Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nigeria: A Cashless Society?

One thing about us - we like to copy! And the newest thing in Nigeria is this lofty dream of making it a cashless society. Yes, I said lofty. Sue me!

Sure, living in a cashless society does have its perks. But I honestly do not think Nigerians are ready or equipped for the technicalities that come with it.

Uncle Sanusi, how far na?

Last I checked, Nigeria and America no dey the same level.

For starters, they have steady electricity and access to the internet. Transiting from a cash-based society to a cashless one means falling back on technology. It means human capital will be replaced with machines. Most, if not all machines require to use of electricity. Nigeria is nowhere near having steady electricity so wouldn't this be a case of putting the cart before the horse?

I read that some 300 Zenith Bank IT staff were sacked yesterday and the next set on the chopping board will be the bulk counters. Reason is, when we transit to a cashless society, we would no longer have need for those whose jobs are to count money.

For a country with a staggering rate of unemployment, it only gets worse.

From December 2011, CBN has mandated that it will restrict individual withdrawals to N150,000. Anybody who withdraws above the said amount will be charged N100 for every 1,000 exceeded by the limit. Seriously?! It is now a crime to withdraw your own money.

I read a Thisday columnist complain about her bank charging her because she gave someone a cheque for N50,000 and their justification was that she could have done an internet transfer instead. They conveniently assumed she had access to the internet and access to electricity for that matter.

As we speak, there are still villages in Nigeria that have no access to electricity. There are people who have never even seen a computer before talkless of knowing what the internet is.

What will happen is people will now start keeping large sums of money under their beds and armed robber will get enough motivation to remain in their trade.

Ordinary ATM that we use has caused enough wahala with lack of appropriate security measures employed by these banks. This new cashless society theory will be sure to see more yahoo boys repeatedly smiling to the banks.

Imagine doing something as simple as withdrawing cash from the ATM and having your bank debit your account twice and in some cases, not even dispensing cash at all. I remember when I wanted to pay my rent. The lawyer refused to accept a cheque for some odd reason. So i was left with the option of paying cash - I had to get some cash from the ATM to add to what I had already. I was about to make the last withdrawal of N20,000 and the cash wasn't dispensed yet I got a debit alert instantly.

I almost went crazy because I was working with a timeline - if I didn't pay for the house that day, someone else could take it and the lawyer was already waiting for me. I became almost frantic. I went into the bank whose ATM I had used and the Customer Service person looked at me sympathetically and said there was nothing he could do and instructed me to go clarify the issue with my bank

I got to my bank and they told me it could take up to 10 working days!!! 10days!! Why do I have to wait  2 weeks for an error caused by them. I was almost livid. I had to run around like a mad woman looking for where to borrow 20k because I had no other money.

This has happened to me more than once and I know a million people that have gone through similar situations. It's funny but I am beginning to suspect these banks do this deliberately.

Imagine if 100,000 Nigerians suffer this same thing everyday. And let's assume the amount is N20,000.

100,000 Nigerians X 20,000 = 2 billion Naira

And in most cases, they end up not giving you back your cash till 10 working days elapse.

Imagine what a bank can do with 2 billion Naira in 2 weeks. They could trade with that money and make insane interests in 2 weeks.

After they "borrow" 2 billion Naira from unsuspecting Nigerians, they give it back to us with 0% and we are supposed to go home smiling. Go and try to borrow money from your bank and hear the mad interest rates they'll give you.

So this issue of islamic banking (non-interest lending) didn't just crop up. They've been practicing it with unsuspecting customers since the beginning of time. Greedy people.

Mr Sanusi should know this though: Becoming a supposedly cashless society isn't going to make Nigeria one of the 20 most developed nations in the world as is his aim. Not even close.

Monday, July 25, 2011

God Bless The Broken Road

I set out on a narrow road many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true

That God bless the broken road
That led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent, just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost, and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there, you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that's coming true

I love love love this song by Rascal Flatts. I keep rehearsing with it for the day it'll finally be true for me. Yeah, you could call it a "faith song" perhaps.

The writer of this song talks about how every heart break he ever had led him to his true love.

For me though, this song has a deeper  meaning and goes beyond heartbreak and love.

The Broken Road signifies a place of wilderness. It is a place where everything seems to be going wrong. It is a place of sickness, poverty, frustration, sin, unemployment, dissatisfaction with life etc etc.

The Broken Road is not a nice road to go through. It is filled with rough bumps and potholes as big as gullies. It is never a smooth ride on the Broken Road. The bumps on this road keep tossing you back and forth, left and right. And if you are like me who gets car sick sometimes, this road will be your biggest nightmare.

When you are on the this road, the word 'temptation' comes alive in its full dimension. Ever wondered why satan always appears when we are at our weakest? When Jesus went up to the wilderness to fast for 40 days and nights, that was when satan decided he was best for him to be tempted. Because he knew Jesus was fasting and hadn't eaten food, he decided to capitalize on that by tempting him to turn stones to bread.

And he hasn't stopped since then. He's still very much in the business of tempting God's children. And guess when the idiot shows up? When we are at our weakest - when bumps and potholes are bouncing us up and down, left and right, sideways and upside down.

But the Broken Road is also a place of brokenness - it breaks you to the point where you can't help but cry out to God to change your situation. And when you get to that point where you are broken before God, that's where healing and restoration begins. That's where miracles happen.

Remember the woman with the issue of blood? She had been suffering in her own pool of blood for 12 years. 12 years no be beans. I have spent 2 weeks in the hospital before and it felt like eternity. Imagine being sick for 12 whole years! He blood was her Broken Road. And then one day, she heard Jesus was passing through and I guess she had reached her limit by then, she had gotten to the point where she could not bare it any more - the point of brokenness. And she said to herself "Omo, today this thing go end!" And through the crowd, despite the near impossibility, she touched the hem of His garment.

You see, this woman was desperate for a healing. She was broken. And this propelled her to get her miracle. And we know the rest.

God has been so faithful to me in 2011. I have a lot going for me this year that I could never have fathomed will happen to me a year ago. I moved to a town where I practically knew nobody and He just started blessing me in ways I never expected. Things that other people struggle years for, He gave them to me in a blink of an eye without any stress. The beautiful thing is, I was on the Broken Road last year. And my Broken Road has led me to my place of restoration.

I am not where I wanna be but mehn, I am so far ahead from where I used to be. I sit down and think back about all the pain I went through last year and I'm happy I went through all that pain. If I hadn't, I would still be living my life normally (not walking towards my purpose).

But thank God for His Grace! My Broken Road has led me to my place of purpose. It has led me to the REASON I was created. I haven't fully fulfilled that purpose yet. But I have started. And I couldn't be any happier. I can't stop being grateful to my God - The Restorer of Broken Roads.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

God Won't Clean Our Airports!

So the other weekend, I had to take a short trip home to see my mama and dada. I get to the ticket counter and I'm informed that I have to pay an extra thousand naira without explaining to me why. And the very rude "counter man" rudely told me it wasn't compulsory but he'd advise me to pay the fee. I asked him why I should pay when I do not know what I'm paying for.

I sha carried my bag and proceeded to enter the departure lounge. There comes this woman who says I can't get in till I pay for ***scrambled English I couldn't figure out**

And I asked aloud what **the thing** is and she says I should go back to my airline to get it without trying to explain what it is.

I go back to the airline I'm flying with and the counter man gave me a I-told-you-so look, very annoying! I just sha gave him the 1k because I was too tired and I obviously wasn't gonna get in without it.

It was a little ticket with "Passenger Service Charge" written on it. As was indicated, it was a FAAN (Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria) "initiative"! How the word "initiative" is grossly misused in Nigeria beats me.

I was sooooooooo angry! Surely, my anger was justified. With this silent anger, the screening lady tells me to take off my shoes before I pass through. I ordinarily wouldn't mind this except ermmm a thousand people before me just passed without even dropping their bags, having "settled" the screening lady!

Which kain country be this? That was all I kept asking myself. I grudgingly took off my shoes and the detector still beeped anyway. She wasn't even bothered. Some months ago, we took off belts, wristwatches, you name it and now, they really can't be bothered. Inconsistency really is our watchword in Nigeria.

And now, to the thing that REALLY made me ANGRY. So angry that, 2 weeks later, I'm still very irked about the issue. It was a Friday and the departure lounge was jammed with people waiting for their flights. At the point I was there, there were no less than 500 people in there. And this is me trying to be conservative with figures.

The accountant in me quickly did the Math - N1,000 X 500 people = N500,000

Obviously, over a thousand people had travelled from that airport on that day alone. But what I was concerned with was the people are I could currently see. At that point, FAAN was N500k richer and yet we were dying inside heat. I was afraid to yawn because I was scared cobwebs would fall inside my mouth. More than half the very dirty ceiling fans were not working. Ventilation was almost zero. In this day and age, ABUJA AIRPORT still uses louvres! Not just louvres but very very very dirty half-broken ones.

Let's not talk about the horrible toilets! No, God, no!!

By the way, why do all those airport female voices that make the announcements sound so annoying - like nails on a chalkboard? Just wondering.......

There were a handful of air-conditioning units and none were working. If this were Benin Airport, maybe I wouldn't have been so angry. And by the way, Benin has the worst airport I have ever seen in my entire life. I flew through there once and I almost thought I was in a dream...

Anyways, back to the airport in Nigeria's CAPITAL City - I looked around the airport and everybody seemed normal. Was I the only mad person here??

The sad thing about Nigeria is that ABNORMAL things have become the NORM. Doesn't that make us mad people? We see kids hawking pure water by 11am on a Monday morning and it's normal...

Now, 1k isn't too much money. But if FAAN makes up to a million naira everyday just from Abuja Airport, surely we should be entitled to clean toilets, air conditioning, or atleast fans that work.

This airport thing sha has me going mad. Someone in my office was talking about it today and my feelings of anger have been resurrected. Somebody, somewhere will just sit down and his or her office and devise a way to chop free money and we have no say in the matter. As if the air fares (which they increase per second) isn't high enough!

May God save us! But we can also make some small human effort(s) to save ourselves. As powerful as God is, He isn't gonna come down and build clean airports for us!