Sweating it out in Nigeria

National Mosque, Abuja, Nigeria
Work has brought me to the capital of Nigeria – Abuja. Abuja immediately brings to mind two places – Houston with its wide highways, (always being widened further) tail-gating drivers, high humidty and the necessity of driving between any two locations or risk being stared at for being wierd (if they don’t just run you over); and Milton Keynes which, when I was growing up there, was a mass of building sites, roundabouts and pretty much zero sense if it being a place. Add to that a smattering of Africa – impromptu restaraunts between building plots, people hawking out of containers carried on their heads, and a distinct lack of electricity where and when you really need it. There you have Abuja.

I’m setting up the IT part of the new office here. That’s where the electricity outage really gets in the way. Computers and networks and internet connections all need electricity. This part of town only gets electricity during night-time hours, despite it being part of the city that only has offices, government ministries and banks. So the place hums with the sound of a hundred and fifty generators. Except for our building. I’m told the generator here blew a gasket. I thought that was something they only said in cartoons.

This morning when I arrived, there were lights in the foyer. I thought this might turn into a super productive day, but as the lift reached the sixth floor, everything went dark – we’d caught the last five minutes of electricity from the power company. After levering the lift door open I tried to figure out what to do with the rest of the day. The network cabling is 90% done (need electricity to check it actually works). The partitioners are 60% done (need electricity to cut a hole in the frame so we can pass network cables). The internet connection people were due in this morning, but we won’t be online without electricity. How frustrating.

Luckily I am able to connect with my battery powered laptop to some unsuspecting soul’s wireless network. Which lets me check my email and see what is going on in the world. I also got to work on a proper scaled floor plan of the office with the down time.

This time last week I was in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Freetown is a different kind of place altogether. It is more humid than Abuja, and electricity is only on two or three hours a month. This is made up for by fantastic seafood and the fact that everyone has a generator running all the time.

I quickly managed to infect my flash disk with a boot sector virus, which seemed to wipe out all my data. This seemed to happen by leaving the flash drive plugged in while rebooting someone else’s computer. I had to format the drive to get rid of the virus. I didn’t have time to disinfect the computer that infected my drive. Boot sector viruses are tricky to fix. Annoyingly, Symantec Corporate Edition does not provide the facility for this. Yet another point against this increasingly pointless bit of software.

Asides from this, the office in Freetown was remarkably straight forward. The fears of trojan horses and ferocious levels of file sharing proved to be unfounded. The explanation for the slow internet connection I was supposed to sort out seems to be high expectations from the users of the connection. Satellite always feels a bit slow because of the latency. Having a shared downlink also means the speed is not consistant.

Beach in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Outside of office work, I managed to spend a morning on the beach in Freetown. There were maybe thirty energetic football matches going on along the beach. I stopped at a bar for a couple of beers to watch the world go by. I ate a rather unripe mango which was carefully cut into tear of segments, and sprinkled with salt and curry powder. Not sure how I felt about that – it wasn’t unpleasant, but surely not the best way to enjoy mango. Maybe unripe mango though – it wasn’t quite the season.

Lynda, the country rep in Sierra Leone took me to a beautiful restaurant about an hours drive out of town, where I ate two lobsters.

It was a fantastic setting – see attached 360 degree “virtual reality” panorama. The lobsters were very delicious.

Mountain biking in Abuja

For my weekend in Abuja, I went mountain biking with the country rep and some friends who kindly lent me a bike. It was exhaustingly hot – we only covered about 8 miles in two and a bit hours. Was nice riding across streams, and getting lost amongst ravines. I wish Yuki and I had taken bikes to Tanzania now – it would have been great for exploring offroad around where we were living.

So a week left. Hopefully I can get everything done, as I can’t handle being here for another weekend, nice as it was. Abuja has nothing happening at all. Really dead and dull. I hope the electricity comes soon.


6 thoughts on “Sweating it out in Nigeria

  1. Sounds like a really exciting, yet frustrating trip out there!
    What are the costs of such an unreliable infrastructure? How are businesses supposed to function and an economy develop in these conditions, and isn’t Nigeria energy-rich?

    The mountain biking sounds fun, and the lobsters yummy. Did you worry about reacquainting yourself with amoebic dystentry on your trip out?

    Hope to see you soon!

  2. It’s very wealthy indeed – but the money gets absorbed by the notorious corruption at many levels of administration. Abuja is in fact probably one of the best places for infrastructure in the country – it’s the show capital after all.

    Check out pictures at my zoto site.

  3. Hey,

    You are not interesting neither your story of Abuja.You should know climate is not man made and your riding under the hot sun would definately exhaust you.Electricity has often been the problem of Nigeria.If Abuja is not interesing to you, it’s interesting for others.Well,I don’t see Russia to be a happening place but a place of racialism and masacre.

    However,I don’t want you to visit Abuja again for the rest of your life time—punk!We are not even looking for Russians in Nigeria.

  4. Well, maybe I was a little harsh, but even the Nigerians I met complained that there was nothing much to do too in Abuja. I did go to a Fish Bar, which seemed like a nice place to hang out – but I was told that the Abuja government sought to knock them all down.

    Russians? Who’s the Russian?

    C’mon – give more detail – give me, or other readers, some suggestions about what to do in Abuja. I’m not the first to level this criticism of the place. If you know different then share it…

  5. I lived in Abuja for seven years. Duncan’s assesment of the city is no exaggeration. Uninterrupted power supply has been the bane of Nigeria’s development. And Abuja city planners think the beauty of a city is about erecting highrise buildings and beautiful houses. Visiting Nigerians get caried away with wide roads and houses. Thats all about the “show capital”. In Abuja there’s no organized waste disposal system in place, no public restrooms. Gas stations, stores, restuaurants and bars do not have restrooms. You can hardly find modern restaurants or buffet with continental or sea foods except in a five star hotel. Till today with the extreme climate there’s no open swimming pool or water park, no amusement parks, no zoos,no arts or movie theater, no public playgrounds…. not much to do for recreation. I’m only comforted that its still a developing city.

  6. I’m sorry you guys did nit have such a great time in Nigeria. Actually the Nigerian people lifestyle is way different from what foreigner would expect and the Nigerian democracy is way younger than that of it’s western counterparts so the inadequate infrastructure will cone with time and is improving. Check again in 10 years. Also about there not being anything to do, I think that depends on who you hangout with and where you are, if you are in the buisness area of abuja where there are only offices, obviously there wont be anything to do but next tome you are in Nigeria if you ever go back call me and il hook you up with some activity. By the way where de you guys go mountain biking?

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