Kaduna’s largest automobile spare parts market facing economic crunch

From Sola Ojo, Kaduna

Business operators in Panteka automobile spare parts market, located in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, have narrated how the economic situation arising from fuel subsidy removal is threatening their businesses.

Panteka is the largest automobile spare parts market in Kaduna State, which attracts patronage from neighbouring states like Kano, Bauchi, Zamfara, Niger and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It started as “part-taking” market but evolved to ‘Panteka” in Hausa language. It started as a market for fairly used building materials along Poly Road, Tudun Wada, in Kaduna South Local Government Area of the state, around 1967, before it was partially relocated to Nnamdi Azikiwe Bypass, Igabi LGA, in 2004.

Investigation revealed that the market has about 3,000 mini and major shops, each paying between N10,000 and N20,000 as rent to Kaduna North LGA annually. Apart from its contributions to the internally generated revenue and employment drive, the market also serves as a research base for academia. It is equally helping the government, corporate organisations and individuals to enroll young Nigerians in skill acquisition, many of whom are now running multi-million naira businesses.

However, the harsh economy that trailed the removal of fuel subsidy in mid-2023 by President Bola Tinubu seems to be having adverse effects on the operators of the once buzzing and bubbling market.

One of those who has been trading in Panteka for about 18 years, Alhaji Abdulrahman Yusuf, lamented how the economic situation in the country is dashing the hopes of many occupants of the market, especially the young ones. According to him, the market used to be a beehive of activities, from 7am to 6pm, but not anymore.

He said: “Before now, as a group of people are offloading their goods, which we source majorly from Lagos, others are busy loading theirs for supply to other parts of the state and beyond. I have been around here for many years now and I have seen it all as far as automobile spare parts business is concerned in this part of the country.

“Our major problem is this fuel matter. Most of our customers park their cars at home. And any car that is not moving let alone entering gallops cannot spoil. So, fuel is our problem.

“It is affecting sales seriously. If you look at this line, from the first shop to the last shop, we only see ourselves. No buyers. Except if the price of fuel comes down so people can drive their cars like before, or the money in circulation goes around well and people’s earnings are significantly increased to meet the current market realities, businesses like this will suffer and that will also affect government revenues.

“Most of us who have cars can no longer come with our cars. We have resolved to be boarding commercial tricycles, pending the time our pockets will improve. Before the car park could not contain our cars, but now you will just drive to the park without struggling. That is for the few people that come with their cars.

“Apart from that, we also have the issue of bad roads. Some vehicles have been on the road for two weeks from Lagos. Don’t forget it is raining in the South.”

A source, who spoke in confidence, lamented that despite the contributions of the market to the internally generated revenue drive in the state, it has not been getting deserving response in terms of the basic needs from the government.

“We are supporting the government by paying our taxes and levies even though there is nothing the local government is doing for us in return. The roads are very bad. If rain starts now, people will not be able to drive in. The three culverts we have on this road alone were done by our collective efforts, not the government.

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“We have been complaining that the government should fix our roads to no avail. The money we would have used to expand our businesses or take care of ourselves and our families has been spent to fix one thing or the other in the market. Before now, each shop was paying a N500 monthly security fee. Now they have increased it to N1,000.

“This development is affecting our families. When there is no sale, how can one take good care of his children, wife and other dependents? Sometimes, you may not make any sale in a month but you you must come here daily to try your luck. Some people come here and sleep all day. They wouldn’t do that if they were busy,” he said.

A Toyota car spare parts seller, Mr. Ugwu Aja Peter, who has been trading there for 18 years, also lamented low patronage as against how it used to be years ago.

He said: “I have been in this market for about 18 years now, selling Toyota vehicle spare parts. We are just managing our lives here for now because business is somehow.

“Before now, when the market was good, we were selling several sets of underneath parts in a day. But now, sometimes we only sell one throughout a week. What we observed is that many people, including our members, park their cars because of this fuel issue.

“With the high cost of petrol also comes a high price for these Tokunbo and fairly used spare parts. For example, before now, Toyota handbrake linen was sold between N6,000 and N7,000. Now we sell it for N12,000. This is because of fuel hikes and customs charges on them.

“Like I said, we deal in underneath spare parts in my shop. That is, those things that are under your car like bearings, shock absorbers, brake discs, brake liners, inner cups, and so on. We have people who sell complete engines. We have other people that dismantle engines to sell in parts – crank shafts, connecting rods, bearings, etc.

“We have people that deal in aluminum. They buy condemned scraps. We have people that buy and dismantle only accident vehicles. We have others that buy and dismantle off-road vehicles (not movable anymore).

“Before, business was sweet, but now we are just managing. Many people now bank on the long-term good relationships with mechanics, panel beaters, and individuals who trust our business. We hope to bounce back once the general income of Nigerians improves.”

To 32-year-old Hassan Abdullahi, who does not own a shop but serves as assistant to buyers and traders in the market, Panteka has been a haven for him, preventing him from joining any gang because he is productively engaged.

“I’m here inside Panteka spare parts market to hustle. I don’t have time for criminal activities because of my hustling. I come to this place every day after the morning prayer, focus on what I do, and later return home after 5pm.

“Sometimes, I make N4,000 per day and sometimes it can be less than that. I don’t have a shop but I do run errands in the market for a lot of people based on trust.

“I help receive and deliver goods worth N600,000 within and outside Kaduna. I don’t smoke or get involved in any movement involving criminality because, as a young person at 32, I also have people who look up to me as a leader.

“This place has been helping young people like me who don’t want to beg to live a decent life. I’ve been here for about 10 years. So, Panteka has been a blessing to several young persons like me, until recent times when things began to fall apart,” he said.