Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Rumuadaolu - Port Harcourt's 'Fashion Avenue'

They line up this entire region of the city and residents say that more and more traders are still trooping in.

Twenty-six year old Precious Asuquo says she came into the city about 3 months ago in pursuit of a place to do her one year compulsory industrial attachment program which would enable her pursue a further degree..

After a few days search, she was directed to Rumuadaolu on the outskirts of Port Harcourt where she was told she would get a place to do her academic exercise. What first amazed her according to the soft-spoken student of IMT, Enugu was the preponderance of fashion outlets and boutiques. 'It was simply amazing. From the first building on the first street in Rumuadaolu to the last one on the same street I counted so many of such businesses until I lost count. That is just for the first street. I think you should take the pains to walk around the various streets in the town. There are only few buildings that do not host boutiques or fashion houses. It is as if there is an unwritten code that only such businesses thrive here.' Her dream of securing a place to serve finally materialised in this little town as she was able to get the owner of, Fer Concepts, one of the hundreds of fashion houses that can be found in the area. But she still says that she is on a mission to find out why the situation is thus in Rumuadaolu commercial wise.

In his own case, Segun Ajala is an estate manager who recently located to the garden city in search of greener pasture and he naturally gravitated to the area as it was the only residential apartment his company could secure for him pending further arrangements by him. He is equally amazed by the innumerable boutiques and fashion houses on the various streets and alleys. But he says he has done a further research to find out why this is so. He confidently explains why: 'the area is located quite near the different offshore petroleum rigs of different multinational companies that do business here. I learnt that in the past and even till the recent past, expatriates were fond of coming to the area since it was quite near their posts.

They would just saunter into town to pick new sets of clothing and accessories before they discard their old ones. They were said to pay very well for the goods they bought from the traders. They did this so often that a lot of business minded individuals decided to make use of the vast opportunities that abound in clothing and accessories businesses here. That is why you see the high number of traders in clothing materials today. Apart from that too, the town is a beehive of high tone night activities. There is no difference between the day and night here. Even as early as 2 o'clock in the morning you will find people having fun at the different nightclubs and bars in the town. The activities of sex workers is equally a pull for certain classes of people even as the traders have good patronage from these sex workers many of whom have residences here. It used to be called Fashion avenue in the past...'

Owner of Carfica Outfits, Promise Carfica says that he has had no cause for regret ever since he moved into the area all the way from the east. He adds that he makes enough profit to make up for the inconveniences of his relocation. 'I have traded in several parts of the country, the east and South West inclusive but to me this place seems to be the best of them all. 'Market' moves well for me on a daily basis. I have had no cause for regrets ever since I came into Port Harcourt. Everyone makes his own profits without infringing on those of others. The good thing about the trade here is the presence of variety. This automatically means that there is something for everyone and also as a trader you will always get customers for your own goods no matter how many of you are selling the same kind of wares. Our customers cut across every tribe, religion, social or racial boundary. I thank God for business,' he brightly enthuses to the reporter.

The traffic snarl that regularly besets the area however is a source of concern. It is a daily burden for residents of the area. It is a regular sight to see long lines of cars along the major streets of the town right along the snaking road that leads to the popular Rumuola bridge, a stone throw from River's premier hotel, Hotel Presidential. But it is a source of joy for the traders as at least it would allow passersby and harried motorists have an unimpeded and extended gaze into flashy and exquisite attires worn by their waxy mannequins and the equally breathtaking ones accommodated by their sparkling show-glasses.

Emeka Orji, another boutique manager on one of the numerous fashion streets notes that more traders seem to be moving into the area thus making the real estate business a thriving one here. He adds that in the recent past, the cost of renting a business space or apartment has skyrocketed even though that has not in any way dissuaded new comers into the business. 'The cost of doing business has gone up since more businesses are coming up here. I moved here because of what I saw as marked improvement in the lives of fellow business men who I have as friends. So I believe that I would make plenty of profit here. But I believe that very soon I will have cause to smile when I have settled down into the system...

For now despite the hassles of getting a spot to trade at the area and the chaotic transport scenario, Rumuadaolu may still continue to retain its fashion toga for years to come.

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