31 Abisi Markets

Drawing of Warsa market in 1973

Local markets

The first public market was built in 1927.
“On March 12, 1927, a market has been built at Pitti (grass rumfas) and the D.H. is trying to get a market held twice a week on the day after Garu market i.e. Sunday and Wednesday. Elders are asked to encourage their people to patronize it. “
In August 1927, Captain H. Mercier did the trek last year at Piti washout with the water on the road and the stream very high”
( Capt. J.J. Emberton, 1929-1930. Garu District Administrative Affairs).
The construction of this market involved the temporary immigration of Hausa and Fulani merchants who controlled the trade of imported goods.
This introduction of local markets had only very little short-term effects on Abisi and even on other populations of the district. In 1932, it was noted that (Lere District Affairs, 1932):
The District is well supplied in markets (7) though at the moment there is practically no money in circulation. For instance, the whole Dan Haji market realized 30 in cash on market day for about 10 of goods and farm produce for sale.
Despite colonial pressures to increase the use of markets, Abisi resisted this form of exchange.
Among the given reasons, the distrust of Hausa and Fulani traders who were always seen as potential enemies and rivals.
In addition, trade with the neighboring population was more profitable; the relatively higher productivity of the plain assured Abisi a better exchange value with less productive plateau area markets.
Finally, these exchanges were under the control of Elders, house heads who did not accept to delegate their farm management prerogatives to dependent young men who would want to go to the markets. All young people who ventured there were severely reprimanded.
In 1973, some still preferred to sell to Hausa traders who were going house to house to buy Guinea Corn. They paid 6 Naira for a big bag of 130 measures. Only one Abisi did the same kind of commerce.

Against the markets

This resistance is clearly expressed by an Abisi:
“The markets were not important and Abisi despised them. Before, the Hausa had founded a small market near the colonial officer’s Rest-House at the foot of the hill. They traded among themselves only. The Abisi did not go and did not let their children go. When young people went to rest at the market, they did not work on the farms. If someone saw a boy at the market, he brought him to his father who would beat him”
They said the market prevented young people to work on the farms and to hunt. The Hausas at the market were seen as lazy because they didn’t work.
It seems that it was only towards the end of the colonial period that young people could go to the market, around 1957-1958.
A few years before, they could go only one day in the year, after the period of bride services, the riner work.
Elders thought it was a waste of time but they also said that markets were responsible for a long-term social change promoting the decentralization of the extended family.
“It is because of the market that sons do not want to work for uyikirat, the head of extended family group. “
Besides the transformation of the family production unit, the market economy has induced many other changes.
  • Encourage the sale of paid farm workdays by young men ·
  • Reduce the importance of artisan products in favor of imported goods ·
  • Introduce commercial crops ·
  • Produce surplus grain for the market sale instead of transforming it into local beer consumption in particular for the use of ritual functions ·
  • Induce women to share rotating credit groups with income obtained from the sale of beer in markets.
Women also started to sell their beer at the market and were thus introduced to the market economy. They sell their production in Warsa, Mariri, Binchi, and Dan Dura markets.
They do not go to Karambana to sell ( except those of Mariri) because the prices are lower, 6 pences a measure of grain at Karambana and 7 pences in Binchi.

Karambana or Doing “Karambani”

Karambana area was a hunting bush for Abisi who were still living on their Hill and they did not know there was a market there.
It seems that Karambana started when a Hausa man was forced out of Amo area and wanted to compete with the Garu market. A Hausa District Head had his market burned down saying it was useless.
The man then went to the administration and argued that this market was a good idea because it would help abisi understand the new way of life and alleviate their plight.
Abisi commented that for them, doing “Karambani” meant doing insignificant things! People going to markets do it to see other people as much as to trade.
Market days are a way to divide time and Karambana market day became in Abisi the /ukasuma/ day.

Money and Income

Money came to be used in bride-price and all kinds of ceremonial occasions like during the Bori possession ceremonies.
During the 15 years between 1956 and 1973, money economy had penetrated all social spheres in Abisi.
In 1973, they used Nigerian money, the Naira (₦) divided into 100 Kobo.
Budget analysis of twenty-five extended family units showed that the annual income from the sale of sorghum, cassava and yams was distributed as follows: ·
  • 17 units got fewer than 20₦ ($ 30), ·
  • 3 units got between twenty and 40₦ ($ 60), ·
  • 3 other units got between forty and 60 ₦ ($ 90) and ·
  • 2 other units got between seventy and 80 ₦ ($ 120).


Of these gains, a set of taxes had to be deducted, duties and obligations amounted generally to nearly two-thirds of this annual income.
Taxes for a single working man were gradually augmented: · 1971; 5,66 ₦, · 1972; 6.20 ₦ · 1973; 6.0 ₦.
Other taxes are ( N naira /K kobo) ·
  • 30 K per dogs, ·
  • 75 K for a bicycle, and
  • 40 K a special taxes for an infirmary, ·
  • 3 K for the market, ·
  • 50 K for first-year school and 1N 50K for the second year.
In 1973, 3 ₦ were asked for a divorce but people wouldn’t pay it.
This means that in general, Abisi sold their crops primarily to pay taxes, but it is certain that this situation was going to change rapidly.
With the market economy, Abisi could transform their perishable surplus of food into money and accumulate it or invest in pigs raising for the local markets. But while doing so, what fueled their communal social life during dry season, mainly the gift of beer during celebrations  may diminish.

Abisi and the Market Economy

The development of markets in a large town like Jos and Kaduna is very different from the traditional Abisi economy.
An Abisi proverb can illustrate the philosophical values preferring agricultural production over trading.
/Ijerka umurum ikaŋe ut∫omari/
“The horse that does not run away before the hyena is devoured.”
That is to say, agricultural surplus, if not exchanged can always be eaten but not the objects that you purchase at markets!
This phrase illustrates that Abisi may be implicitly aware of the distinction between a market economy and a communal one.
In the market economy, riches are hoard up and accumulated for the future.
In a communal economy, surplus are reinvested into people and consummated until the production cycle restarts again.
Consumers goods with plenty of choices give a feeling of freedom to people who have to work all day for a salary. This gives them happiness when they buy new things.
They rapidly become frustrated when they cannot get these or when there is nothing new to desire or what they have has broken.
That is what business people do : create new desires for consumer goods so they can get rich…and fall into the same spending desires…They use publicity to convince people to buy more of their products.
One of their aims is to convince people that their product is more useful than others, its gives its owner what everybody really desires : prestige or to be recognized in their community as someone of valor.
In Abisi this prestige was attained by hard work , skills, old age and having children. In the market economy, it is by clothing, cars, big houses , all consumer product that can be bought with money.
As we can see a market is not only a market place where to exchange money for goods but a whole economic system where money is invested in making profit.

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