There is always this annoying traffic hold up as you approach the NNPC mega filling station in Abuja. This hold up is particularly annoying to me because it is responsible in a way for my five minutes daily late arrival at work which my boss frowns at and as a youth corper eager to impress in order to place myself in a good position both to receive little weekend tips as reward for my dedication from my boss (a favour I ardently desire to augment the meager allowances) and to be possibly retained by the establishment after my service year, this means a lot to me.
I once read in the papers some years ago that the filling station was wrongly sited and would be relocated. I wouldn’t know if that is still being thought about by those whose business it is to, but I know it generated quite some ruse then. You might be wondering what was particularly wrong about the location of the station after all it was sited just by the side of the road like every other filling station. Yes, this filling station is by the side of the road but there is some thing different about it . If you were a first time visitor to Abuja approaching the NNPC Mega station, you would think that some serious fuel scarcity has hit town. The queue of cars (both flashy and jalopies alike) extends beyond the station and takes up the outside lane of the adjourning road and when you drive that way, for those of us driving ahead, there is a whole lot of braking, clutching, sweating, choking, screeching, yelling…..which ultimately makes me end up about five minutes late at work.
The simple reason why every one wants to buy from the NNPC station even when all the other stations along that route and around town had fuel and without a queue was because a liter of fuel (PMS) sold at sixty nine naira (N69.00) there and Seventy naira (N70.00) at others thus making it one naira (N1.00) cheaper. Just One naira cheaper and all those cars take the pains to queue up, blocking up the road in the process for it.
Nigerians would do any thing just to save a few nairas. It’s our nature, an unconscious survival strategy, an adaptation for austerity, a belt tightening procedure, our defense mechanism….our way of life. We see it play out in the way we bargain for goods in the market, the final selling price is always a negotiated compromise between the seller’s realistic profit margin and the buyers in born desire to save some change at all cost.
I see this remarkable ability of ours to go through a lot of trouble just to save a few change equally exemplified in our patronage of the big transit buses that are popular in the FCT popularly called Elrufai buses after the former minister who introduced them. For instance in the mornings, there is always a long queue among which includes civil servants who should be at work by 8.00am, business men who have appointments to meet and students running rate to school, all standing and waiting, enduring the early morning sun and the sickening discomfort of just waiting, in order to go by the government bus which is twenty naira (N20.00) less than the fare charged by the privately owned smaller buses that are more in supply. Many would prefer to pay sixty naira (N60.00) for a standing space in the Elrufai bus (after close to an hour wait for it to arrive), than to pay Eighty naira (N80.00) in the smaller buses in which they would be comfortably seated, for a trip of close to 30 minutes from Kubwa (a satellite town in the FCT ) to Wuse (a district of the city center).
The same scenario plays its self out in virtually every other aspect of our daily dealings including those that are of grave consequences to our health. For instance, one would rather buy antibiotics spooned out of a plastic container at a drug store which was generally known to be of lower quality but which was cheap, than to buy that which is in a sealed sachet which was costlier by some naira no matter how surer of the efficacy we are. So many other interesting examples of this abound.
With a continuously depressing economy, a sky rocketing cost of living, a staggering inflation rate, a mind burgling level of un employment, a sickening degree of corruption, a meager and often unpaid salary scale and a continued prevalence of bad governance and ineptitude on the part of our leaders, it is not quite hard to imagine why our people have to go to such lengths just to save up some extra change. In doing this however, we inadvertently and unknowingly cause some even greater problem of unquantifiable cost for ourselves and even the country as a whole.
For instance the traffic hold up at the NNPC filling station makes me and a whole lot of other folks including those on the queue for the fuel themselves, go late to work or other appointments. The cost of lost productive time is unquantifiable. This is aside the discomfort, increased blood pressure and accidents it causes. On the other hand, waiting for the ELrufai buses has sort of enthroned mediocrity and complacency in public service as the workers are now use to arriving when they like thus working less hours the effect to the economy of which is un imaginable. In the same way, when we buy a cheaper drug, a cheaper car tyre, or we build with cheaper materials, we are simply endangering our lives and those of others.
While it is wise to save, it might, if we check again not be so worthwhile after all. The solution to this “problem” is quite simple. If the economy is better which translates into our people having more money to spend , having well paid jobs or owning their own business, etcetera, they would begin to think more of their comfort and wouldn’t fancy going through great trouble to get things which are not necessarily of superior quality at a lower cost. The responsibility of seeing this happen lies squarely on government and if the provision of Section 13(b) of the 1999 constitution means anything at all to them, they better start doing something fast because I dread like hell to see that annoying traffic hold up on my way to work every day. By this I don’t mean relocating the filling station.
Ifedigbo Nze Sylva