Monday, January 18, 2010

So what's downtown Lagos like then, Jack?

Hairy, my friend. Very hairy indeed.

As I write, I'm sitting in a very nice restaurant in a very nice hotel on Victoria Island, in downtown Lagos. But this hotel is behind armoured gates, and Lagos airport was QUITE an experience.

A drunken Nigerian man fell down the escalator, as I was directed into a queue where I stood an hour waiting for three different people to examine, sign, and stamp my passport.

Military, everywhere.

Getting my bag was fun, too. I realised why so many Nigerians getting onto the plane at Heathrow were carrying such enormous carry-on bags, to avoid the further 45 minutes waiting for the bags to appear.

I have never been so relieved to see my bag in my life.

Fortunately, a nice oil-industry man in the queue had told me that if the customs people harassed me about 'nothing to declare', that the best thing to do was joke and banter with them, rather than acting like the usual 'dead supplicant' when faced with the blackshirts of the appalling US border guard system.

An armed bereted officer approached me at a run:

"Is there anything in these bags worth declaring?"

I looked him in the eye and smiled.

"Absolutely nothing, sir, absolutely nothing worth declaring."

"Are you sure my friend? Are you sure there's absolutely NOTHING worth declaring in these bags? He fingered his gun suggestively. (Oh, the tease.)

"100% confident, officer. Absolutely nothing worth declaring."

I held his gaze the entire time. He then laughed, patted me on the arm and said:

"Welcome to Nigeria."

Jesus H. Christ. What a place! 29 degrees Celsius and 100% humidity and no air-conditioning, and that's the international airport, surrounded by men with machine guns, pointing them at a boiling crowd of 'taxi drivers' and other assorted legions of people wanting money.

Then into the less-restricted area to face about 100 men trying to charge me for things I didn't want doing (surely aspiring bureaucrats) and then absolute relief because my lady was there with her driver, after I'd managed to shake off another three or four men tagging me for cash.

Thank Smegger.

Oh, and the drive. What a drive. People eating their evening meals between six lanes of traffic, cars with no lights, fifty-year-old trucks ramming up into the mirrors, motorcyclists everywhere, women in the road selling water from the top of their heads. Hordes of people crossing the MOTORWAY at all points. Columns of cars defying physics, horns beeping, no road markings, and no point wearing a seat belt as the 60-ton trucks cutting us up wouldn't have worried about it if they had hit.


What a place.

At least I'm through the government interface, the government-managed roads, and back into secure private-property sanity.

As the customs man said.

Welcome to Nigeria.

Still, it's better than downtown Slough, in Berkshire, on a Friday night. Now that really is the end of the Earth.


Gekko said...

Ha ha, far from the sanitised plastic facades of Dubai! What's going down in Lagos? Not another Mises convention surely ;-)

Anonymous said...

Libertarian anarchistic free marketeers to a man, although sometimes with a bit of rough

Jack Maturin said...

Strangely, despite its UTTER MADNESS, I quite like it.

No Mises convention, alas. Just poor ol' Jack trying to turn a crust in a commodities-rich country.

Come back Burkha ladies of Abu Dhabi, all is forgiven.

More soon, once I've figured out which way is south.

Mad as fish with mad poison in their veins.

Stuck in a small lift today with six Nigerians when the power went out. Never been stuck in a lift before.

The best reaction is simply to laugh.

What a place.

Sorry. Just saw an armoured personnel carrier drive by, with a large-calibre machine-gun swaying across the road.

Did I say it was MAD here?

Quite. Utterly. Mad.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jack Maturin said...

Comments in English, please.