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Archive for August, 2012

I just stumbled upon these quote from the book ‘The Miracle of Right Thought’ written by Orison Swett Marden and i thought to share. Hope you like and are inspired by it as much as i am.

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I understand that this is the title of a hit track by American rock singer and songwriter, Ryan Adams, with lyrics that suggest an occupant’s efforts to hold on to his abode when he is being evicted. These Americans know how to make a house become a metaphor for love. You should find that song and listen to it if you are a lover of rock. But that’s not the crux of this discussion today. Those very same lines mean something different in this part of the globe.

I am certain I am not the only person who has noticed the ever-present, elaborate defacing of buildings with bold lettering announcing, “THIS HOUSE IS NOT FOR SALE”, and the almost always present caveat, “Beware of 419”. In a city like Lagos, it is now like a design pattern on houses. Hardly any street, even in the highbrow areas, is free from it. When they are not engraved on the walls of the building, the words are conspicuously placed on signboards around it.

For a visitor, I imagine that the first impression will be that crime is now so rampant that we need to unashamedly make public announcements to alert people about it. However, to one who is already well aware of our global popularity for scam mails and advance fee fraud, popularly known as 419, and who must have been inundated with travel warnings about Nigeria, it must be an interesting sight to note that not only do we scam unsuspecting foreigners, we daily make mincemeat of our fellow countrymen who make the mistake of ‘dulling’. And as an adaptation for prevention, we deface our houses and scream warnings to the high heavens.

Make no mistakes about it, those who take the pains to make the imprints have a good reason for doing so. The level of real estate fraud in a city like Lagos is alarming. The stories I have heard range from the scary to the humorous and the downright unimaginable. Describing them as “real estate fraud” is giving them a nice name. In truth, we have no organised real estate industry here. What we have are a collection of touts, hustlers, briefcase lawyers, omoniles, and a sprinkling of professional estate valuers/surveyors, who all go by the name “agents”.

These agents, who are almost gods to any property seeker, do not only charge arbitrary fees, but also take the liberty to sell or rent out property they have neither a power of attorney over nor any approval from the owner to deal in.

Stories abound of property deals sealed with payments made to agents who vanish into thin air afterwards. In other cases, due to the nature of property ownership in Nigeria — a building could be the inheritance of many siblings — a property buyer could seal a deal with some of the owners (who present authentic papers), only to be accosted by the other set of owners with equally authentic papers when they come to claim the property. Many people have had to face the embracement of having strangers turn up at their door step claiming ownership of the very roof over their heads, which they never put up for sale. And, with our very fantastic legal system, resulting litigations go on forever. Hence the bold notices to discourage any unsuspecting prospective buyer from being hoodwinked.

Experience has shown that just because someone brandishes a certificate of occupancy that looks genuine does not mean that it is. Property agents collude with agents at local land registries to clone documents and falsify details. Even corporate organisations fall prey. Recently, I learnt of one such scam. A company looking to take a loan was required to provide a property as collateral. Someone introduced them to an agency that provided such services. The lenders did their due diligence on the property and gave the green light. The company paid this agency 10% of the worth of the property as charges. Deal was sealed. Two years down the line, it was discovered that the papers presented by the agency were falsified.

Now, if you think the notices you have seen are bizarre enough, wait until you see the one that is on a property I walk past every day: “This house is not for sale, beware of 419 and my son Wasiu.” Now, isn’t that just fantastic? It is interesting; this transformation of 419 from the section of the criminal code that deals with financial crimes, to the default alias for all kinds of scams. It is even more interesting when it’s given a human face, a name — Wasiu. I doubt Wasiu will be on talking terms with his father for a long time

Photo credit Ugo write. blogspot.com

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 There are certain medical conditions that Nigeria should never worry about. One of such is Paruresis, a phobia for urinating in the presence of others or in public places. It’s almost inconceivable that such a condition exists in the first place. Here in Nigeria, urinating, or pissing as we prefer to call it, is like a fundamental human right, and like all things that come naturally, should be executed free of charge, when and wherever it comes calling.

Equally weird are stories of people being tried and fined in court for pissing in public. These Oyibo judges must be jobless to sit around and hear a case of someone caught watering the earth? To the average Nigerian, that is utter waste of time or, better still, simple wickedness on the part of the law. Sometime in May this year, I read in the UK Guardian that a judge in Somerset had ruled that peeing in public is not a nuisance if not seen by anyone. I couldn’t help laughing at the effort to logically and legally define an act which on this side of the globe is routine, like breathing. Here, it is the person taking notice of someone peeing that is the nuisance.

Even when you are not the culprit, you are confronted by the sight of others doing it. A little boy says to his mother that he wants to “weewee”; she, in full public glare, pulls down his shorts and tells him to pee. Next time, the boy doesn’t bother asking his mother. If he feels pressed in public, he simply takes down his pants and helps himself, regardless of the setting.

You are driving in traffic on a street in any of our cities. All around is a beehive of activity: pedestrians hurrying on all sides, okada men meandering through the spaces, hawkers doing their thing. You are also bound to see someone – maybe even one well dressed to suggest a level of sophistication — stop by the road side, not even quite off the pedestrian path, unzip his trousers and produce his sprinkler. You see him relaxed, very carefree, as though the rest of the world did not exist. He looks from side to side as if to confront anyone spying on his property and might even use his free hand to fetch his phone from his pocket to answer a call, all the while feeding the earth with the content of his bladder.

I am tempted to speculate that this is a male-only phenomenon but evidence proves otherwise. Perhaps, the sight of a female indiscriminately urinating presents an even more bizarre picture; the peculiar challenge it presents due to their anatomy, the public display of underwear and  the associated exposure of the otherwise revered privates to unknown eyes.

The fact is this; peeing is one call of nature that can distort the orderly functioning of one’s brain and suspend normal reasoning. All too often, we give up the natural aversion of exposing our privates in public when tested by this call. The pressure, coupled with the total dearth of decency and decorum among our people, has ensured that pissing in public has become a nuisance which we should seriously be worried about.

The issue goes beyond visual or aesthetic nuisance. The act pollutes the environment and threatens our health. We are familiar with the strong unbearable ammonic stench that emanates from those corners where people have urinated repeatedly. Inhaling such is hazardous. But there is more. It contributes to the overall poor sanitary conditions of our neighbourhoods, with attendant implications such as cholera. Poor sanitation costs Nigeria N455billion each year (an equivalent of US$3 billion) according to a desk study carried out by the Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP). This sum is the equivalent of US$20 per person in Nigeria per year, or 1.3% of the national GDP.

Perhaps a little more alarming is the information that the annual funeral cost due to deaths arising from poor sanitary conditions in Nigeria is estimated to be US$28.8m.

It goes without saying that we need to check this. Many professionals advocate that government spend more in providing public toilets, especially in rural areas, and that businesses and private premises must have adequate conveniences as part of their design for better human waste disposal. While I do not disagree, I advocate that alongside such efforts, there is need for a national values reorientation and a campaign against public urination because, given the current state of affairs, even when you erect toilets, people will rather let piss rain on the walls.

First Published Here

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Last week, I attended the Nigeria Broadband Forum organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The event, themed ‘Demand as Catalyst for Broadband Services in Nigeria’, was attended by key stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technology sector. During the event, the NCC revealed that though mobile penetration was now well over 70%, broadband was still below 2%, and the world, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary General, looks on at Nigeria to repeat the mobile miracle with broadband.

In response to this situation, the Minister of Communications Technology, Omobola Johnson, announced that the Federal Government will soon put in place a Presidential Committee on broadband that will function in ensuring that Nigeria has ubiquitous internet capacity and a national backbone, while the NCC works to deploy the planned open access model that will guide the delivery of reliable and affordable broadband to end users.

As discussions progressed at the event, with stakeholders making contributions and highlighting grey areas in the NCC’s plans, I couldn’t help but reflect on the role — which is often taken for granted — that one entity which is fast disappearing played in introducing my generation to the internet and, by extension, connecting us to the rest of the world at a time communication was quite a challenge for us here. This entity is the Cyber Café.

Long before the BlackBerry and its cousin smartphones, indeed long before GSM phones became a common place gadget, there was the cyber café. This was a time when there were less than five hundred thousand phone lines in the country. A time when ownership of a NITEL line was a status symbol, one that ensured your house was a centre of convergence of friends and relatives waiting to receive a call. Then, to communicate, you went out and queued at a public phone booth with its attendant inconveniences. The advent of e-mails or, better put, the adoption of e-mails here therefore was like a huge miracle exerting an effect similar to the soothing feel of cold water on a parched throat. Emails became the fashionable alternative for communicating with friends and family. Ownership of an e-mail account gave one perhaps the same status as owning a BlackBerry phone had two/three years ago.

The only way to access these almighty e-mails were the cybercafé. For a generation of Nigerians, their first contact with the internet was through these cafes’ that sprang up rapidly around our streets and neighbourhoods. I recall with nostalgia my first e-mail — the excitement of it, like Neil Armstrong on the Moon. Back then, we paid ridiculous amounts to send a paragraph of e-mail. Indeed, as an undergraduate in Nsukka, I took trips to Enugu just to send e-mails in Cyber Cafes.

The cafes were usually stuffy rooms with no air-condition — some barely had fans — holding half a dozen PC’s that were all engaged, and another dozen users patiently waiting for their turn. Most times, users came in pairs or groups and huddled around a PC — usually, only one of them knew how to use the internet, and helped all the others. Boy, were the connections slow and frustrating! But they were fascinating too. With E-mails came messenger chats, sending of greeting cards, search and, later, social media through Hi5, Myspace and then Facebook. Because users couldn’t get enough, cafes introduced overnight browsing, which was very popular for allowing faster speed and a conducive atmosphere to achieve more.

But then, the cafés also became a home for other vices. Teenagers watching porn, scammers hoodwinking unsuspecting foreigners, youngsters sending out the now world renowned Nigeria scam e-mails. I once read a quote which stated that anyone yet to receive an e-mail from Nigeria is yet to own an e-mail address.

Today, the cafes are no longer as important as they used to be; indeed, they are now unpopular as they fast lose the battle against 3G enabled phones, internet services for homes, V-sat, Wimax, etc. which have enabled users own their own internet service (as inadequate and as unreliable as it currently is).

I need not restate here how important broadband is to any people, especially in this age. As the ITU will say, broadband should be considered a basic amenity like electricity, roads and water supply, and governments have a responsibility to provide their citizens with access to it. Currently, we are way behind in this regard. One hopes that now that the government, through the Ministry of Communications Technology and the NCC, seem to have finally woken up to their responsibility, we can gradually evolve an era when Nigerians can enjoy affordable and reliable broadband service.

Until that day comes however, I find it appropriate to reminisce and pay tribute to cyber cafes. They met a need, the value of which we can’t ever quantify.

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