Saturday, August 17, 2019

Discovery of West Africa - Nigeria

It has been a long trip, but finally, I am back home.
That means that I am ready to tell you something about the journey, bringing you some vibes of Africa; my Africa.
I know that I have promised to keep a sort of daily photo diary posted on my social, but as we left Nigeria, we were transported back in the '80s.
We could not find roaming for our mobile phones and most important no internet.
We were sure to have Wi-Fi on our hotels, but things in Africa never go the way you plan them.
If there is one thing I have learned during my journeys is to expect everything, even the impossible.
Like the hotel promised on their booking pages, there was indeed a Wi-Fi, but it was too slow and most of the times offline, so… well, practically, there wasn't.

But let's go back to our journey.

Our route started in Helsinki, from where we reached Lagos, Nigeria.
From Lagos, we traveled by car following the main road to Ghana through Benin and Togo. From Ghana, we returned to Lagos by plane, and on our way back, we could have a stop in Doha, Qatar.

The first thing you notice when you come to any airport in Africa is what I call Africa scent. The scent made of the earthy iron-rich sand, mixed with the smell of the trees and bushes, food, and other scents I could not identify.

This is the scent I enjoy deeply inhaling it whenever I reach Africa.
Nigeria is located in the Gulf of Guinea. It originated from British colonial rule in the 19th century,  and in 1914 it incorporated the South Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate. Nigeria became a formally independent federation in 1960. It went through a civil war between 1967 and 1970, and after that, the country experienced alternatively democratically elected governments and military dictatorship. At present, after the presidential elections of 2011, it reached a stable political situation.

Talking about the safety of a traveler, besides the local crime connected to drug dealing in the city of Lagos, a particular concern has been raised by the Boko Haram–related violence.

Nevertheless, after a peak in 2014 and 2015, the number of casualties attributed to the group fell dramatically. The Nigerian military, with assistance from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, has pushed Boko Haram out of several provinces in northeastern Nigeria. The group retains control over some villages and pockets of territory and continues to launch deadly suicide attacks and abduct civilians, mostly women, and children. In February 2018, more than one hundred students were kidnapped by a faction of Boko Haram known as Islamic State West Africa. They were released a little more than a month later.

The conflict has been primarily contained in the Muslim north, particularly in Borno state, but has displaced millions of people in the region.

The city looks at first glance divided between the "good areas" and the poor ones. Infrastructure is something the Nigerian government seems not really to bother. That is not related to the lack of funds, as Nigeria is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, but to a wildly spread corruption that avoids the movement and allocation of those funds for the public works.

The good 




...And the bad


Waste management seemed to be the biggest issue, particularly in Lagos, where the municipality appears to be unable to manage the rise in industrial and domestic waste. Together with waste management, the roads inside the city were relatively well kept (Africa-wisely). Nevertheless, the main road to the border was a nightmare. There, without an off-road vehicle, you are in deep troubles.
We spent in Lagos only one night. This decision was made mainly for safety reason. Secondly, because we knew we would have had the time to check the city and the Natural Conservation Center on our way back home.

The most exciting part on this first leg was indeed the road trip to the border, which in normal conditions it would have taken not more than a couple of hours. However, with the actual road conditions, it took about four hours.

Waste management has been a big challenge in the largest cities and the piles of waste stretch for kilometers.

The road is a constant market place and people come to sell and buy everything from livestock to fruits and vegetables or even furniture. A sort of one time stop for all your needs.


The guy you see leaning outside the vehicle is the one who is gathering customers and advice the driver when it is time to stop. He also collects the ticket money from the passengers.
This also included the times we were asked to stop by the border police.

The officers were looking for some money to be cashed at the expenses of the drivers passing by (and in a couple of circumstances our driver just drove by without stopping!). We have also been stopped by some local small criminals looking for some cash, which we quickly gave to avoid troubles.

All in all, people are friendly, and we have not been bothered during our strolls in the city. The stay went on as smooth as we hoped for, and we can call ourselves satisfied with this new challenge.
This has been a longer blog, but I was also supposed to compensate for the lack of blogging last week.
I hope you enjoyed this first part and you will follow me on this road trip for the following weeks.
Stay tuned!

2 comments:

  1. I'm glad no harm befell you during your trip, and that you're home safe and sound with memories to last you a lifetime. Thank you for providing an accurate depiction of Nigeria.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is indeed great to leave for a holiday but after all, there is no place like home. All the memories will also help me to put things into perspective. Suddenly my problems seems quite small.

      Delete

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