10 November 2016

Is NIBSS mCash the solution to Nigeria's change problem?

One afternoon back in 2013 or 2014, I was in a danfo bus on Ikorodu road, Lagos when I had a lightbulb moment. The bus fare collector (conductor) did not have enough small notes to make change for me immediately, so I had to wait till he was able to find some. Being in this waiting situation is something that most Lagosians will eagerly avoid because of the following reasons:
  • you're scared the conductor has intentions of making away with your change, so he probably won't remind you before you step off if you forget to ask. This happened to me once in 2008 when I had just got into University and I could be described as a novice Lagos commuter. Before then, mummy used to haul me everywhere


An idea I had in 2014 on how to alleviate the "there is no change" hassle which small businesses and their customers face day-in-day-out in Lagos, Nigeria. I posted it here because I had to refer to it in another post where I talk about a new solution by NIBSS (mCash) which has the potential to solve this problem.

This is a technology solution that aims to alleviate the problem of scarcity of denominations in business. It aims to do this by providing a platform through which any participating merchant can issue change to customers and then, customers can subsequently redeem their change from at any other participating merchant’s business.

The model works thus:

24 October 2016

Beating a red traffic light in Lagos

This morning, sometime between 5:15 and 5:30, I beat a red light. I was on the way to work and ain't nobody got time on a Monday morning to wait for a redundant red light. Every second matters in ensuring I do not get to participate in rush hour traffic which is something I actively try to avoid in my life.

The light at the Adekunle-Third mainland intersection turned red just as I was going to reach the junction where it stands. And fair enough, I waited for a few seconds until the vehicles that had right of way were out of the way. I mean, the closest car to which my passage could have been an obstruction was at least, five seconds away, even if he was driving a zero to 60 in 3 seconds Buggati. Ok, I'm not so sure about the Buggati thing cos' those things can speed up like crazy, but come on, what are the chances at Ebute Metta on a Monday morning!

As I ascended the Third Mainland bridge from Adekunle, I saw light from a motorcycle headlamp in my rearview mirror and I wondered for a moment if that could be the MOPOL coming for me on his power bike. However, as my car gained speed, the single light disappeared into the distance and I knew that once again, I had successfully gotten away with breaking the law.

Just this Saturday, I was chatting with a friend and we broached the topic of beating red lights in Nigeria. He's a lawyer and we were talking about the bribing culture in Nigeria and how Nigeria is just such a fucked place where we could use some discipline. I told him of how I usually beat red lights in the morning on my way to work, and he told me how if I was in the UK, I would definitely be apprehended. Fortunately, we're in Nigeria where pretty much anything goes unless you're very unlucky.

On a related note, it was sort of a culture shock to me to notice some months ago how traffic compliance rates are so wide apart on the island and on the mainland. I had not been to the mainland for several consecutive months. So when I drove to Agege to visit my folks for the weekend, it was interesting to find that almost no one obeys the traffic lights, whether day or night. Comparatively, the compliance rates are pretty high on the Island. I can pin it down to the fact that the less elite are being influenced by the elite? Or perhaps it's the fact that the roads are generally better. Who knows!

Well, as they say, everyday is for the thief and just one day is for the owner. So, even though the following justifications are unlikely to make the policeman let me go scot free, if I word things correctly, I might be able to get a discount on my bribe if I get caught:

  • I just copied the car in front of me; why can't you catch him too!
  • The traffic lights should be more intelligent and not delay me unnecessarily when there is virtually no other vehicle on the road
  • Waiting too long on one spot is dangerous in the early morning hours
  • Ise esu ni (it was the work of the devil) 
  • I am colour-blind

On a final note, please ensure you shine your eyes if you are thinking of emulating me. Make sure there is no Police van or bike parked discreetly in the vicinity of the traffic light. Also, for the sake of (your) life and property, be sure that there is next to no chance that your illegal passage will coincide with the passage of any vehicle which has right of way. Cos' if any accident occurs as a result, then you will be absolutely done for.

You know, I'm wondering. What if the responsible Law Enforcement Agent were to stumble upon this post where I'm admitting to a traffic crime, would this be an automatic guilty sentence for me?

9 October 2016

Renting a place in Lagos

  • Go with a friend for a trusted second opinion
  • If you value your time, shun offline and go online. You don't have to use an agent referred by a friend. Most online listings (at least on Nigeria Property Centre) have legit agents behind them. Doing your hunt online will save you the trouble of visiting unpalatable places, because quality listings contain all the information and pictures that will help you decide if this is even something you want to go inspect.  
  •  My house search took me only two days of inspection and the period from deciding I wanted a place to finding a place was only 8 days. And only because I did not have time to inspect on 6 of those 8 days.

One dull Saturday night, right in the middle of August, I suddenly got inspiration to start searching for my own place. At the time, I was living in my awesome brother-in-law's spacious flat, a fifteen-minute drive away from my workplace; very convenient. However, I'd been there for a year and counting and it only makes sense that I was considering moving out, after having been accommodated completely free for that long.

House-hunting had always been something that I shied away from because I had zero experience in it and by general opinion, it was guaranteed to be a tedious endeavour. At the top of my mind were the stories of people who got swindled by dubious agents that rented the same space to multiple people. I had also heard/read of stories of agents who took their clients to horrible spaces and still demanded payment for the service at the end of such fruitless endeavours.

According to all my friends who lived in rented spaces that I consulted, the only way to avoid all of these pitfalls was to work with a friend's (trusted) agent. Not a bad idea in itself, but then I had trouble accepting the suggestion that I ignore all the online directories and put all of my hope in one man. I'm like, why stick to the traditional approach of doing this if there are good technology solutions that can help you do it much more efficiently. Enter property listing websites.

5 October 2016

Kayaking in the Lagos lagoon

Thanks to the weekly newsletter from NTDIL (Nothing to do in Lagos) and to KayakLagos, I got to fulfil my longstanding dream to ride a kayak this Monday. It was a public holiday. Yes, Monday is the best day for a public holiday to fall on because #weAllHateMondays.

The first time I ever heard of or saw a kayak was some ten years ago.

Oh my; please permit me to rave about how I cannot freaking believe that ten years have passed since my final year in high school. OMG, I'm so old.

I was first exposed to kayaking when I went to the Citizenship and Leadership training centre at Sea school, Lagos. As part of the training, each watch (group/platoon) was assigned a time to kayak. When our turn came, I and several other students gathered at the shoreline just behind the hostel block. Of course, there was an instructor with us. There were one-man and two-man kayaks and right now, I cannot recall which type I got into. No. What I can remember from my introduction to kayaking are as follows:

4 October 2016

First working day after moving to the mainland

Just before logging off on Sunday night, I set my alarm to wake me up by 4:30 so I would be on the road to work, latest by 5.15 Monday morning. I had recently moved from Lekki to Yaba (UNILAG area) and with my workplace in VI, I wanted to make sure the increase in my daily commute would not be so high as to be murderous. So, the simple solution was for me was to leave early enough to avoid the rush-hour traffic.

Alas, I woke up just a few minutes to six on Monday to a phone call. Either I had not set the alarm correctly or my body just decided to ignore it anyway. Fortunately, there was an issue early in the morning at work for which my attention was needed. Only God knows what time I would have woken up if my colleague Cyril had not called me when he did. I scrambled to get ready quicker than I usually would and in about thirty minutes, I hit the road. Trust me, thirty minutes is impressive when it comes to me getting ready.

Thankfully, I parked my car at a good spot in the compound i.e. one where no other car was blocking my way out. I got on the road at 6:30 and there was little congestion on the road up till the point of the Third mainland bridge (3MB) where traffic coming through Adekunle merges with traffic coming through Oworonshoki. As I pressed on the breaks, nostalgia of my days in my last job when I had to wade through this traffic every single day washed over me. Now I think nostalgia is not the right word to use here, because, for me, there's nothing desirable about driving through slow-moving traffic. I was shocked to realize that the last time I was in this traffic was well over a year ago. You don't know what you have until you lose it.

It took me 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to work that morning. On weekends when there are no congestions, the drive to work from my new place at Yaba is at most, twenty minutes. So travel time triples in morning rush-hour on 3MB. Who knows what the multiplier might have been, had I left home at 7?

I made up my mind that morning that this was not going to be the norm. I was gonna be an early riser to avoid wasting time driving mindlessly through traffic; time that could be invested elsewhere. After all, when I lived in Lekki, I spent an average of only 17 minutes commuting to work in the morning. True to my word, that first morning was the last time I ever got caught up in rush-hour congestion on the way to work.

Over time, I've also discovered that 8:30pm is the ideal time in the evening to leave from Victoria Island to Yaba in Lagos on a regular weekday. At that time, the 3MB route from V.I. to Yaba is more or less as congestion-free as it usually is (in the opposite direction) between 5 and 6 in the morning. Happy commuting through the madness of Lagos.

17 August 2016

First day in (High school diaries Vol. 1)

The key events of my first day in the hostel of Federal Government College, Ijanikin, Lagos remain evergreen in my memory. I spent six full years in the hostels of the school and no one could have prepared me for the experience.

It was on a Friday afternoon in late 2001 (15 years ago) that I first set foot on the hostel grounds of Ijanikin. I had been to the school earlier for registration activities but I only went as far as the administration complex which is just by the school's main gates. Mum drove me from our place in Ilasamaja, Mushin together with all my sparkling new and well marked belongings to Ijanikin. Ijanikin comes just after Okoko on the Lagos-Badagry expressway.

Once I was properly checked in and I had settled in i.e. bunk assigned, bed laid and all belongings carefully arranged into my wooden locker, mum bade me farewell, leaving me to face a day on my own for the first time ever. I did not have anyone tell me what to expect so I was not in the smallest bit afraid of life in the boarding house. Naiveté can be a great thing sometimes. I did not remain naive for long though. In the future, my eyes would fill with hot uncontrollable tears as I watched my mum depart from me.

21 June 2016

My typical weekday routine

Whenever I set out out to write about this kind of personal topic, the first thought that my handy procrastinator throws at me is: "Who gives a bleeping fuck about this; everyone has their own day to worry about anyway. So, go get a life, sucker cos no one's gonna read this"! 

However, from experience (mainly of me being a consumer of seemingly too-personal details of other people's lives on the internet), I've found that it's not always that obvious how talking about yourself can be of benefit to others. But I know how much reading about and watching others' lives has benefited me.

So, here we go into that fun ride known as my weekday routine: 

Getting set (4 to 5:40 hrs)

I wake up between 4 and 4:30 most days. My days of snoozing the alarm are long gone. A lot of the time, I do not hear the alarm until it has rung for about 5 minutes. But then, once I gain consciousness, that's it. I'm up and ready to go.

I get up, and go about the following activities in no set order:
- down a glass of water

- empty my bladder and if necessary, the other wastage storage chamber

- brush my teeth (depending on how early I wake, and some miscellanous activity that might creep in to lengthen my getting set time, I sometimes defer this to be done at work *grin*)

5 June 2016

Fine boy; made in Lekki

Trust me. Even though I'm absolutely narcissistic, I don't usually express it in the usual way of taking endless pictures of myself and uploading them online.

But this time, it's totally different. I just cannot get enough of the fun twist that my new haircut just added to my look. I am excited, and you know what I do when I'm excited about anything? I write about it because I just wanna share it with someone, but then, I'm the prince of Solitude. Secondly, I'm usually disappointed when someone's reaction to something I'm excited about is at best, "that's nice", which is often the case.

For the first time in probably a decade, when the barber asked what style, I did not respond with "low cut". And it was totally premeditated.

I'd always been plain and unadventurous when it comes to haircuts and if not that I read Peter Nguyen [of the essential man's  piece sometime in the past few weeks, my response would probably have been as usual. [relevant clipping of the piece is included below]

Thankfully, I read it, and who am I to pass on an opportunity to add "that edge" to my look. No way!

I hope my boss doesn't get so jealous, he asks me to go do low-cut when I show up to work in my shimmering new look tomorrow [please, don't tell him I said that].

- It took a little over one hour (wasn't counting but it was like forever; meticulous barber, that one was)

- It cost me 1500 (must cheapskate always rear its ugly head in all of my articles? Ugh!)

- I felt absolutely pampered with the treatment that my scalp got at the end of the session. First, damp warm towel mop around the perimeter of my hair (for sterilisation, I guess). Next came a spray of some cool methylated liquid over the scalp while simultaneously having a blow dryer applied on it, multiplying the tingliness of the treatment. The only word that adequately describes my sensations in that moment is "mesmerized". I was so delighted, I could not mask it [as much as I would have wanted to]. What's the fad with feeling guilty about pleasure though? I should totally junk that from my life.

Now, I'm going right back to work. A lot more articles in the pipeline but the work that is feeding me just won't let me complete any piece. Only by the grace of the adrenaline rush that having your narcissism appealed to was I able to complete this one.

Ciao; thanks for sharing this moment with me.

8 May 2016

Meet the worst airline in Nigeria: Aero Contractors

When you cancel my flight (same one), twice, on two consecutive days and do not express even the least bit of empathy; this is what you get. Of course, considering my narrow flying experience, this conclusion is at best, hasty. Knowing my country for what it is, I honestly cannot expect much better behaviour from any other organisation operating in the aviation transport space.

Having said that, I will now go ahead to narrate my ordeal in the hands of Aero contractors airline.

- My return (Aero contractors) flight from Uyo to Lagos was originally scheduled for (last) Tuesday afternoon

- I received an SMS message from Aero on Monday afternoon, announcing the cancellation of my Tuesday flight. The message cited "Operational reasons".

- Since I wouldn't let this bad news ruin my amazing Monday, I called Aero's customer service line (+234 1 628 4140) on Tuesday morning. I took the only option I had: have the flight rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

- On Tuesday afternoon, I got a replica of the SMS message I'd received on Monday afternoon, except that it was now my Wednesday flight that had been cancelled.

Aero contractors Nigeria; cancelled flights
Aero contractors Nigeria; cancelled flights