3 Jul 2006
Prior to landing at Murtala Mohammed airport, Ikeja Lagos I overheard the pilot tell the control tower that ; “I have 112 souls on board including 06 crew”. We landed shortly afterwards, went through immigration formalities and I walked out to meet Yekini- a middle aged Youruba man who would be my guide. He took me to a park of old Mercedes cars that are used as airport taxis. My fare was $12 for less than ten minutes’ ride to my hotel (Radisen Suites) in neighbouring Ajao estate. The minimum cost was $20 per night (bed only). I turned down the first room I was given due to unbearable noise coming from the hotel’s stand-by generator. It should be recalled that electricity supply is erratic in Nigeria-hence businesses and homes rely heavily on oil-powered generators. The hotel is constructed like a form of fortress to keep out intruders. Armed robbery is common in Lagos. There is an outside wall with a metal gate manned by a day and night watchman and another metallic protector at the entrance to the building. I wondered what will happen to occupants if there is an emergency like a fire accident.
The main thing that took me to Lagos was to obtain a visa to travel to Seoul, South Korea as there is no Korean embassy in Cameroon where I reside. The Korean embassy is located in Victoria Island, about $10 to $12 by taxi from my hotel. Victoria Island is the chic quarters of Lagos and I lamented when I had to pay $20 for a plate of rice and chicken from a restaurant there. (See image of Victoria Island at this Link)
I arrived on Sunday hoping that I will obtain my visa on Monday and return by Tuesday. Things did not work out that way and as such I missed my flight on Tuesday. The visa was only obtained on Wednesday morning and my next flight was Friday. I was compelled to pay for the extra days at the hotel and my total hotel bill came to $100.
I decided one evening to source for a very cheap meal so that I can compare with what I had at the Victoria Island restaurant. Along the streets around Ajao estate, I saw women preparing different kinds of dishes for their customers that usually sat on benches by the fireside. I approached one such stand and purchased some buns or ‘puff puff’ made of flower and some soft drink for a total of $1 and had my evening meal. The cost of my ‘common man’s meal’ was 95% less than the cost of the meal at the Victoria Island hotel.
I used my extended stay in Lagos to explore the city.
I visited major landmarks like the Bar beach and the National Arts Theatre. Renovation work was going on at both places. Heaps of sand were being dumped at the beach, while extensive repairs were taking place at the National Theatre that has been in a steady state of deterioration. Some of the most magnificent buildings in Lagos are occupied by banks-an indication that the banking sector in Nigeria is quite mature.
Moving around Lagos is somehow tricky. Travelling by buses (commonly called ‘Danfo’ and ‘Molue’) is uncomfortable because of the number of passengers that are squeezed into them. The best alternative could have been the taxicab but the cost is prohibitive. The motorbike or ‘okada’ is another option but accidents are frequent. (See Lagos transport options at this link)
http://www.njeitimah-outlook.com/albums/album_image/2075996/1061392.htmI left Lagos on Friday after my flight was delayed due to bad weather.
Njei Moses Timah