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Eating the Money.

Eating the Money.

If ever I was to write the book of my time in Nigeria it would have to be called “Eating the Money”, it has after all become, without question, my favourite phrase during my short time in Naija. Other ways of describing it are “Chop Chop” or “Small Smalls”, but they to me are more based on the inbred mindset of corruption that is a massive aspect of life here.

Eating the money is almost a cute, funny, form of corruption. Although when it comes to certain vast sums it is also very annoying. So let me describe just what this is all about and for me the easiest way is to convey a true story that was told to me.

On Obudu mountain a few years ago we had an ambulance. A fairly basic vehicle used for the purpose of rescuing the sick and getting them to the nearest hospital, which is sometimes many hours drive away. A member of staff was in need of some money and decided that easiest way was to steal the engine, after all the ambulance was not used that much. So he took out the engine and headed into town to sell it. By the time he got back, having sold the engine, having eaten the money made, he was confronted. “Yep I did it” was possible all that he could say. He was then given more money to go back down the mountain to buy back the engine and off he went on his mission. He came back a day later, no engine, but a full belly once more. “I could not afford the engine, because I needed to eat some of money, I was hungry”. And that is Naija in a nutshell.

There are of course a vast list of such stories, and just like this one, most are just so unbelievable it is a little scary. But believe me they are all true and all equally amazing. For me it is a great example of the Nigerian mindset that I have come across so much since I arrived here last December. It is all about living for the day, life in the present, and no thought towards tomorrow.

Nigerian is a vast, powerful nation, it is a proud nation and is the one African country that could, and should, rule the rest. Having had oil money for decades now, it still remains one of the world’s top producers and will remain so for at least another 30 years, but the amount of future proofing and re-investment that happens here is minimal. One reason for this is that the masses are not protesting for such action. They either accept the status quo, or just do not have the belief that it would be worthwhile. As long as they see tomorrow they are happy, and in the south they will be thanking Jesus over and over again for the gift of seeing another day.

However this is the nation that should be the all powerful of the African continent. It is vast, oil rich, climate rich, land rich, and people rich. Yet it cannot even get to the point of supplying electricity, and for me one reason for this is the culture and acceptance of eating the money. Everything here costs more that it should because this weird form of taxation is rife in just about every aspect of business life. Another form of this is the element of “petrol money”. A while ago I had the pleasure of having a representative of the tax office visit me. He wanted overdue company taxes, he knew I was not in a position to pay him before travelling to see me. But after the meeting he openly asked for his “petrol money” to travel back home. The actual amount would be around N5000, he of course would already have this fuel in his business car, but demanded N150k “Petrol Money” and knows exactly how to apply the right amount of pressure to get this money for himself. And of course you have no hope of getting a receipt, so straight away you have to start cooking your books to cover for it, and this from the tax man himself. TNB (That’s Nigeria Baby)  


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