by ADEMOLA OLONILUA

 


Some Lagos residents have resorted to selling used imported cars at every available space to make ends meet, writes ADEMOLA OLONILUA

Driving around the city of Lagos recently, one could not help but observe that car marts have sprung up in virtually all parts of the mainland.

SATURDAY PUNCH investigations show that most of the dealers were forced into the business because of unemployment. Many of them do not have a garage and showrooms or the means to rent one. They have no choice other than to sell the vehicles by the side of streets.

The business seems to thrive solely on a mutual arrangement between the car dealers and sources outside Lagos. Usually, those whose relatives live abroad request used vehicles to be shipped to them for sale in Nigeria.

Although the Lagos State Government once banned the sales of cars on the streets of Lagos, the law has not been strictly adhered to nor enforced.

A car dealer, Adeniyi Adesegun of DSS Motors at Ifelodun Street in the Surulere area, says the law only directs car dealers not to disturb their neighbours with their businesses.

“The state government said we should regulate our business in a manner that we do not disturb anybody,” he says.

A glance at Ifelodun Street shows that the place has been turned into a big car mart with about six different companies, all dealing in car sales, marketing of automobiles, sales of car accessories, import and export of cars, competing for attention.

Adesegun says, “I have been in the car business for about 13 years. But this company is about five years old. Most of us have houses here. Because of unemployment, we decided to sell cars in front of our houses.”

He says that although competition is stiff, he is not bothered because life itself is competitive.

“Life is all about competition, so I am not bothered by competition. The profit is good, and at least, you are employed. You might sell a car today and not sell another till the next three months because so many people are selling cars. Panel beaters, mechanics, a lot of people are into this car business. I get my cars from America. I have a relative that sends them to me,” he says.

Tajudeen Oseni, who also runs a car mart on the street, says that cars have been sold there since the 1990s. “The reason we are using the whole street to sell cars is because it is the only space we have. We are not being disturbed by landlords because we pay rent. Most people lease the front of their house for us so we can sell our cars. Some lease their whole house,” he says.

Another car dealer whose shop is located in Agidingbi, Taiwo Alabi,  told SATURDAY PUNCH that he had earned a living as a panel beater before unemployment forced him into the business.

He says, “I have been selling cars for some time now, close to a decade. I own Mr. T Car Shop although I have not registered it. Selling cars is good business, although it is not as profitable as it used to be. The prices of cars have come down, compared to when I first dabbled into the business. For example, a Toyota Camry, 2002 model, the one with the spread light, now sells between N1.1m and N1.2m as against N1.4m five years ago.

“The reason you see most people selling cars is because paid jobs are scarce. We have to fend for ourselves so as not to starve to death. I’m an engineer, I speciali’se in panel beating and spraying. When I was being disturbed at where I worked, I decided to start this car business. Back when I was an apprentice, my boss too used to sell cars.”

Alabi sells his wares under a tree because he is unable to afford to rent a place yet.

“I’m selling cars under this tree because it is what I can afford. If I could afford a bigger garage I would move. I’m a caretaker, I maintain this land. The fact that there are many car dealers does not mean that we disturb ourselves. A good car dealer knows that the best place to sell cars is a highly populated area. My brother sends me cars from the US, I sell them, take my profit and give him his too,” he says.

Like Alabi, Kunle Ajewole decided to sell cars after his university degree failed to fetch him a job.

“After I finished from the university, I searched for a job but I didn’t get any. I was so frustrated at that point in my life. While I was thinking one day, I realised I had friends abroad and I had some savings so I asked them to send me two cars to sell, which they did.

“During that time too, some of my mates had good jobs and they needed cars so they came to me. Although I have no car garage to my name, I put my cars in some of my friend’s shop. I started with two cars, but now I have 10 times of that I’m selling. I am getting married soon and it is all with the money I got from this business,” he says.

The story is different in other places such as Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki. Car dealers have standard shops in those parts of the city. Some of them have invested so much in the business that they own state-of-the-art showrooms.

Some car dealers go to the extent of forging partnerships with car manufacturing companies abroad. Femi of Adefemson Motors Ltd. says this is determined by the quality of the dealer’s show room and his clientele.

He says  that he moved his showroom from Obafemi Awolowo Way in Ikeja to Ikoyi because he found that residents of Lagos Island were the best clients in Lagos.

“I have been dealing in cars for over two decades. I used to be at Ikeja before I moved to the Island. On the Island, if you sell cars on the street, you might not get a customer because they would think you are not credible enough. Who knows, it could be a stolen car. No one wants trouble. That is why we take the pain of having good, quality car shops, so that when our clients come to do business, they would be comfortable and have no doubt in their mind about us,” he says.

There was no response to the calls and text messages made to the phone of Mrs. Bola Ajao, of the Public Relations Department, Lagos State Ministry of Transport.

 

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