Market Survey: How Fair Was the Students’ Union Trade Fair Program?

By: Sonaike Peter

Every Students’ Union leadership comes and then goes, but one thing remains constant, and that is the Student Union Week. As a tradition, the University of Ibadan Students’ Union, through the office of the Vice-president, has the constitutional duty ‘to organize the Union week as a chairperson of the Union’s committee’. This retiring session, like every other, a trade fair event, one of such events, took place at the SUB car park, lasting from the 4th to 8th of March. The SUB car park was literally filled from one end to another, with different vendors and barely a place to step on one’s feet. The fair, as usual, was not open to only student vendors and buyers, it also featured non-student vendors from faculties, halls of residence, and departments who had also applied to sell and buy. 

The trade fair served as an opportunity, especially for student entrepreneurs and non-student vendors, to promote their brands, as much as it was a platform where buyers could buy their products affordably. 

But in the real sense, was the trade fair actually fair on the two-shaped sides of the buyers and the sellers? Did the Student Union’s executive members achieve the aim of having a 5-day trade fair as envisioned? Were the sellers and the buyers satisfied with the bilateral exchange? Exploring the UI market, journey with Indypress as we explore what went through on the market days.

Through the Lens of the Sellers

The trade fair program for Dorcas, a 200-level student, was bittersweet. Sometimes, she went home sad, with radiance emanating from better sales. As a student who sells jewels and accessories, she was provided with two tables just like other vendors to run a sale, allowing her friend the benefit of running hers with the second table. “Buying and selling there was a so-and-so experience. At times, it was good,or terrible. There was a massive turnout by students, and I sold jewels and accessories at different rates,” she said.

Meanwhile, Tommy, a final-year student of the Department of Educational Management, explained the process she had to go through to attain her stand. According to her explanation, it was not very stressful; all she had to do was show proof that she was a student of the University, and she was able to secure a stand for ten thousand naira #10000. 

At Tommy’s stand, she sold thrift wear, boyfriend jeans, tops, and jean skirts, and when she explained how her sales were, she had this to say; “ It was massive! Yes, it is. I made a lot of sales, my price varied from #3000-#7000. The buyers turned up, and this put a smile on the faces of the sellers.” 

Another exciting thing about the trade fair program is the story of a food vendor whose popular name is SBJ. She moved from Awo, where her brand is situated, to partake in the trade fair program. As a food vendor, she recorded the best sales in the history of her business. The high patronage of food might emanate from the fact that it was sumptuous. As a non-student vendor, she went through the process of making a payment of #20000 to secure a stand. “The trade fair program” she recounted “was the best thing I experienced this year. The sales I made are nothing compared to that of the previous” she explained.

Nevertheless, not all the sellers were satisfied with the whole process of the trade fair. A student like Aliyah complained that some sellers did not sell well, attributing it to low publicity from the end of the Union. According to her, she thought the Students’ Union could have done better by creating adequate awareness for the program.

Aliyah was right to have called the attention of the Students’ Union to proper publicity of the program as not all the sellers enjoyed massive sales like others, just as it was not all students that were aware of the fair. However, from another angle, it should be noted that sellers like Aliyah, who sold high-cost products like skin care products and first grade clothing, etc, would have most likely needed a better kind of publicity and a different approach, especially from the vendors themselves.The trade fair program was indeed a hot cake for some sellers, and a source for revenue for the Student Union. 

Buyers’ Perspectives

Just like with the sellers, there were mixed reactions amongst the buyers. A student like Daniel was disappointed. He complained that he was debited twice without being refunded while making a transfer payment to one of the vendors’ accounts. He expressed regret for even knowing about the program “for me, I would say the trade did not go well. I, by mistake, made a transfer of #2000 twice to the bank account of a vendor who later claimed she received an alert once. Till now, I have not been refunded” Arionla expressed his disappointment. Taking a critical look at the story, it could be assumed that he might have been debited in error by her bank. However, this also brings to light an issue that the following Student Union executives might want to tackle, as there should be a designated contact person to mediate in matters like this.

Tope, a female student, shared a positive experience about the fair. He said he patronized a food vendor, indicating that the quantity of food bought was more than what he had been buying from her hall’s Cafeteria. “I would say the trade fair made sense. I bought food which was more than that of the one I have been buying in my hall’s food is minimal compared to the plenty I bought at the trade fair program.” 

Also, another buyer who pleaded anonymity shared her experience with IndyPress. She was able to buy perfume and body cream at a lower rate. She also compared the trade fair program of this session to that of the previous. She said the difference between both trade fairs was that the latter had a higher turnout of buyers than the former. Meanwhile, Yusuf  Ayomide, a 200 level student from the Faculty of Technology, shared a similar story of buying foodstuffs at a lower rate at the trade fair program. Yusuf noted that he was able to purchase some foodstuffs at a rate lower compared to the cost of foodstuffs in his hall of residence.

What the Union Leadership has to say

In a brief interview Indy Press had with Vice-President of the Students’ Union, Ogusesan Nafisat, the Vice President explained that  after creating awareness for the program, sixty-three vendors, including students and non-students, indicated interest, registered, and made discriminatory payments for their stands. 

According to her, while the student vendors paid the sum of 10,000 for securing a stand each, non-students were asked to pay a sum of 20,000 for theirs. The VP also added that the Union did not allow for a scenario where many vendors were selling the same products. 

When asked about the program’s outcome, she explained that the vendors made a lot of sales to the extent that some earned more than what they had paid for the stands within a day. She further stated that the Union hired a Hype Man and DJ to create awareness of sales going at the park to attract buyers to the vendors. 

“I can testify that they recorded more sales. Some of them even made more than what they used to get their stands on the very first day of the program and even more than what they had been selling. The products sold were friendly enough for students to patronize.  I and my committee monitored the whole process to ensure that students were not charged an exorbitant price.” The Vice-President explained. 

Taking a critical look at the reactions of both the sellers and buyers to the trade fair program, we could say the trade fair was fair to some extent. However, the Union must be transparent about the revenue garnered from the program. It must make known what the money was in total and would be used for. 

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