Since the 1970s, the importation of second-hand clothing has been banned in Nigeria. People give different reasons for the policy. An official of Nigerian Customs told me the practice was banned because they are dirty clothes picked from the streets of Europe, something unfit for Nigerians to wear (the Ghanaian name for second-hand clothing is obroni wewu, which literally translates as “white man’s deads”); an old-time second-hand clothing trader told me that the Nigerian government wanted to punish Igbo people after the Nigerian Civil War so they banned the items in which they exclusively traded; another trader said that a Nigerian politician wanted to start a clothing factory and so decided to ban the competition; and an official at the Nigerian Ministry of Industry said that the ban was in place to protect the local textile industry.
Even before the ban, the headquarters of the second-hand clothing trade had moved to Benin (then Dahomey) and Togo. Igbo traders started importing second-hand clothing into Nigeria through Port Harcourt in the 1950s. Some of their first customers were the people of the village of Okrika – the name by which second-hand clothing has come to be known in Nigeria.