Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gangirwal...

I've uploaded the first edit of my Mountain of Death film, here:

Enjoy.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hausa praise singing

The past few mornings, after the sound of the muezzin, we are woken again by a man singing praises to Alhaji-politician (he lives downstairs) from the other side of the compound gate. The man has a strong voice that carries well. He accompanies himself with a simple three string guitar instrument. A foreigner might imagine he was in a Bamako suburb, whereas the sound is Northern Nigerian. I recorded an excerpt on my dictaphone:

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Friday, June 27, 2008

The tragedy of Mugabe

Anyone who continues to delude themselves that a white-farmer, white-western media agenda is distorting the representation of what is actually going on Zimbabwe today should try to turn on the television and see for themselves tragic image follow tragic image. Should Mbeki endorse 84-year old Mugabe in a few days time, he will have sealed his fate as a disaster for Southern Africa, with Zim blood on his hands. As for Mugabe - he's now right up there with Mobutu and Amin as a catastrophe for the continent. The African Union looks on, helpless. Mandela's words were too little, too late. Quite diplomacy, the 'African way', has utterly failed the people of Zimbabwe.

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Italian Vogue this month - forwarded email..

Lets's prove them wrong !!!


Major magazine distributors across Europe have said that they expect

the Italian Vogue magazine that will feature all black models to be the

worst selling edition ever.


As part of the Black BUT Invisible campaign to promote and get more

models of colour into mainstream fashion we are actively supporting the

push to make this the biggest selling issue ever by getting everyone to

join this group and buy a copy of Italian Vogue.



The issue will be out on Thursday and will cost approximately £4 and

can be obtained from such places as Borders.



PLEASE JOIN THE GROUP & GET EVERYONE TO BUY A COPY OF THIS GROUND

BREAKING ISSUE!!!



Italian Vogue has produced an issue featuring all black models, the

Black BUT Invisible campaign would like you to dispel the fact that

distributors have stated this will be the worst selling edition ever -



PLS BUY THE MAG & SPREAD THE WORD

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PALF Ghana coming up...


... Looks like its going to be a cracking event. Click the flier to the left to enlarge/read. Website here.

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Soyinka

I forgot to blog about an experience in Lagos last weekend. M and I were at Jade Garden, a good Chinese restaurant on Isaac John in Ikeja. At the next table, La Soyinka was dining with two companions. The problem for him was that there was a never ending procession of people wanting to meet and talk. Every few minutes, one or a group of people would walk to his table, just to see him up close and be acknowledged. A prominent banker approached with his entourage. Then, a funky young woman in dreads bravely went up and introduced herself. She asked if she could ask him a question. He said, somewhat briskly, "No, I'm afraid you can't." For the hour and a half we were there, people kept on coming, as if for the wafer and a blessing.

Really if this is what its like being Wole Soyinka, it must be a joy to be out of Nigeria at regular intervals. The sage has no peace to enjoy ordinary events like breaking bread when out in public. I hadn't realised quite how much his iconic status in Nigeria made him quite so very famous.

It reminds me of a similar experience last year, when John Fashanu came to our house. The gatemen/drivers in the yard fell about gawping, as if Jesus had popped by.

Perhaps its because there are so few positive role models 'on ground' that people like Soyinka and Fashanu are subject to adulation.

Imagine a Nigeria where there are scores of public intellectuals - the next generation of Soyinkas and Soyinkettes - making noise in the press, agitating for change. Imagine Jade Garden full of them: inspiring legions of people for the cause of agitation while munching on pak choi and supping jasmine tea. Now that would be something.

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Out of limbo

Blessed is the Nigerian Immigration Service, for they have renewed my visa. I had a couple of weeks of legal limbo which have now passed. Not a nice feeling to not be entitled to stay and not able to leave. Although I am legally married to a Nigerian woman, she (unlike Nigerian men) cannot confer residency or citizenship. Hopefully, there'll be a change in the constitution so that one day soon, non-Nigerian men married to Nigerian women don't have ongoing visa hassles and women are accorded the same power as citizens as men. I know a few blokes in exactly my situation - Naija husbands! One day, we'll all have green kpali, inshallah.

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Brethren

On Tuesday, Big Buddha (my nickname for him) and I talked for the first time in a while. He was in Abuja for a few days and staying with us. We opened up to each other - our fears, the emotional-spiritual challenge of trying to be transformative in a transactional space (Nigeria), the prospect of death, the challenge of working out what the future might hold, the forgetting and remembering of poetry. A couple of bottles of Star lubricated the conversation.

As we talked, I realised how alone I feel here. I don't have a buddy or brother-type person in this town - someone close with whom I can talk about anything, from the highly cerebral/metaphysical to the ultra-mundane. Its a bit like when I was ten, living outside the village, with only the fields and the sky as my companions. Of course, I know quite a few guys here, but none I can really open up to on every level like I can with Big Buddha. I have a few male friends who I could also open up to who are not here, but email is one thing, the open presence of physical interaction quite another.

This thought - of being alone, of not having brethren at hand - may be a common feeling among men. We cover our lives with sport, with activity, but when do we open up to each other about our deeper feelings, our fears, our desires and the things we find hard to articulate? Its as if we're wired for action, and see the communication of an emotional world as a sign of weakness. Well, perhaps this can only be said of straight men talking among themselves.

I'm thankful that there are people like Big Buddha in the world. It would be nice to have him around more often.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

CDD West Africa night in London



Click to enlarge/read.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BASEMENT THEATRE PRESENTS OVONRAMWEN NOGBAISI, JULY 4!


Forwarded email:

-a piece on politics, power and the fight for liberty

Basement Theatre Company (BTC) has been established in Abuja for the rebirth of the classy outdoors and to cater to the very specific and sophisticated social needs of urbane Nigerians and Abujans in particular. Now, BTC proudly presents Ola Rotimi’s Ovonramwen Nogbaisi in a complete theatre experience like none before it.

The play is a reconstruction of the historic fall of the great empire of Benin in the British Punitive Expedition of January 4, 1897. The drama looks beyond the obvious in cross-cultural struggles between empires and focuses on the burdens of power as well as the culturally peculiar diplomacy employed between two very fascinating monarchs.

For this Abuja opening, BTC is proud to bring back to Black theatre, African star of music, TV and stage, Dede Mabiaku in the leading role. He is joined by a most vibrant and select cast of the cream of Nigerian theatre. Among them are Toyin Oshinaike, Ahide Adum, Patrick Otoro, Albert Akaeze and Ikponmwonsa Gold.

Platinum Command Performance:

Date: Friday, 4th of July, 2008

Venue: Congress Hall, the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja

Time: 7pm prompt

Ticket: N19,999 or $170.00


Private Performance:

Date: Saturday, 5th of July, 2008

*For details of this performance, please contact Basement Theatre Company


Silver-Card Performances:

Date: Sunday, 6th of July, 2008

Venue: Africa Hall, the International Conference Centre, Abuja

Time: 3pm (matinee)/7pm

Ticket: N2,999 (singles); N4,999 (couples) **special student rates apply


We invite you to order bulk tickets for your organization/group and take advantage of our special bulk ticket discounts. For more box office details and ticket enquiries, please call 0702 546 3790-2 or e-mail tickets@btcnigeria.com. Also, visit our website www.btcnigeria.com for more information on Ovonramwen Nogbaisi and Basement Theatre Company.

Yemi Adeyinka,

Marketing & Audience Development

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When Mario met Victor..

Newspaper design guru Mario Garcia interviews Victor Ehikhamenor on his blog this morning.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Oshodi...

On the way in from Lagos airport to Ikoyi this morning, the tragic drama of Lagos unveiled itself yet again. Between Ikeja and Lagos, a commotion of okadas clustering round. As we came near and the traffic slowed down, there he was, dead, by the side of the road. His head twisted to the side. People looked down at him silently. A little further on, there was his bike, all mangled metal.

A few minutes further, I realised the taxi driver had taken an unusual route. There we were, in the midst of Oshodi, on Agege Motor Road. And there it was, in perhaps the densest part of the city, stark poverty. A woman with no lower legs sat on a small square of cardboard by the road side, the rain driving down. A danfo started reversing. She had to shout to stop the ugly metal can driving back onto her. The tragedy of the world was written on her face. Further on, piles of old shoes for sale, women picking through second-hand bras, men selling trousers, holding them up to passersby. Christian melodies mingled 50/50 with the muezzin. Everywhere a mixture of brown and black, mud clinging to all surfaces. Men argued aggressively, their voices tense. Oshodi is nonstop 24 hour panic slowly below the surface of perpetual chaos. People’s lives slowly being ground down by the noise, the dirt and the fury.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

A sea of S-Classes

I had to go the Hilton today to pay my MTN bill. There was an ECOWAS shindig on so the entrance was blocked. It seemed like there were hundreds of Mercs with little flags at the front - shiny new S and E classes. It didn't look like a gathering of some of the poorest countries on the planet. Then there was all the pomp and ceremony - red carpets, military and police all over the gaff. It felt like being on the precipice of a wormhole in time - a close replica of all the strutting feathery pomposity of colonial times in Africa. Its funny how the inertia against historical change is articulated through fabric and ritual.

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Swallow by Sefi Atta


Sefi Atta's Swallow is now for sale on Amazon here. Here is some blurb:

It is the mid 1980s in Lagos and the government’s War Against Indiscipline and austerity measures are fully in operation. Tolani Ajao is a secretary working at Federal Community Bank. A succession of unfortunate events lead Tolani’s roommate and colleague, Rose, to persuade her to consider drug trafficking as an alternative means of making a living. Tolani’s subsequent struggle with temptation forces her to reconsider her morality and that of her mother Arike’s, as she embarks on a turbulent journey of self-discovery.

“In this unique novel, outstanding new literary talent Sefi Atta takes great strides in style and form, to bring wit and passion to the heartbreaking story of Tolani and Rose, two young women struggling, not always successfully to make an honest living in contemporary Nigeria...Atta tells in an eminently readable voice the irreconcilable nature of the two friends’ fates.” – Tsitsi Dangarembga, author of Nervous Conditions

“Tender, fierce, vivid and memorable -- a bold, distinctive novel from a writer who doesn't compromise her integrity.” – Leila Aboulela, author of Minaret

“The bustle, chaos and fast rhythm of Lagos jump from the pages of Swallow, Sefi Atta’s new book. It is fiction steeped in life.” – Veronique Tadjo, author of As the Crow Flies

“Sefi Atta has woven a quietly intricate powerful tale that pulls from problems of gender, class, and Lagosian life. It’s a novel whose many colorful characters, compelling story, distinct place and turbulent time will stay with you long after you’ve read the last word.” – Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, author of Zahrah the Windseeker

“Sefi’s Swallow is a triumph of the terse. It throbs with laconic intelligence and the veritable Sefi Atta denouement.” – Tade Ipadeola, author of A Time of Signs

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The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

At a leadership/team building workshop this weekend, we read the text The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. You can read/print it here. Its a powerful allegory which can be interpreted in several ways. I recommend you read it if you haven't come across it already. If it sounds strange for the first page or so, please persevere. I'd welcome your comments after you've read it.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Zim blues again and again

Robert Mugabe seems ruthlessly determined to go down in history as one of the worst tyrants on the continent. Its hard to read any news about Zimbabwe these days without feeling desperately powerless and mind-soaked with anger. Young Bob started out so well, only to turn into this...

There seem to be only three solutions to end the plight of Zimbabwe under this paranoid maniac. 1) He dies or is killed. However, he seems gifted by longevity and has a mighty security apparatus around him so neither is likely any time soon. 2) The SADC countries/African Union ramp up the pressure. Mbeki, determined to go down as the biggest wuss on the continent, will put paid to that happening. 3) There is some kind of international intervention force. This being off the map from a global strategic perspective (nothing to be extracted of value in Zim), and given the sorry state of the UN these days, this is not going to happen either.

The reign of terror Mugabe wreaks on his own people looks like it will continue, up to and beyond the fake election run-off a few days away. I'm sure that in a few years time when the tyrant is at last six foot under, we'll look back with shame that we witnessed the fall of Zimbabwe and collectively, nothing was done to stop it sinking so far, so terribly.

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The language of HIV-AIDS

Thanks Ellie for sending this (from IRIN):

HIV has hit our lives, our families, our economies; it also shapes the way we talk. IRIN/PlusNews looks at how the virus and its impact translates into everyday speech from the streets of Lagos to the townships of Johannesburg, and finds that despite the billions of dollars spent on positive communication strategies, the word on the street remains decidedly negative.

In Zimbabwe's Shona language, spoken by about 80 percent of the population, slang is called chibhende. According to Dr Robert Muponde, a senior lecturer in English studies at South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand, the expression speaks volumes about how HIV is understood and accommodated.

"Chibhende means speaking obliquely of something, in order not to blow its cover, or in order to speak about it more comfortably," he told IRIN/PlusNews.

In Zimbabwe, HIV is often spoken about as a thief (matsotsi). If you are HIV-positive, people might say you've been mugged, or Akarohwa nematsotsi in Shona, Muponde said. The phrase gives an idea of how the virus is perceived - as a sneak attack - but it also creates a space for discussion that otherwise might not exist.

"Sex is difficult to handle in a shy language like Shona," Muponde said. "Slang gives the unspeakable street value by making it look accessible and banal."

Felicity Horne, who studies AIDS and language at the University of South Africa, agreed, saying that while many communities struggled to break the silence about HIV and AIDS formally, informal or slang terms for the epidemic were proliferating and were beginning to construct a response to the pandemic.

"Language can neither be separated from our thoughts and feelings, nor from the social context in which it is used," she said. "Words and images create different conceptual realities of the phenomenon."

Organisations like SafAIDS, a southern African HIV/AIDS information dissemination service based in Zimbabwe, argue that the slang used to describe the virus - which is almost uniformly negative - reinforces the stigma and fatalism that has proved so difficult to erase over the past 25 years of advocacy.

IRIN/PlusNews has compiled a short list of the ways people refer to HIV/AIDS on the continent.

Angola (Portuguese)

Pisar pisar na min - contracting HIV is like having "stepped on a landmine"

Bichinho - "Little bug" (the virus)

Kenya (Kikuyu, spoken mainly in central Kenya)

kagunyo - "The worm" (euphemism for HIV)

Nigeria (Hausa, spoken mainly in the north)

Kabari Salama aalaiku - literally translates as "Excuse me, grave" (reference to AIDS)

Tewo Zamani - translates as the "sickness of this generation" (another reference to AIDS)

Nigeria (Igbo, spoken mainly in the east)

Ato nai ise - "five and three" (5 + 3 = 8, and "eight" sounds like "AIDS")

Oria Obiri na aja ocha - "sickness that ends in death" (euphemism for AIDS)

Nigeria (Yoruba, spoken mainly in the west)

Eedi - "Curse"

Arun ti ogbogun - "Sickness without cure"

Nigeria (Pidgin, the unofficial lingua franca)

He don carry - "He carries the virus"


Nigeria (English)

HIV - He Intends Victory (acronym of HIV and a phrase popular among born-again Christians)


South Africa (IsiXhosa and IsiZulu)

Udlala ilotto - "playing the lotto" /ubambe ilotto - "won the lotto" (said of someone suspected of being HIV positive; Lotto is the national lottery)

Unyathele icable - contracting HIV is like "stepping on a live wire"


South Africa (English)

House in Vereeniging - (acronym of HIV; "bought a house in Vereeniging", a town about 50km south of Johannesburg, refers to someone suspected of being HIV positive)

Driving a "Z3"/ "having three kids"/ the "three letters" - all refer to the three letters in the HIV acronym

Tracker - if you are suspected of being HIV positive people say God is tracking you, like the popular southern African service that tracks and recovers stolen vehicles


Tanzania (KiSwahili)

amesimamia msumari - "Standing on a nail"; euphemism for being skinny, or being small enough to fit on a nail's head, referring to AIDS-related weight loss

kukanyaga miwaya - contracting HIV is like "stepping on a live wire"

mdudu - "monsters" (refers to being HIV-positive)


Uganda (English)

Slim - euphemism for HIV/AIDS as a result of the associated weight loss; less popular since the advent of ARVs


Uganda (Kirundi, spoken mainly in the west)

"Ibikooko" - "monsters" (refers to being HIV-positive)


Uganda (Luganda, spoken mainly in the central region)

"okugwa mubatemu" - you have been waylaid by thugs (contracted HIV)


Zambia (Nyanja, spoken mainly in the east and in the capital, Lusaka)

Kanayaka - "It has lit up" (refers to a positive reaction from an HIV test)

Ka-onde-onde - "thing that makes you thinner and thinner" (HIV)


Zambia (Bemba, spoken mainly in the north and Lusaka)

Bamalwele ya akashishi - "those that suffer from the germ" (HIV-positive people)

Kaleza - "razor blade" (Refers to a person being thin as a result of AIDS-related weight loss)


Zimbabwe (Shona)

Ari pachirongwa - "He/she is on a (treatment) programme"

Akarohwa nematsoti - "He/she has been beaten by thieves"

Mukondas - abbreviation of "mukondombera" (epidemic)

Ari kumwa mangai - "He/she is drinking mangai" (mangai is boiled corn seedlings, which represent antiretroviral (ARV) drugs)

Akabatwa - "He/she was caught" (received a positive diagnosis)

Zvirwere zvemazuvano - "The current diseases" (the HIV epidemic)

Akatsika banana - "He/she has stepped on a banana and slipped" (someone who has tested positive and therefore will "fall" or die as a result)

Shuramatongo - "A bad omen for relatives"


Zimbabwe (English)

Red card - like a football player being sent off, life is over

Go slow - Taken to mean that he/she is now progressing slowly towards death

TB2 - Refers to high rates of HIV and TB co-infection (used to denote AIDS)

RVR - Slang for ARVs, adapted from Mitsubishi's RVR sports utility vehicle

John the Baptist - When someone has TB, he/she is said to have been baptised by "John the Baptist", who has come to announce the coming of HIV.

FTT - "Failure to thrive" (adapted from the medical phrase, now used to describe HIV-positive children)

Boarding pass - Implies that HIV is a boarding pass to death

Departure lounge - an HIV-infected person is in the departure lounge awaiting death

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Love after love

I returned to an old favourite poem of mine, after years of absence. Derek Walcott will be remembered for lines like these, long after his ongoing spat with V.S. Naipaul has tinted beyond sepia:

Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

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The power of the Church...

Following up on my recent Crisis of Values post, here is an example of the Church (in this case, the Anglican Church), taking an ethical stance against sexual exploitation in the banking sector. Whatever the Anglican Church of Nigeria's stance on other issues, I applaud this position taking.

Just imagine if the evangelical pastors started to preach ethics in the workplace, rather than spout the usual BS about prosperity and deliverance. Just imagine if they put on workshops, wrote pamphlets which they gave out to their flock. Instead of them ranting on and on incoherently waving their arms about and sweating, they could be using basic Christian moral principles to help support the fight against injustice and sexual exploitation in the workplace. That would be a powerful thing.

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Adynata

A guest post from Teju Cole

In the shower yesterday morning, I found myself thinking about hyperbole.
The day before, in a bookshop, I had seen a book about Chuck Norris. It
had been printed on the basis of the internet phenomenon of
exaggerated statements about that actor. You might know what I’m
talking about: “There is no 'ctrl' button on Chuck Norris's
computer. Chuck Norris is always in control” or “Chuck Norris
destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the
element of surprise.”

The conceit of these hyperbolic statements, of course, is that Chuck
Norris is such a tough guy that normal rules don’t apply to him.
“Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.” The game is to come up
with wilder and wilder statements that mention the name Chuck
Norris. “Chuck Norris counted to infinity. Twice.”

In any case, these are adynata invented for the sake of humor.
Adynata—the singular is “adynaton”—are figures of speech taken to
such extremes that they become impossible. We’re familiar with
adynata in the form of biblical sayings like, “it is easier for a
camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to
enter the kingdom of God.”

But what I thought about, yesterday, as I stood wasting water in the
shower, wasn’t so much about the kingdom of heaven as it was about
the way we occupied so many of our hours when I was in school in
Lagos in the 80s. We had “wording” or “you mess” jokes, “mess”
being, as you’re probably aware, Nigerian pidgin for “fart.”

“You mess, akara wear coat,” was one classic. Another was, “You
mess, all the fish wey dey for river Naija say, ‘ARE WE SAFE?’” The
pleasures of this ribaldry was partly in the rigor of the form,
partly the performance of the person telling the joke. “You
mess”—to which the clever boy or girl had to supply a suitable
zinger of a conclusion—“garri grow bia-bia.” You remember these,
don't you?

And, as the hot water ran and my skin began to shrivel just a bit, I
began to think, too, of the African-American tradition of “yo momma”
jokes, which also depend on the adynaton effect for their
effectiveness. “Yo momma so fat, when she was in school, she sat
next to everybody.” “Oh yeah? Well if ugliness was a brick, yo
momma would be a housing project.” The wonder of it is that - at
least in the case of both the “you mess” jokes and their
transatlantic “yo momma” cousins - the form is so tight,
evolving out of a call and response performance. The circle of boys
(it was usually boys), the improvised joke or revised classic, the
collapse of the group into hilarity and, hopefully, the “dissed”
party mustering up a fitting response.

“Yo momma so hairy, Bigfoot be taking her picture.” “Aight, you know
what? Let’s get off mommas. Cause I just got off yours.” Cue mass
collapse.

Finally, I turned the shower off, and, as I stepped onto the mat, I
suddenly remembered another one, lines that hadn’t crossed my
mental screen in twenty years: “you mess, five agbalumo form
Voltron.”

And suddenly, I was laughing so hard I had to hold my sides.

Yeah, you had to be there.

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Indecent dressing public hearing

Apparently is on 2nd July. There should be quite a turn out to challenge this ridiculous proposed legislation. If you want to find out more, and also if you want to read an excellent legal analysis of the Bill from Alliances for Africa (a PDF file), contact Iheoma: iheomaobibi@yahoo.com

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Response to the new Lagos traffic law

Road Traffic: This Law is an Ass

by Chinua Asuzu, Assizes Law Firm

The attention of our law firm has been drawn to the Law and Order Public Notice issued by the Lagos State Government and advertised on page 8 of The Guardian of June 9, 2008.

Our first reaction is to commend the Lagos State Government for its new policy and practice of bringing certain of its key laws, policies and programs to the attention of the general public. The Federal Government and all state and local governments should emulate this practice. In the context of our democratic transition, it is a very wholesome and most welcome development. True democracy includes access to and freedom of information. The public's right to know, coupled with the state's duty to disseminate information, are vital components of a democracy. Of course the mere publication of the key features of some pieces of legislation does not by itself mean that democracy has arrived, but it is a significant and progressive step in the march to democracy. For this step in our long journey towards democracy and good governance, we salute the leadership of Lagos State. In particular, we commend the Governor and the Attorney General.

Lagos State is on a path to reform. The anxiety and rush of the Fashola Administration to pursue and prosecute its admirable reform agenda can cause difficulties and create complications. Some of these difficulties and complications we should bear, others we should resist. The passage, implementation, and potential repercussions of the Road Traffic Law are among those deserving of citizen resistance. In law and order reform, more haste, less speed. This is because a rushed reform programme cannot be sustainable, thus creating the need for a later Administration to retrace the steps already taken. In the fields of law and justice sector reform, especially and order law-making and implementation, major mistakes can easily be made.

The Road Traffic Law of Lagos State whose key features were advertised in the press is one such mistake. We have not read the law, but we feel we can submit these preliminary objections at this stage because of the source of the publication- the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Information and Strategy. These are authoritative and reliable sources, and in view of the involvement of the Ministry of Justice, we can regard the publication as a fairly accurate summary of the contents of the statute.

Vicarious Liability in Criminal Law

The law stipulates vicarious liability for owners of vehicles with which road traffic offences have been committed. This is unsound in criminal law. Every adult offender should be personally liable for his crime. Not only is each adult personally liable for his crime, he is also solely liable for it, except in cases of aiding or abetting, conspiracy and the like, in which case the aiders, abettors and conspiracies have each committed crimes anyway- so that the principle of personal liability remains inviolate. Such "exceptions" are not relevant in the Road Traffic Law under review. It purports to impose criminal responsibility on innocent parties. Our legal system does not, as a general rule, countenance vicarious liability in criminal law (it does in tort). Whatever exceptions there may be to this rule are not relevant in the context of the Road Traffic Law. Upright judges would be constrained to find the offending driver not guilty in order to avoid punishing the innocent owner.

The Punishment must Fit the Crime

Various theories of punishment have been propounded by criminologists and penologists. These theories are not mutually exclusive; several of them could operate together in a given sentencing context. No matter which of the theories operate(s) in the mind of a criminal law draftsman or a judge in prescribing or imposing sentences, the one principle upon which virtually all criminologists, penologists, criminal lawyers and sociologists are agreed upon is that the punishment must fit the crime. In other words, the punishment must be proportionate to the kind and degree of crime committed by the offender. Here the kind of crime is traffic offence, a regulatory misdemeanour; the degree may range in severity from reckless driving causing no damage or injury to manslaughter by dangerous driving.

In criminal law, traffic offences are classed as regulatory offences, the least serious of criminal conduct. They are mala prohibita (they are wrong because they are prohibited; they are acts which are made offences by positive laws, and prohibited accordingly). This species of criminality is usually less serious than mala in se (crimes which are wrong in themselves, or evil, like rape). Mala in se crimes are wrong irrespective of legislative prohibition, although of course they are forbidden by positive law.

The fines imposed by the Road Traffic Law of Lagos State are excessive. They are too severe and are not at all commensurate with the regulatory offences in question. It is like using a hammer to kill a fly, not even a fly on a solid wall, but one perched on your TV screen.

All over the world, traffic offences are deemed to be among the most minor of crimes and are, and should be penalized accordingly. Terms of imprisonment are completely inappropriate for most traffic offences, except in aggravated circumstances. The fines themselves should thus be minimal and realistic having regard to the average income of the community for whom the law is made.

The Option of Fine must be Real

Regulatory offences such as traffic violations are usually punished by minimal fines. The amounts of such fines must take into account the average income of the working class in the jurisdiction. The fines should not be so high as to make any options of imprisonment inevitable in most cases. The fine option must be a real option, in fact the preferred option for the legal system. It must be capable of being exercised, or chosen, or elected, or opted for, by the average offender. The fines should be such that the average Lagosian or Nigerian can afford to pay. The criminal law cannot be deployed merely or mostly for increasing the Internally Generated Revenue of Lagos State. Any terms of imprisonment imposed must also be comparable in severity to the amounts of the fines. Finally, the punishment must fit the crime. In the few instances where imprisonment should be stipulated at all, the terms of imprisonment must be very short (a matter of a few days), again always with options of small fines.

Equality before the Law

The heavy fines stipulated in the law would foster too much inequality in its implementation. Poor offenders would go to jail, while rich ones walk. Further on equality, we hope the law will be enforced against police and senior government or public officers, who are the worst offenders of traffic laws and rules.

Passenger Liability?

The Road Traffic Law prescribes punishment for innocent passengers in vehicles driven by offending drivers. This clause is completely indefensible, unsupportable and unsustainable and should be urgently repealed. Upright judges would be constrained to find the offending driver not guilty in order to avoid punishing the innocent passenger. Our criminal law does not punish a person who has done no wrong. A passenger cannot be expected to wrestle with a reckless driver and thereby worsen the already dangerous situation.

Impounding Vehicles

The penalty of impounding or seizing vehicles is totally unnecessary and unduly militaristic, and might be found to violate section 44 of the Nigerian Constitution. The logistics of warehousing or parking seized vehicles would be nightmarish. Who would be responsible for damage to or loss of the vehicle, its parts or accessories? Would the Lagos State government employ special watchmen to look after seized vehicles? How would such seizure fit into the overall legal system? What happens if an appeal against the decision succeeds?

For Whom is this Law Made?

The Road Traffic Law appears to have been enacted exclusively for the state, rather than for the society or for both. Its emphasis and focus betray a shocking emotional distance between the Lagos State and its citizens for whose benefit and in whose interest the law ought to have been made. It reads like a Papal Bull of Excommunication or a pronunziamento imposed by a foreign despot on a conquered race. It is draconian beyond belief and does not reveal social welfare as its intendment. For instance, it does not include or emphasize safety concerns. The law does not stress the use of helmets by okada riders, nor does it place appropriate emphasis on the use of seat-belts by drivers.

Actual versus Potential Mischief in (Criminal) Legislation

The Road Traffic Law has failed to draw necessary distinctions between potential and actual mischief in penal legislation. It punishes the potentiality of mischief as severely as its actuality. It does not establish a varying schedule of punishments for the same conduct when it has varying degrees of consequences. For example, if I drive on the wrong side of the road but cause no harm for anybody, that is admittedly a traffic violation and an offence against the Law, but the punishment should be lighter than when I cause injury or damage to persons or property by my illicit driving.

Lagos State Should Deploy Tough Love

Lagos State should be interested in commanding willing respect of its laws rather than frightening people into obedience. Lagos State should also spend many months and many millions of naira educating its citizenry on road traffic rules and ethics. For the past several decades in Nigeria, drivers' licenses have been issued without driving tests, eye tests, or health tests. The result is that we have many drivers in Nigeria, mostly in Lagos State, who do not even know simple rules of the road, like giving way to traffic on the left, or the difference between speed and slow lanes, or speed limits. Reform should start with setting and monitoring criteria for driving schools, taking care in the issuance and renewal of driving licences, and in educating both old and new drivers on the rules of the road.

Offenders are members of the community and remain so even after they have offended. Their loyal, participatory, and trusting membership of the community is of tremendous social value. Where one man returns from jail for a traffic offence, or empties his bank account or borrows from his extended family to pay a traffic fine, only to observe another who has robed the state treasury go virtually unpunished, Wole Soyinka's rhetorical question becomes poignant: what sort of society is one a part of?

Road Traffic Education: Ignorance of the Law

Although ignorance of the daw affords no defence in criminal law, four points must be noted in the context of this oft-misquoted maxim.

First, ignorance of the law may operate to negate intention or other requisite mental element of an offence, and all offences including even strict liability and regulatory offences contain a mental element. Such a mental component may not attain the full definition of mens rea, but a naked actus reus discloses no crime.

Secondly, ignorance of the law should at least ameliorate criminal responsibility.

Moreover, we often forget that ignorance of fact is an excuse in criminal law (the maxim is: ignorantia facti excusat). A person who drives in the wrong direction on a one-way street without knowing it is a one-way street has committed no crime. His ignorance is of fact, not of law. But if he drove that way without knowing it is against the law to drive like that, he has offended, his ignorance being of law.

Finally, we must remember the rationale behind this doctrine ignorantia legis neminem excusat (ignorance of the law excuses no one). It is not an arbitrary rule. The reasoning is that if ignorance of the law were to be tenable in defence, that would raise major difficulties for a jurisdiction. In the first place, it could afford an escape for numerous defendants by their merely claiming ignorance of the law they have violated, especially if the burden were on the state to establish that the defendant knew the law. Secondly, it would impose an unrealistically heavy encumbrance on the state to bring the law to the actual (not merely constructive) notice of all citizens. In light of these bases for the tenet, where a judge is convinced that a particular defendant in a given case did not know the law he had violated, or that what he had done was contrary to law, and that it was reasonable in the circumstances for him not to have known, then that would surely influence the judge's decision, if not on guilt, then certainly on punishment.

Deterrence

No doubt the Lagos State Government had the noblest of motivations in proposing and passing the Road Traffic Law, but this is one of those instances where the road to hell is paved with the cobblestones of good intentions. Deterrence and the desire to sanitise road transport and traffic in Lagos must have actuated the legislation. The idea might have been to make the fines so heavy that nobody would offend. Such an idea would disclose an unfortunate illiteracy on sociology, social psychology, social engineering, and public policy. Saying that people who find the sanctions too severe should avoid breaking the law misses the point of penal legislation and public policy.

Realism in penal legislation includes a recognition that crimes will be committed, that prohibited conduct will nevertheless be perpetrated, and that no matter how badly we desire a crime-free society, we will never attain it this side of heaven.

A long line of criminological and psychological research has consistently shown that excessively severe penalties are of little deterrent value in criminal law. Subconsciously such penalties are not really believed, at least not in reference to the individual offender. Psychology teaches us that human beings tend to "disown" (in other words say to themselves that this could never happen to them) extreme repercussions, like death, death penalty, HIV/AIDS. This explains why, with all the campaigns about HIV/AIDS, billions of people still have unprotected sex. It accounts for the average human's greedy and selfish pursuit of career advancement, power, sex and wealth, even into old age and even in ill health. Although we know we will die, we do not really believe it. It is too extreme an event to be contemplated, so we discount or discountenance it.

Armed robbery rates will go down if the penalty were life instead of death- I mean life imprisonment of course. It would then be believable- the would-be able armed robber would dread the prospect of life behind bars. Human beings do not dread death; they dread life.

A Daniel Come to Judgment

The Nigerian legal system is based on common law jurisprudence. Our judges and lawyers are trained and learned in this school of law. Their training and orientation inhibit the imposition of excessive penalties or penalties incongruent with the legal system as a whole. Imagine a judge imposing a N2,000 for a certain offence at 10 a.m., only to be expected to impose a N250,000 for what he knows to be a much milder infraction at midday. To avoid imposing that penalty, about which he has no choice, he simply finds a loophole to find the defendant not guilty, so that he can sleep at night or be able to say "Amen" at the end of the family prayer. This judicial dodge is as old as Methuselah. Long time ago in the history of the English law, an overzealous government wanted to "stamp out" crime, and to do so passed a law prescribing heavy penalties for all classes of offences, including the most minor. The English judges, unable in good conscience to impose such punishments, kept finding defendants not guilty, to the chagrin of the Crown. There is such a thing as a common law conscience.

Legislative Criteria

Legislation should never be passed merely to express moral censure or the sensibilities of a few members of the government of the day. Factors that should be considered before legislation is proposed would include:

· the experience of the society and other societies with similar legislations,
· the compatibility and logical coherence of the bill with extant statutes in the polity, in other words, its congruence with the legal system, and
· the availability of resources for implementing the statute vis-à-vis the competing demands for those resources.

None of these factors favours the passage or sustenance of the provisions of the Road Traffic Law.

In other societies including other Nigerian states, traffic offences are among the most minor of crimes, punishable with relatively low fines.

Secondly, the Road Traffic Law is at variance with the general law of the land, as is submitted below.

On priority of demands on law enforcement resources and corrections facilities, Lagos and Nigeria cannot afford the prison space for incarcerating road traffic offenders while armed robbers roam the nights. Lagos and Nigeria cannot afford the parking and warehousing space for impounded vehicles, or the loss in revenue to the society by the suspension or cessation of offenders' businesses conducted with vehicles. Lagos and Nigeria cannot afford the law enforcement and judicial time to prosecute and enforce the Road Traffic Law as presently constituted, while major crime cases are being adjourned for lack of judicial time.

Synchrony with Extant Regime

The Criminal Code Law of Lagos State and other statutes with sanctions clauses prescribe milder sentences for offences more serious than the traffic violations dealt with by the Road Traffic Law. A perusal of the Criminal Code will reveal more serious crimes punishable with much lesser fines than are stipulated for traffic peccadilloes.

Tough Times Never Last

Harsh legal regimes never last. They are intrinsically unsustainable. There is no buy-in. A future governor, or a future attorney general, or a future legislative session, will swing the law to the other extreme, making road traffic offences virtually guiltless. This is inexorable law of history which has been observed in human society throughout the millennia. Whenever a tough, revolutionary change is introduced in the law in a sudden or revolutionary rather than a gradual or evolutionary manner, an opposite force is waiting in the wings to undo the "damage".

Murtala Muahmmad came to power to "eliminate" corruption overnight. Some bad guys were waiting in a dark alley to wipe him out. The Buhari/Idiagbon War Against Indiscipline petered away after a few months, and Babangida knocked them into oblivion to institute a farcical human rights era, releasing all those locked up by Buhari for corruption. This law of history brought an abrupt end to the reign of bullish Bamaiyi at the NDLEA. It has now eclipsed the frenetic career of Ribadu at the EFCC.

If the Fashola Administration pursued a ruthless regime of law and order, no matter how well meant, Lagosians would chafe under his government and yearn for change. He would lose the 2011 elections just because some moron comes promising to soften the law. From the trends so far, I would prefer to see Fashola re-elected in 2011. I therefore counsel gradual, evolutionary changes (which attract acceptance) rather than sudden, revolutionary ones (which invite resistance).

When young King Rehoboam, rejecting wise elderly counsel in preference to foolhardy younger counsel, threatened a harsh regime of law and order in Israel, the Israelites resisted him, saying, "What portion have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: look now to thine own house, David." So Israel departed unto their tents. (1 Kings 12:1-16)

Conclusion

The Lagos House of Assembly should urgently repeal the law. Among many other changes, terms of imprisonment should be removed entirely, and fines reduced to an average of N5,000, with higher fines being imposed depending on the severity, aggravation or consequences of each traffic offence. Liability of owners and passengers should be deleted, except where culpability is proved. Requisite mental elements should be incorporated, with such adverbs as "carelessly", "knowingly", "maliciously", "negligently" "recklessly", "without lawful justification" etc. Otherwise, a traffic violation committed in order to avoid a greater evil, like waiting armed robbers, would be punishable as crime. To make the prosecution's work easier in deserving cases, the burden of disproving the guilty mind may be placed on the defendant, rather than requiring the state to prove the presence of that element. Finally, in reviewing the Road Traffic Law, the draftsman should study earlier legislations with clauses governing or relating to conduct of road traffic.



--
Please respond.
Chinua Asuzu
Office: +234 (0)1 791 1575, 804 2343
Mobile: +234 (0)803 341 2508

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And now for some good news..

Ok so I've been moaning about Nigeria for the past few posts. I read in today's papers that Merrill Lynch is setting up base in Lagos. Global capital is increasingly comfortable with Nigeria it seems. Definitely a good indicator for the economy, despite persistent rumours of a stocks crash..

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Cartoon


Scanned in from a recent edition of Business Day. Thanks EH for the email..

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A crisis of values..

Stories of rampant corruption come from all corners to my ears yesterday and today. The sad fact is that even now, State Governors have every opportunity to re-direct millions of dollars of state funds each month for personal use. The checks and balances simply aren't there. The banking sector just has to be complicit in this misappropriation of funds. The reductions this theft imposes on education, health and infrastructural budgets contributes significantly to the slow and silent ruin of millions of people's lives, while certain others get to buy more houses in Potomac or on Bishop's Avenue or to buy themselves yet another Hummer or Merc.

Meanwhile, the EFCC is apparently hemorrhaging staff - is this the end of the institution or simply a re-birth?

In all this, the issue is not really a crisis of either leadership or followership as is often thought. It is really a more fundamental crisis of values that manifests itself as a more-or-less total absence of ethics - in both the public, the private and the non-governmental sector in Nigeria. Clearly, the fact that many Nigerians are part of one form of religious institution or another does not redress this crisis of values and ethics to any significant degree.

The question begged is therefore: what would it take for there to be value-transformation in Nigeria? If it cannot come from the Church or the Mosque, then where? I fear that without a deep-rooted shift towards a society and a polity grounded in human rights and social justice, Nigeria will remain stuck in a vicious circle. Vicious poverty and vicious wealth reproducing itself from generation to generation..

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Three men in a boat

A year or so ago, who'd have thought that someone who writes like this could/would be Mayor of London? Still, his writing has a certain foppish Edwardian charm (I'm thinking of Jerome K Jerome). Given that London tends to exaggerate the potential range of human expression, perhaps it is well that a flame-haired cyclist is now atop the Testicle.

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Asa..

You Tube's post-to-your-blog function is playing up again. Asa's Fire on the Mountain video is here, if you've yet to clap eyes on it.

Y'all are very late to the Asa party. I remember seeing Asa back at Jazzville in deepest Yaba 5 years ago - when you didn't have to pay an arm and two legs to see her. She's come a long way since then. It does seem as if she is going global all of a sudden. A friend reported her music being played in his local in Oxford the other day. Its a real shame that most of the copies of her album being sold in Nigeria at least are pirated. Most people buying the cd will have little idea that they are not buying a legit version that puts money in her pocket.

Its a lovely album, and its great that at last a Nigerian musician who isn't aping the worst of American R&B (the death of music masked as soft porn) is making waves. Having said that, I still think Asa's best is yet to come. I'd like to see more variation with her future work - piano-based ballads, more uptempo pieces, choral-harmonic-semi-orchestral pieces, experimenting with her vocal range etc. In other words, a bit more variation away from the artlessly cute acoustic guitar based sound.

Perhaps teaming up with fellow Paris-based musician Keziah Jones might be the way to go...

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Open the door to your heart make I enter..

After an enjoyable frisbee session in River Plate park (my favourite park in Abuja - its empty most of the time) on Saturday, R and I went to Orbit Gardens - the nearest Bush Bar to where I live. Its the first time I've been to this bush bar - I'm not sure why I have avoided it till now. Its "very ok" as they say, set as it is on a series of terraces with discreet enclaves amidst lots of greenery. Shame they couldn't have painted or tiled the surfaces around the seating areas, instead leaving the area with a municipal-grey coloured concrete. And every now and then there is a smell of sewage, as a drain connected to Croc Lake empties. Oh for a well designed and kitted out Abuja bush bar...

As we sat and supped on our cool Stars, the Nigerian song which has the chorus, "Open the door to your heart make I enter" wafted through the speakers. A tingling bell of a thought rang in my head, which I've only just listened to. The song is an invitation to love, told in the language of the house-help. One only hears the expression, 'make I?' from maids when they want your permission to do something, like clean the floor. It is the language of subordination. The woman singing the tune carries a metaphorical tray, which she is about to set down in front of her oga, who is wearing a metaphorical agbada. Perhaps it is a large plate of pounded yam and stew. She will curtsy after she has placed it on his lap. He will grunt with satisfaction. When they make love she will call him Daddy, R Kelly-style.

Or have I got the song and its insinued meaning of 'make-I?' all wrong?

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Why MYA is slow...

You read stories like this one, and you realise that Yar'Adua has had to unravel all the mess of the previous administration before he can do anything else. Paying the Chinese an extra US$6bn plus throwing in a few choice oil blocks is not the way to build a rail infrastructure in Africa..

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Lagos driving - the rules have changed..


Click to enlarge and read. Drive the wrong way down a one-way street in Lagos at your peril from now on...

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And the days are not full enough...

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass

Ezra Pound's poem vibrates inside my head as the days pass by. I take my anti-malaria meds to kill off a bout of one-plus falciparum swimming in my blood. Rendering my Mountain of Death film takes 15 hours each time. Getting the right compression rate, ensuring the anamorphic 16:9 aspect ratio is retained and that the visual and audio fades work are therefore time-consuming processes. But its all good. There will be many more films to come..

We watched Manhattan last night at the film club. I'd forgotten Woody Allen's genius for neurotic dialogue. The discussion afterwards lingered on whether the relationships he portrays are true-to-life or camped up. The consensus was that he reflects quite perfectly the silly thoughts we often have when it comes to love and marriage.

Last week death came to our compound, quicksilver quick in the flash of a shroud. Orlando, one of the drivers for Alhaji downstairs, met his maker. It was shocking. He was there one moment, driving the white car in and out, blocking us in occasionally, and then he was gone. Abuja roads are dangerous, especially the Expressway. Imagine a place where the 95% or more of the population who drive have never had a driving lesson, being able to drive as fast they want, without regard to any rules such as slow lane vs fast lane or indicating you are turning off. There must be several road deaths each day in FCT. Rest well, Orlando.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Asylum

The best journalism challenges the way we think and shines light on the dark corners of our prejudice. This is one such example, on asylum seekers, speaking out against their vilification in the rabid tabloid press in the UK.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

N892bn dispersed to the States in May

Economic Confidential has a useful table of disbursements to the States for last month from the Federation Account. Rivers State alone received N42 billion naira! That's 180 million pounds/360 million dollars by the way. If only it was possible to see reconciled expenditure figures after the fact to see if the governors delivered value-for-money to citizens in their respective states. At present, transparent accounting and auditing of expenditure is not available..

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Baby farm

You can buy a baby for N340,000 in Enugu. Although the doctor in charge of the baby farm says they are actually for sale for N10-20,000. The story being from Dis Day, the journalist had not actually followed up and asked questions to the pregnant girls, so we don't know how much cut they were getting for providing the product.

Given that one's identity as a woman in Nigeria is defined by having children (no children = barren = useless), its no surprise that the baby farm business has cropped up to cater to the need.

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A snapshot of the Nigerian economy...

Bonga is Shell's largest FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) in the Gulf of Guinea, capable of processing 225,000 barrels of stabilised crude every day, and with tank space to store 2 million barrels.

In other words, this ship (in a deep offshore location) is a significant portion of Nigeria's entire economy. A Presidential Investigation Committee report on the Production Sharing Contracts (Bonga is part of a PSC agreement with the Federal Government) a couple of weeks ago indicated that Shell and Esso (which operates the Erha field) owe the Federal government potentially several billion dollars in unpaid revenue.

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Windfalls

The massive revenues the Saudis are earning from oil are being put to use - creating new cities, employing hundreds of thousands of people. See here and here. Quite what Nigeria is doing with its windfalls, no one knows. Various states dream of creating mini-Dubais (Dubai being the governor's wife's/wives'/girlfriend's shopping destination of choice), but whether that means more than spreading the love through construction contract kick-backs, we'll see...

Thanks to Nkem for the links.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Good 419

There should be a 419-awards. If there were, the writer of this one would at least get an IV to the ceremony, if not win a prize - perhaps in the category of 'Cosmic 419'. Thanks OO for forwarding it.

Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home

Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555 Misau Street
PMB 437 Garki, Abuja, FCT
NIGERIA


Dear Sir,

REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force
Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a
secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later
Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space
station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the
Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to
earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo.
There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going
since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

In the 14-years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated
flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American
Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and
Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place
a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return
flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $
3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we
need your assistance.

Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total
amount to your account for subsequent disbursement, since we as civil
servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service
Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.

Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is
enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the
transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental
expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of
the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent
to other accounts in due course.

Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include
downpayment in this financial quarter.

Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number
234 (0) 9-234-2220 only.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
mailto:tip@nasrda.gov.ng

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Freedom of Information

Good piece on the continued wrecking of the Freedom of Information Bill by Okey Ndibe, here. Until there is such legislation, observers are fully justified in asserting that the Nigerian govt is not serious about transparency and anti-corruption initiatives.

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Lagos - T5

"One Nigeria-bound passenger checked in 30 bags at T5 this morning - under BA guidelines, that would have cost around £1,700 in excess baggage payments."

"BA has set up special bag processing areas in T5's cavernous check-in hall for Lagos passengers, who check in more bags per customer than on any other BA route. According to airport sources today, BA staff regularly deal with mountains of baggage, the contents of which sometimes include machinery and car spare parts. However the boss of BA, Willie Walsh, told the Guardian this week he was expecting no problems from the Lagos routes."

Here.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Losing My Virginity

By Dele Olojede

On the evening of Monday June 9 I left my hotel in Abuja for the airport to catch an 8:25 flight on Virgin Nigeria to Lagos. Having been burned repeatedly by this hopeless airline, this was not my choice at all.

Earlier in the day I had received an sms from Aero, saying for technical reasons they regretted to inform me that the 7 p.m. flight I was scheduled to take to Lagos had been cancelled. What was more, Aero had followed up with a phone call, at least eight hours before the flight, to express their regrets and offer me a full refund.

I was expecting the worst from Virgin, and I got it.

I arrived at the airport at 7:10, a full hour and 15 minutes before departure, only to be told that the flight had been closed and I couldn’t get on it. Dumbfounded, I asked how that was possible. The hapless little lady at the check-in counter kept mouthing a meaningless “sorry, sir; sorry sir,” before coming up with the quite incredible explanation that the flight came early, so they checked in early, and now I couldn’t fly.

I had a choice to hit the roof and perhaps make a terrible scene. But as part of my on-going education regarding my re-entry into my native country, where anything that can go wrong is guaranteed to do so, I willed myself instead to ask, in my most even-tempered voice, how it was possible for her to wake up in the morning and go to work for a company that is so demonstrably hopeless.

She turned away and kept saying, in that lifeless, resigned sort of way, “sorry, sir; sorry sir.”

Soon enough some “supervisor” came by and said she could squeeze me into an economy seat, though Virgin had taken my cash for business class. I kept haranguing the staff how they could possibly be proud of a company that treats its customers with such contempt. Of course, there being no possibly defensible answer, they kept quiet. One said, again, “sorry sir. We will refund your ticket sir.”

So I walked to the aircraft to board. One fellow ran up to me with a hurriedly handwritten ticket—just as the boarding pass and the baggage tag had also been handwritten—as proof that Virgin owed me a refund.

I boarded and settled into Seat 5D, economy class.

We prepared to take off. The pilot apologized over the PA system for the more than one-hour delay of the flight. A-ha! So the flight was not early after all. It was late! And so, quite capriciously, the bright sparks at Virgin decided to combine the earlier flight with the 8:25 flight, with no further flights for the day, and tough luck for any customer expecting to fly at 8:25.

Virgin Nigeria lies.

As we prepared to take off, I took a look at the paper ticket, No. 1 786 5090007821 0, that had been handed to me. It stated at the top that the ticket is NON-REFUNDABLE! And it is merely “good for further transportation or excess baggage” on Virgin Nigeria only!

Virgin Nigeria cheats.

The aircraft trundled along the runway and prepared to take off. Dozens of mosquitoes buzzed around in the cabin. One bit me in the left foot.

Virgin Nigeria makes you sick.

Several weeks ago, while my wife and children were visiting, we had experienced another incident of the outrageous and contemptuous way in which Virgin Nigeria routinely treats its passengers. We had boarded a Lagos flight from Abuja and were walking to the tarmac to board, when we discovered that Virgin was herding us onto some unknown charter operator called Blue Fin. No previous warning, no explanation, no apology.

The aircraft was rickety old. Overhead compartments couldn’t close properly. Stuffing came out of the seats, and my daughter’s seat could not be made to stay in an upright position. Neither the pilot nor the cabin crew spoke a word of English. We avoided the food. We hoped for the best.

Virgin Nigeria lies and cheats and makes you sick.

It is clear the airline no longer has operational capabilities that can pass muster with any minimally competent regulator. But as in all things, our government leaves the citizens at the mercy of predators of all stripes. Since Richard Branson lends his name to this fraud, he can only be considered a fraud also. A liar, a cheat, and a flier of planes with malaria mosquitoes inside.

It is clear that an airline like Virgin Nigeria does not have what it takes to put planes in the air safely and efficiently. A company that is so dysfunctional cannot be trusted with the lives of citizens.

It is only a matter of time before Virgin Nigeria kills.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Thriller..

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Do the Hustle..

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Soulja Boy - for your Friday delectation..

Thanks Olly for the link.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Smoking ban in FCT

Talking of laws and non-laws, there is now a ban on smoking in public places in the FCT. Quite what 'public places' actually means does not seem to have been defined, or rather, it seems to mean, 'everywhere that is not your house buddy.' There are signs at the entrance of Millennium Park saying 'No Smoking'. Some poor sod was arrested for having a crafty fag outside his office last week.

I hate smoking and what it does to our bodies as much as the next person who's lost family members due to lung cancer, but isn't this going a little bit too far?

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Ban on spraying..


Nigerians (especially Yoruba), beware (lol).

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Man U vs Portsmouth: in Abuja, late July

Here.

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An Anecdoted Topography of Chance

So there I am, inching my way in traffic to the ring road at lunch time just now, when a car drives straight into the side of me, crumpling my back door and shearing off paintwork down to the silver metal underneath.

What the f... circulates rapidly in my head, with no quick exit through ears or nostrils.

I get out. The guy in the other car is already on his knees, begging me. His flip-flops look old and knackered. I ask him to get up, and then get a whiff of pure 130% ogoggoro (is that how you spell it?) breath. Drinking at lunch time: damn!

The obligatory crowd gathers to survey the scene - mostly newspaper vendors and passersby. A couple of cops then arrive on those fancy LAPD-style motorbikes they have here. The new improved Jeremy doesn't lose his temper at all.

The gist of the story I am collectively told is that this guy is a poor man. He cannot help to pay to unscrunch your car. It is better that you go. We are sorry o!

I make him sweat for a few more minutes before heading off.

I wonder if Sharon Stone would agree with me that this is a case of bad karma, or is it just the randomness of the universe unfolding in its usual capricious manner?

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Euro-fetishes

Just in case you thought object fetishism was some kind of Sub-Saharan African preserve (how could you?), check this story - Jane Austen's hair (maybe, maybe not) to be auctioned for 5000 quid. Haba.

Then think of all those vials of Christ's blood (as if!) and saintly bones in abbeys and cathedrals across Europe. Blood and bone. The remnants of a faith in shadowy, cloistered spaces.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

The prosperity of the head..

Yet another body parts/pastor story, here. N3,000 for a head seems quite cheap, but then they are Benin prices..

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Ngugi Wa Thiongo

Interview with Frank Bures, here (from the latest Africa Report) - PDF download.

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