Though not noted in the article, Lagos traders have been affected by insecurity in the North. Traders from Chad and Niger used to travel to northern cities like Kano to buy cloth, clothes from China, electronics, etc. The Kano wholesale/retailers in turn traveled to Lagos to supply their shops. Because of insecurity in the North, now, traders from neighboring countries don’t travel to Kano, and Lagos traders have thus lost some of their biggest customers, the Kano-based wholesale/retailers.
Katie Rhine, a an anthropologist from University of Kansas and my moral compass/guiding light/model researcher/inspiration in Nigeria, tells us how to avoid being extorted on the road in Lagos. She first explains how to avoid getting pulled over in the first place, and then offers step-by-step instructions to diffuse the situation. Some excerpts:
Step Six: Ask the police man, “Well, what can we do?” He will say he has to call his oga [boss]. He will ask you for an exorbitant amount of money [Say 50,000 naira (~$420)]. Tell him that the government gave him this job because they have complete faith in him that he is a responsible and competent person. Tell him that there is no need to call his boss. This is also a good time to try and let him know that you too would have to call your oga at the top [boss], and neither of you want to delay one another, when the matter can be settled between the two of you.
Step Seven: Pull out the wallet you keep inside your dashboard explicitly for these occasions. Keep a few thousand naira in there at most. Show him this wallet and tell him that this is all the money that you have, and even then, you can’t give him all of it, because [and point at your fuel gauge] you are going to need to buy petrol along the way (or any other need for this money that you can think of). And, in addition, this isn’t even your money. It’s the money your boss gave you in case an emergency happens on the road. In fact, you are going to have to account for that money when you reach the office, but you think you can take care of that inconsistency. Offer him 1000 naira.
Step Eight: He may tell you that that is not enough and that you should carry him to the ATM machine to take out money for him. In this case, you should tell him that you don’t use those things. As a foreigner, say they won’t work for you. In fact, your employer takes care of these needs and doesn’t leave you with cash. Try not to let the negotiation to reach the point of going to an ATM. Tell him to please just take the money you have.
Step Nine: Give whatever money is in your wallet. If you only lose 2000 naira or so, you should feel ok about yourself. You tried.
If you are looking to be affiliated with an institution while conducting research in Lagos, I strongly recommend considering the Center for Public Policy Alternatives (CPPA), a think tank in City Hall (centrally located on Lagos Island). CPPA is looking for interns in masters-level programs, doctoral students, or affiliated researchers who possess strong statistical and data management skills and are able to assist with statistical analysis and conduct statistics-related trainings with their staff. They are also looking for people with strong writing skills. In return, CPPA could provide a small stipend for interns (doctoral students must be self- or grant-funded), office space (their offices are gorgeous, air conditioned, and have fast internet) and research support, such as contacts and advice. Periods of stay for visiting researchers and interns range from 3-12 months. There might be opportunities for travel within sub-Saharan Africa, which would be financed by CPPA.
CPPA especially welcomes interest from people who do research on one of their focus areas:
-Food and agribusiness
I have worked with CPPA, and it’s a great professional environment with enthusiastic and smart colleagues. If interested, contact Dr. Pacheco: email@example.com, and info@cpparesearch.
It is waste of a degree that, if we curtailed it, will provide enough in savings to fight and reduce poverty. I cannot categorise all of it, but we live through it every day and I will only refer to some examples to illustrate what I mean.
Are you aware that each text message you send costs N5 on average? How many text messages do you send to wish people a happy new year, happy new day, happy new week, happy new Friday, happy new Sunday and happy new month?
How many people did you send them to and how many days a week do you send them? Please do the arithmetic and see how much it comes to in a year and how much food it could have provided for your family. How many people did you invite and feed at your child’s wedding or the funeral of a deceased relative?
Could you really afford it? How many of the people you invited are your relatives, friends or people you know? Would the wedding or funeral still have held if you invited fewer people? Did you borrow money for the event or were you broke or short of cash after the event?
Could you fairly and honestly complain that the economy is bad if you make the choice to be extravagant? Beyond a grave, coffin, shroud and officiating minister, what does it take to bury our dead? How many of your cousins, friends, relations have come to seek assistance for as little as N100, 000 to start a business from you?
As governor, Fashola might not need to text people happy new year to maintain social bonds. But for most Nigerians this is a credible and relatively inexpensive way to signal an investment in a relationship. How will a young man get that N100,000 loan from his uncle if he hasn’t stayed in touch over the years? Maybe the funeral thing is more complicated, but Fashola’s stance on SMS greetings seems privileged and wrong.
An excerpt from a neat article on Chinese in Lagos from Irene Yuan Sun in the Nigerian Guardian: (H/t to Eliot)
I played along, relaying the question [from the Chinese man] to the Nigerian in English. After all, I wanted to get my interview.
“Blue jeans are contraband, so it will cost N5.5 million,” the Nigerian explained, in English.
I relayed the information back to the two Chinese men, who were taken aback at the steep price. They asked me to double-check, and indeed, the price was N5.5 million. The Nigerian re-emphasised that the importation of blue jeans is illegal.
Later on, I looked into the history of textile import regulations in Nigeria. [...]
[In 2010], the government announced the lifting of the textile import ban and replaced it with tariffs of 10 – 20 percent. The logic was that if textiles were going to flow into the country anyway, Nigeria as a country should benefit by collecting tariffs [...]
However, as the situation I happened to walk into illustrates, laws that exist on paper are often ignored in real life. Most Chinese businesspeople I spoke to as part of my research believed that the textile importation ban is still in effect. And in a way, they are right: as long as customs officials continue to demand side payments for legal products to enter, they have no choice but to pay up.
In the afternoons, quiet little groups of the culture set sit with their computers and coffees, taking advantage of the free WiFi and enjoying the tranquil, alternative Lagos, an echo of the hipster hangouts of Islington, in London, and Brooklyn. If the hotel bars at the Radisson Blu and the Eko Hotel are the places to find wealthy and eager-to-be-wealthy businessmen, then Bogobiri is where one is most likely to encounter graduate students in anthropology, independent filmmakers or owners of fashion houses.