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A Day with Customs

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 permalink [Permalink]

Servers still not here – we have decided to go to the airport and wait there till they release the servers. This is getting ridiculous. Biodun seems to think that a trip to the airport will speed things along. We are waiting for the driver to come and pick us up for the trip.

Servers still not here – we have decided to go to the airport and wait there till they release the servers.  This is getting ridiculous.  Biodun seems to think that a trip to the airport will speed things along.  We are waiting for the driver to come and pick us up for the trip.

‘Nigerians have a tendency to raise your hopes in vain’ – Biodun keeps telling me.  Like with the servers – yes it has now been 4 days, each day we were promised to get the servers.  Day after day, there is nothing.  I’m wasting valuable time, and I can’t afford to stay here any longer than I already have committed.  Whether the work is complete or not I’m out on the 24th.

This place is not exactly women friendly – at least not ones you’d want to get involved with, armed guards, crappy conditions and miserable drunk ex-pats who have been on the contracting circuit for 30 years.  Oil & Gas has its rather unglamorous side too.  Only the degenerates tend to stay in these places for longer than is needed.  The place is teaming with prostitutes who seem to be in new company from day to day.

Back at the office the servers have still not arrived.  Biodun and I grab Titus (our driver) and proceeded to the airport cargo hangar.  Nothing could prepare you for the first initial drive into the customs area.  A dingy unsealed road carpark filled with thousands of people seemingly just loitering there.  The moment our car crossed through the front gates they were running along with us and holding onto the sides, knocking on the windows wanting to help us unload our cargo. 

We had to tell them that we are not here to pickup anything before they moved away.  Biodun and I jumped out of the car and headed out into the hangar.  We had to push through a tiny door which controlled people flow into the customs area.  Pushing our way through the sea of people we eventually made it.  On the other side of the gates we moved towards shed #3.  There, we met up with a representative from Computer Warehouse.  He took us through the closed off areas of the customs warehouse.  We were stopped a couple of times by security, but after some pleading we were allowed to move through.  Once inside the sealed area we were taken one by one to the pallets which held our servers.  I couldn’t believe my eyes – judging by the amount of dust on the cartons it was clear they had been there for well over a month.  Actually reading the Dell shipment slip, they entered Nigeria some time shortly after 25 August.  So they have been sitting there for almost a month and a half.

We couldn’t do anything until some officials turned up and stamped all the paperwork for Computer Warehouse – that turned out to be a 4 hour ordeal. 

What we witnessed over the next 4 hours in the loading area would forever shift my faith in the cargo transportation systems in Nigeria.  Boxes crushed, people almost killed in the scuffles to load things onto trucks, forklifts almost destroyed, shipment contents damaged by forklifts etc etc etc.  I wish I had my camera with me but I decided to leave it in the office on account that I didn’t want to cause any friction.  It’s bad enough being the only white guy in a sea of Nigerians.  I wasn’t about to attract attention to myself any further.

After breathing in enough petrol fumes from the idling trucks my lungs were just about ready to give in, when as if by miracle one of our pallets with the servers came out.  One by one, the servers, the rack, the desktops and monitors turned up.  I didn’t want to leave until I saw the servers moved onto the truck.  We waited for another hour before I could be satisfied that they would be leaving today.

On the way back we got caught in traffic, it’s slow going in Nigeria.  Only a few freeways join the mainland and the delta islands like Victoria Island, so traffic seems to be packed in and out.

Whilst stuck in traffic I witnessed my first case of Jungle Justice.  Apparently a thief was caught by some locals, bound and told to sit on the ground.  He was surrounded by a crowd of people who wanted nothing but blood.  Someone started to poor petrol all over his body.  They were getting ready to burn him.  Biodun told me that had it not been for the police standing next to the man he would have gone up in flames.  Still as we passed the man we turned around every now and then to see if there was any smoke in the air – a clear indication that the poor sod is dead.  He was.

Back at the office we waited for another 2 hours before the truck arrived.  We jumped up on back of the truck and began to unload the cargo.  Server by server of damaged boxes.  I decided to take all the panels off the rack so that they could be spared the same fate as the server boxes.

We gave Jim Lyons an update on the server status and he was happy that they were finally there.  Exhausted with the days excitement we decided to call it a day and handle the servers on Thursday.  I had hoped to walk down and have a beer, but the Nigerian cold got the better of me and I decided to go straight to bed.

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