Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Visit to Nigeria

We spent the week in Lagos last week…

What a country! I thought Abidjan was full of contrasts – mostly due to the disparity between the French neo-colonialists and the poor masses, with a good dose of modern corrupt tribal African politics… Nigeria has managed to take this to a whole different level.

We actually went to the Opera at the Yacht Club on Saturday night. In Lagos! Imagine a subculture of Expats functioning within a country of over 120 million people where poverty, pollution and corruption abound. These people take their drivers through the insane city streets, arriving at selected destinations that include an American run Mexican restaurant, (serving pitchers of Margheritas at over USD $40 each!), the famous Yacht club, a variety of shopping malls and supermarkets, Thai and Sushi restaurants, steak houses, tennis clubs, hotels etc etc… There are book clubs and International school PTA events and other activities to keep a kept Expat wife busy between her trips abroad. And all this in the midst of a nation ridden with corruption and violence and near complete upheaval. And the elections are right around the corner – due to take place in April. But of course all the Expats will be on vacation during those few weeks. The outcome is completely unknown, but the stakes are high.

Considering Nigeria is about the 6th largest oil producer in the world, the revenue that comes into the country on a daily basis is massive. The government controls and squanders unaccountable amounts of this. $600billion over the past half a decade at least. Being in power basically means access to billions, and some are willing and ready to kill for that position. It puts a whole new slant on democracy and the concept of free and fair elections!

Kidnappings of Expat oilworkers is at about 5 a week over the past couple of months, as local villages are suffering the effects of the oil plants, with no tangible benefit. Meanwhile the percentages paid by these companies to the governments disappear as soon as they are received. The result is a corrupt government turning a blind eye and the villagers seeing the white devil in close proximity. The laws are weak and the enforcement is non-existent. The boys are poor and desperate and the outcome is

disastrous.

This being said, we all manage to eek out our slice of the swirling money pie that hovers around the top circles in Nigeria, and business survives.. in a very Darwinian fashion!

See more of these amazing pictures in the Vanity Fair article.

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