Yesterday, I ran a couple of errands that had me go through LASUTH, Opebi, Ikosi and CMD Roads. Every stop I made brought new revelations that made me marvel at how fast things are retrogressing and how hard the government is trying to reward people’s tenacity with frustration.
My first stop was at a friend’s office in Opebi, to pick up the aso-ebi for his wedding, which is holding next week. While I was with him, his intercom kept going off and he’d repeat into the receiver, ‘I’m in a meeting. I said I’m in a meeting’. After the third such call, I asked if he needed to be elsewhere. Then he explained that a group of people from one of the many Lagos State government agencies were in the reception insisting on seeing a senior officer. This was the third team visiting this week (as at Wednesday) allegedly to ‘audit’ the company account.
Of course, he was reluctant to see them. The company he works for, an advertising agency, has already laid off half its staff in the last twelve months just to stay afloat. Parking is no longer a problem for guests as the hitherto inadequate car park now boasts only a few cars, a testament to slow business and the reduced staff strength. Yet the government is more desperate than ever to bite off whatever it is that is keeping this company open. As my friend saw me to my car, we walked past the team of 3 – donning black polo shirts with the Lagos state colour symbols on their arms. I shook my head wondering how the conversation would go.
Still smarting from that, I proceeded to the Lagos State High Court on Oba Akinjobi Road. I needed to swear an affidavit. As a Lagos girl, I parked outside and made sure to avoid the court touts who saw me arrive in a car. Then I went straight to those tiny buildings on your right, just by the fence, inside the court premises. To my surprise, the former office now carried a chalk inscription saying ‘mosque’. There were maybe another 20 touts and photographers hanging around there and one (who couldn’t be older than 21) approached me. He billed me ₦1500 for ‘typing’ the document, and securing the court stamp. He wouldn’t take less than ₦1000.
I was last here in 2007, when I lost my wallet along with a couple of I.Ds and bank cards. My entire transaction at the time took place in this ‘mosque’ for a few hundred bucks. My kid brother, who also swore an affidavit two months ago, said he spent less than ₦500,. so why pay this third party ₦1000? I tried to find the legal route even though everyone around me were interested in helping me in another way. A security officer later pointed me to the building where I could ‘stamp’ my ‘typed’ document (which was what I asked him).
On getting there, it was another tout (who I first thought to be an officer) that led me out to the reserved car park and asked that I wrote out my particulars: Name, Religion, Address, correct and incorrect dates of birth. Then he said, ‘your money na one-two (₦1200)’. I was already tired from walking around in the sun. With my car key firmly tucked away in my bag, I proceeded to negotiate. ‘Ha oga! Na ₦1000 dey my hand o and I go enter transport go house. I dey stay for Ketu. Make I give you ₦700.’
My brothers and sisters, this man gave me a seat in another building, and left for a couple of minutes. He returned with a COMPUTER PRINTED document, asked me to cross-check my details, collected the 1k note and went for the stamps. About 15 minutes later, my transaction was done. I walked out to my car wondering how our systems are created with deliberate loopholes to service corruption. What’s wrong with hosting a website where anyone can download these documents so that completed ones are physically presented for stamping in court? Why the ‘type’ scare when computer print outs are also acceptable?
As I journeyed home I saw hawkers scamper with their wares as zealous green-uniformed men (and women) jumped down from a black van. Ikeja is the state capital and hawking is forbidden. CMD Road and environs are currently under fire with demolition of ‘illegal’ structures going on left and right. Many of these house small businesses run by their CEOs and a handful of workers. As the economy crumbles and big organisations downsize, Lagos wages war against people trying to make ends meet legitimately. A friend who has produced her own juice in her Mum’s backyard, and is now trying to set up her factory, approached NAFDAC for approval. NAFDAC referred her to a consultant who she MUST ‘work’ with. I leave the rest of the story to your imagination.
When the hubby came home and I narrated my court experience cum negotiation tactic, he said: “Welcome to being a criminal. Lying in a courthouse is perjury.”
My reply? “I wasn’t under oath, please.” Sigh. The things Nigeria make you do.