Mammy market began with one woman.
In 1959, Mammy Ode was a young woman from Benue State who just married Anthony Aboki Ochefu, a young non-commissioned military officer who was transferred from Abeokuta to Enugu. They lived at the Army Barracks in Abakpa, Enugu.
Mammy Ochefu started a business selling soft drinks to soldiers to earn a little extra cash and keep herself busy. She made a drink from millet popularly known as kunu in Hausa and soldiers began flocking to her home to buy kunu. She became quite popular.
The then Regiment Sergeant Major (RSM) was not pleased with it. He complained that her drinks were attracting flies into the barracks and ordered Mammy Ochefu to stop making and selling kunu.
Her husband, who was not even an officer at the time, could not challenge the order of the RSM. For weeks, Mammy Ochefu agonised over the fate of her business, just as officers and men of the Nigerian Army who enjoyed her kunu because of its freshness and nutritional value lamented the situation.
Many people begged the RSM to reverse the order. After some time, he gave in to the pressure and ordered that Mammy Ochefu be given a portion of the barracks for making and selling her kunu.
After constructing a little shop, her business quickly took off. She would have completed selling the day’s supply of kunu by noon. Many other women in the barracks saw how successful she was and began selling additional goods in that area.
That area of the barracks quickly acquired the name Mammy Market and is found in every military barracks in the country. Interestingly, it is also found in NYSC camps and even some people call the part of the university where food is sold, mammy market.