Jogol”
Directly opposite NITEL office along Shehu Laminu Way in Maiduguri was a school and some apartments. The landlord evicted the occupants of both facilities to create space for a market and to make way for the displaced roadside traders to continue with their business activities, that was how the MAIDUGURI GSM MARKET was born.
Popularly known among residents of Maiduguri as “kasuwan Jogol” (a rather derogatory Hausa term) because the market started out as a meeting point for sellers and buyers of brand new, old, fairly used and sometimes stolen mobile phones. Over the years, however, the management of the market had put mechanisms in place to identify, apprehend and weed out such undesirable elements. As a matter of fact, as corroborated by respondents, the management of the market presently collaborates with security agencies and individuals to bait, arrest and prosecute culpable suspects or culprits. Today, the market has overcome those hurdles of the early days and could be said to be on the way to attaining the peak of its expectations with the potpourri of shops, stalls, show-glasses and pavilions displaying a wide range of goods and services geared towards meeting the needs of its teeming customers who patronise the market daily to transact business.
The GSM Market, according to its current chairman, Mallam Nasiru Abdullahi, is made up of over 200 shops or stalls and about 800 show-glasses for displaying goods to potential customers. In fact, the market could best be described as work-in-progress because, though it has expanded exponentially, more avenues for further expansion are still being created. Referred to specifically as the GSM Market, the place is actually a hub for the buying and selling of diverse goods and services. Brand new and fairly used mobile phones and accessories, wrist-watches and eyeglasses, electrical appliances and computer parts, food, shoes and clothes, audio and video compact disks (CDs) are some of the tangible goods that are sold in the market. Services rendered in the market include repairs of mobile phones and computers, transfer and download of audio and video phone applications and the repair of wrist-watches, among others.
Due largely to its relatively small space for a market with so many activities, the Maiduguri GSM Market is densely populated as buyers and sellers or service providers jostle for space to transact business. It is worthy of note that the overwhelming population of traders in the market fall within a youthful age bracket. Some of the youths are uneducated urchins from poor backgrounds who would have been labelled nonentities but for the opportunity of conducting legitimate businesses in the market. It is always a surprise to educated people who patronise the market that uneducated handymen could work like prolific professionals in handling software related problems on phones and computers. Hard work and commitment after apprenticeship is usually the only credential for most of the technicians and traders in the market.
The market provides the needed employment to teeming unemployed youths who would have been roaming the streets aimlessly and constituting a nuisance and menace to society. In order to get more youths off the streets, it is important for government and relevant stakeholders to key into the revolution taking place inside the Maiduguri GSM market. This can be achieved through the opening of vocational training facilities where more youths will be taught basic and requisite skills in different industries with a ready grant upon completion of training, by partnering with the unorthodox engineers in the market, and by building market structures and creating enabling environment for businesses to thrive in Maiduguri and other erstwhile flash-points of conflict where the people are now, apparently, in a hurry to string their lives and businesses back together again.