Nigeria – a cause for concern

What’s it like working for TASTE in Nigeria right now?

Well it is quite tough. The government’s decision to remove the subsidy on petrol sent the price from N65 to N140 overnight. After days of general strikes when the country was effectively shut down, the government partially relented and removed some of the subsidy, so that fuel now costs N95 per litre. But, think about it, that is an increase of nearly 50% on petrol prices. How could you cope with an increase like that on your fuel bill?

water price hikesAs you might have guessed the impact on the price of everything has been enormous. Add the genuine need to recover increases in fuel costs to the opportunistic increases to take advantage of the present uncertainty and you will find that some commodities, even bags of drinking water, have spiralled upwards in price! All travel costs have doubled and clients who were begging us to come and dig boreholes before Christmas have now told us that they are not spending money until they can see how the economic picture will pan out. The strikes and the uncertainty has  effectively shut us down during January. It has been a tough month. And every other business has been affected in the same way.

And what is the primary cause of all this unrest?

In one word: corruption.

Wherever you look, people quote different figues, but all are agreed that a small number of people have become hugely rich by ‘manipulating’ the fuel subsidy.

remove corruption in Nigeria Either businessmen are claiming to have sold more petrol than has been imported – and thus making huge amounts of money; or politicians and civil servants are saying that this is happening and taking the money themselves. Either way, corruption, on a massive scale is taking place. And the people know it.

I wonder how long it will be before the Nigerian sesnse of optimism is replaced by a sense of realism? Perhaps, even, how long before the Arab Spring finds its way to West Africa. My fear then is that, unless God intervenes, those in power will respond as others have done further North and the country will run with blood.

Much prayer is needed for Nigeria right now.


Nigeria on the brink?

It was the worst incident of its kind in Nigeria for many years.  Attacks on police, security service and immigrations offices left 150 dead.  The BBC, in reporting the atrocity, ask the question, “Is Nigeria on the brink?”.

It is not easy to answer that question.  Certainly things are very serious.  Boko Haram seem set on causing maximum terror – last week they threatened to carry out jihad in the north – and they don’t seem bothered whether they kill Muslim or Christian.  Suggestions that the terrorist group have infiltrated the security services can only add to the concern.

This surely is the toughest test of the President who, as a Christian, will be harried by Boko Haram much more than would be a Muslim President.  But with the Christian States in the south anxious to avoid the imposition of Sharia Law (the ultimate objective of Boko Haram), the pessimist could certainly foresee a north v. south clash.  Might the pessimist even foresee civil war?

Nigeria needs our prayers and, perhaps even external intervention, or things might indeed get worse.


Consumer demand

photocopier for TASTE

We have just had the office copier repaired. It needed a new PCU. The original PCU has lasted for eight years and printed 400,000 copies, so this replacement will probably outlive the rest of the machine! Photocopier repair man Paul was telling me that new copiers used to come onto the market every 5 – 8 years. In between there were upgrades but not new models. Today, apparently, a manufacturer will market a new model every 12 – 15 months!

Paul was explaining that it was the speed of technological enhancement that was responsible.  Technological enhancement coupled with consumer demand.  Consumers want faster and faster machines with clearer and clearer images.  Jobs that used to be the specialist domain of the local print shop can now be done in your own office.

All this got me thinking.  How fair is it that we are obsessed with getting better and better bits of kit for our offices but don’t worry about people dying in far off parts of the world.  How concerned is your average office worker in Europe or USA with the fact that a child dies every 4 minutes from water-borne disease; or that women around the world spend 200 million hours every day walking to fetch water?  Perhaps if there was some way to link our work to child deaths or water harvesting, we might take more of an interest.  Perhaps if we all had to stop work every 4 minutes to mourn for a child, we’d all become so fed up with our lack of productivity that we’d demand that something was done.  That would be consumer demand in action.

But that is also a dream.  In the meantime, those of us who care have to keep shouting about it.  Those of us who care have to keep raising awareness and raising money; and one day, just maybe, the rest of the world will sit up and look beyond their insulated bubble and take notice.  Then you might see consumer demand make a real difference.


Optimistic Nigerians

DOptimistic Nigeriansid you know that, apart from the obvious political surveys, Gallup run an annual survey to reveal the most optimistic race on earth? If you are British, you’d have no idea about the annual survey because optimism is not a word found in the vocabulary of many of us!

But, guess what? Uh ha, you’ve guessed already …… The Most Optimistic people in the world 2011, as surveyed by Gallup, (roll of drums, rapid loud beats) are the Nigerians!

And, guess what, this follows their top spot in 2010 as well!

Perhaps that is why it is always so hard to get things done in Nigeria – because there will always be another chance to do it tomorrow! I thought that mañana was a Spanish word but it seems that the Nigerians coined it first. Now I understand why my British urgency doesn’t travel too well to Jos; because nothing is too important that it must be done today ……because tomorrow will be fine; it’ll be OK.

Bim Adewunmi has written a very interesting piece for the Guardian – and she is not happy about all the optimism:

Twittering about

How old do you have to be not to ‘get’ twitter?

I thought I was reasonably up to date but Twitter has passed me by – even though I opened a Twitter account two years ago.

But then I discovered that Dan Walker has in excess of 95,000 followers (he’s trying to get 100,000 by 31.12.11) and he writes nonsense much of the time. Admittedly amusing nonsense. So, I thought, if he can do it, so can I. Except I don’t have a couple of million people watching me every Saturday lunchtime.

I suppose I had better sign up for a course on how to get the most out of social media. Until then, it’ll just be you and me. Unless you can persuade your granny to tweet occasionally!