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A Nation Possessed by Spirit of Forced Eviction

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Maroko Spirit of Forced Eviction

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

If there is any occurrence that further supports the belief that in Nigeria’s public leadership corridors, once a direction is chosen, instead of examining the process meticulously and setting the right course; one that will allow us to overcome storm and reach safety before we can progress and achieve our goals, many of our leaders obstinately persist with the execution of such plans regardless of the need for a minor or major shift in circumstance, it is the recent insistence by officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) that the ongoing demolition of illegal structures in Kuje Area Council was designed to curb insecurity.

The explanation was given when they appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Area Councils to respond to a petition by victims of the demolition.

Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) Coordinator, Umar Shaibu, said the exercise was undertaken by the administration to quickly respond to identified threats to national security, peace and order.

While the declaration by the FCTA looks good in principle, it more than anything else shows a bunch that is not ready to study history, study the actions of their predecessors, to see how they conducted themselves in order to discover that the evictions option is not the solution to insecurity but can only aggravate the situation as it renders victims homeless, destitute, and vulnerable to violence, theft and rape.

There is glaring evidence that supports the above assertion.

It will be recalled that demolition/forced eviction gained entrance into the nation’s leadership lexicon in July 1990 when Raji Rasaki in his capacity as Military Governor of Lagos State for yet to be identified reasons destroyed Maroko. Over 300,000 people that inhabited Maroko then were reportedly affected.

About nine years after the Maroko experience, democracy came on board. But contrary to that expectation, even the dawn of democracy in May 1999 did not bring a shift in paradigm as successive democratically elected governors beginning with Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu (May 1999 to 2007, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), 2007 to 2015, Akinwunmi Ambode (2015 to 2019) and presently Mr Babajide Sanwolu, stuck to the practice.

But the more the government forcefully evicts residents, the more it leads to the further proliferation of more slums and blighted communities in the state.

In another instance, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, in the name of restoration of the Abuja master plan, going by reports, demolished no fewer than 200 buildings in the FCT and thousands in the satellite towns, which left many families stranded and unable to regain their balance till date.

Sounding impenitent over his tenure, the former minister said in his 627-page book titled Accidental Civil Servant, “For me restoring order in the chaos that we found in many aspects of living in Abuja at the time, was simply consistent with my personal philosophy in life, a preference for rules and orderliness- a burden that I needed to discharge personally so I could sleep well at night.

“It was without question worth giving four years of my life pursuing. Therefore, I have no regrets for attempting to do what we did. We did what we believed was right at the time.”

But the question that begs an answer from El Rufai is; since after that wanton demolition and thoughtless disruption of peoples’ means of livelihood, has the Abuja master plan truly been restored? If yes, why is the present administration still pushing for demolition and forced eviction? Is that not a sign that demolition/forced eviction is only a prescription that only addresses the effect of an ailment while leaving the root cause to thrive?

Broadly speaking, the above sad account is a symbol of governments that are unmindful of or consciously decided to flagrantly ignore the global framework on physical planning of liveable neighbourhoods, slum upgrades and urban regeneration.

To buttress this claim, let’s cast a glance at how a similar slum challenge was creatively handled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, without displacement or eviction of the original occupants.

Instead of removing the favelas, a people initially considered/described as illegal occupants, many of the government’s policies were made to focus more on improving the infrastructure of the people/the area. The Inter-American Development Bank, for example, funded a $180 million “slum to neighbourhood” project in 1995, which sought to integrate existing favelas into the fabric of the city through infrastructure upgrading and service development.

The project involved 253,000 residents in 73 favela neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro. When a favela was selected, a master plan for upgrades was drafted and community organizations were contacted and asked to provide their input. When the final plan was approved, incentive plans were implemented for hiring construction companies that employed local community workers.

From Brazil to Spain and South Africa, the story and experience are the same.

Comparatively, when one juxtaposes the above accounts as recorded in Brazil with that of Abuja and the July 1990 Maroko’s experience, there exists a gully of difference.

Essentially, aside from the imperative of drawing useful lessons from Brazil’s experience, why the above examples are important is that here in Nigeria, each time the government wants to achieve this heinous objective (forced eviction/demolition), they tag the targeted community as a highly populated urban residential area consisting decrepit housing units in a situation of deteriorated or incomplete infrastructures.

Relevant government agencies are in the habit of pushing this argument as if infrastructural provision is the responsibility of the masses.

For me, the truth is that for us to stop dislocating families through forced eviction that interrupts citizens’ means of livelihood, and in its place, engineer sustainable development in ways that protect the present and the rights of the future generations, and most particularly help enthrone an organized and liveable environment for the citizens of the state, I think that what Nigerian governments are doing in the name of urban renewal/upgrade/regeneration is not the best way of turning ‘Slum to Neighbourhood’

If not, why must a state wait for its citizens to build in unapproved places before moving in with their bulldozers for demolition/eviction? Why do public office officers in the country find it difficult to nip illegal constructions/unapproved buildings in the bud, but convenient to demolish after construction? Which one is easier and more cost-effective; taking proactive steps that prevent Nigerians from building in unauthorized places, or deploying the state’s resources to effect demolition of structures built in the full glare of the government? Most importantly and strategically, as a government, which one is the noblest and most dignifying option; being reactive or proactive?

While answers to the above questions are awaited, this piece thinks in the interim that there is a spirit behind this penchant for forced eviction by public office holders in the country.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He can be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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8 Tips to Optimize Your Customer Service Experience

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8 Tips to Optimize Your Customer Service Experience

Customer service experience is often the deciding factor for whether a customer will frequently buy from your business or not. Investing time and energy into creating a positive customer experience will produce major returns. Here is a list of eight tips to optimize your customer service experience.

1. Understand Customer Needs

Knowing your customers’ needs and adapting your service strategies is crucial. You can go about this by researching what inquiries are coming in and how satisfied existing clients are. What you learn from these sources can ultimately lead you to develop solutions that will be very useful for the customers. Your team will then be empowered to provide customers with a solution they need rather than what they want.

2. Seek and Promote Customer Feedback

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, it is essential to seek feedback from your customers. Please encourage them to share their experience by allowing them to complete customer service surveys. By doing so, you’ll be able to track trends in your business and make changes where necessary. This will also help you see where improvements need to be completed and what strategies work well for your business. You can get customer feedback through online reviews, face-to-face conversations, and regularly inviting your customers. You can also know more about customer satisfaction through mystery shopping services. This helps you gather first-person insight into the customer experience.

3. Set and Communicate Clear Service Standards

You need to set transparent service standards and communicate them to all of your employees. This will help you ensure that customers receive the service level they expect. Create a crisis management plan and have it in place before any major incidents take place. Ensure that you train your staff to understand these procedures. When setting customer service standards, it is essential to consider the resources such as technology and staffing, realistic timescale, and the main customer contact point.

4. Communicate Company Culture

The goal of the business needs to be communicated clearly and consistently to all employees. When this happens, every employee will abide by it and should be motivated to work hard to achieve it. Ensure that you have a positive corporate culture, which all employees in the company know. You can utilize customer service training at your company, which will help your employees understand their roles and responsibilities and how they can contribute to achieving the business’s goals.

5. Personalize your Customer Service

Customers are susceptible to how they are being treated. Establish a personal relationship with them and provide them with a pleasing experience. This will encourage them to come back in the future and refer their friends to you. You can achieve personalized customer service by listening and responding to them, addressing them by their names, greeting and welcoming them, and demonstrating empathy in poor experience situations. Try to achieve this in every customer interaction.

6. Invest in Customer Service Training

Customer service training will help employees to understand the importance of customer service and how to deliver it. Consider getting your employees to attend a good customer service training program, which will significantly improve the level of customer service at your business. At the end of these programs, employees can put their new-found knowledge into practice and bring their expertise with them to each specific customer interaction. The trained staff will provide tailored customer service more sustainably.

7. Analyze Customer Concerns and Complaints

Find out customers’ complaints and ensure that your business handles them effectively. You can find out the reasons for customer complaints by analyzing them. This way, you can know how to solve problems. You can use many tools to find customer concerns and complaints, such as mystery shoppers, questionnaires, and surveys. You can then use this information to change your business strategy if needed.

8. Reward your Employees

Employee recognition is critical to any business’s success. You can recognize your employees by giving them special gifts, rewards, and bonuses. You can also give them thank you cards or even a simple thank you email. This will encourage them to work hard and help deliver great customer service to their clients.

Conclusion

To succeed in customer satisfaction, it is essential to know your customers. The best way of doing this is by establishing a personal relationship with them and understanding their needs. By setting clear standards for your team, communicating with them well, and analyzing customer concerns and complaints, you can improve your business’ efficiency in providing excellent customer service.

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The Coming of Barry Ndiomu as Presidential Amnesty Interim Coordinator

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Barry Ndiomu

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

The recent disengagement of Colonel Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd) as the interim Coordinator, Amnesty Programme, after two years of being in the saddle by President Muhammadu Buhari precisely on Thursday, September 15, 2022, and has in his place appointed Major-General Barry Ndiomu (retd) has again shown that bosses are neither a title on the organisation chart nor a function. But they are individuals and are entitled to do their work. It is incumbent for the occupier to do this work or be shown the way out by the real job owner.

Qualifying this recent development as a departure from the old order is the new awareness that the Dikio has, unlike his predecessors, congratulated the Odoni, Sagbama Local Government Area, Bayelsa State-born, and Nigerian Defence Academy 29th Regular Combatant Course trained Ndiomu for succeeding him as the new boss of the programme.

While thanking God for His grace and profound gratitude to President Buhari for allowing him to serve the country, Dikkio, in that report, explained that he has firmly set on the course the mission to transform ex-agitators to become net contributors to the economy of the Niger Delta and the nation at large.

To keep issues where they belong, it is important to underline that the purpose of this present intervention is not to subject Dikkio’s tenure to intensive scrutiny. Rather, it is aimed at assisting the Coordinator in succeeding in his new responsibility. That notwithstanding, the truth must be told that Dikkio’s claim of transforming ex-agitators into net contributors to the economy of the Niger Delta and the nation at large had not gone without eliciting reactions from stakeholders and the general public.

For instance, while some consider the claim true and objective, others view it with scepticism.

Moreover, from the above experience, Ndiomu, the new interim boss of the organisation, must, as an incentive to success, design a circle of learning and empowerment for himself that will allow him to see things that his predecessors did not see and formulate transformational strategies.

He must not fail to remember that the luxury of a leisurely approach to an urgent challenge is no longer permissible in the modern-day leadership arena. He must recognise the fact that what partially explains the failure of his predecessors is traceable to their decision to do good instead of doing well.

For a better understanding of this position, ‘doing-good entails charity service or so-called selfless service where one renders assistance and walks away without waiting for any returns. On the other hand, doing well describes reciprocation and ‘win-win’ because the doer is also a stakeholder and intends to benefit at least in goodwill and friendship’.

To change this trend, localise, grasp and find solutions to the critical issues plaguing the programme, it is important to recognise that bringing a radical improvement or achieving sustainable development will not be possible if you present yourself as an all-knowing, more generous, more nationalistic, selfless, more honest or kind, more intelligent, good looking or well-briefed than other stakeholders.

Again, succeeding on this job will, among other things, require two things: first, you should guard against the euphoria inspired by such appointments; make no grandiose plans or claims while your thinking is altered by feelings inspired by triumph; and secondly, the corrupting tendency of the additional power you have won. Try not to feel that much less accountability because you have that much power. You still must answer to yourself, and you must more than ever lead.

Another point you must not also fail to remember is that your enemies are everywhere and have with this appointment increased in number, locations and forms. “You must love your neighbour but keep your neighbourhood’, view corruption as something/act that destroys and breaks that trust which is essential for the delicate alchemy at the heart of representative democracy.

You must avoid the ongoing experience at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). A sister initiative was also established by the federal government to facilitate integrated development in the region but has yet to be identified because a sheep has gone its way ’abandoning the people of the coastal areas it was created to protect. There is an urgent imperative to carry the stakeholders along, particularly the Niger Delta youths who are supposedly the real beneficiary of the programme.

At this point, it is important to remember that the original amnesty document, as proclaimed by Yar’Adua, was meant to stand on a tripod-with the first part of the tripod targeted at disarmament and demobilisation process; the second phase to capture rehabilitation which is the training processes, while the third phase is the Strategic Implementation Action Plan. This last phase was designed to develop the Niger Delta massively but was unfortunately ignored by the federal government. You must look into this to succeed.

Remember, stakeholders have recently questioned the wisdom behind teaching a man to fish in an environment where there is no river to fish or training a man without a job creation plan. They are particularly unhappy that the amnesty initiative, which was programmed to empower the youths of the region via employment, has finally left the large army of professionally-trained ex-militants without jobs.

In fact, the region is in a dire state of strait because unemployment has diverse implications. While pointing out that security wise, a large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed, and any transformation agenda that does not have job creation at the centre of its programme will take us nowhere’.

In making this call, it is obvious that there is nothing more ‘difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating such changes as the innovator will make more enemies of all those who prospered under old order’. But any leader that does come out powerful secured, respected and happy. This is an opportunity you must not miss.

Finally, as a flood of congratulatory messages continues to flow into your home, two things stand out. The moment portrays you as lucky. But like every success which comes with new challenges, the appointment has thrust yet another responsibility on you- an extremely important destiny; to complete a process of socioeconomic rejuvenation of the Niger Delta youths, which we have spent far too long a time to do.

Therefore, you must study history, study the actions of your predecessors, see how they conducted themselves and discover the reasons for their victories or defeats so you can avoid the latter and imitate the former.

If you can correct the above challenge, it will be your most powerful accomplishment for earning new respect and emulation. And if you are not, it will equally go down the anal of history.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)

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Searches on Google Reveal Nigerians Are Feeling Uncertain

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Juliet Ehimuan Nigerians Feeling Uncertain

By Juliet Ehimuan

Since Google launched in Nigeria, we’ve seen a few periods of global uncertainty, including the 2008 financial crisis, increasing frequency of climate-related disasters, and a global pandemic. Each brought its degree of uncertainty – and people turned to Google each time to seek information and help them make decisions.

We’re once again seeing search trends that show people are feeling unsure about the world around them. Fortunately, a lot has changed in the past fifteen years that can help. In 2007, only 20% of the world’s population had internet access. Today, 38% of Nigerians and 60% of the world are online: with all the information, skills and support technology can provide.

Technology cannot solve all of these trends’ concerns and anxiety, but it can be used to help. Here are some Search trends we’ve seen in Nigeria this year and how technology and business can and should intervene.

  1. Concerns about covid and the climate aren’t going anywhere

As economies re-open, it could be tempting to think that the uncertainty of the pandemic is behind us. Search interest in coronavirus hit an all-time high worldwide in March 2020 – but it is far from leaving people’s concerns entirely, as searches have changed to reflect new phases of the pandemic.

In Nigeria, in the past 90 days, searches for “difference between covid and flu” and “symptoms of coronavirus” doubled (+100%), while searches for “causes of coronavirus” went up by 90%.  Google will continue to provide accurate and timely information on everything from symptoms to vaccines as people strive to return to everyday life.

Additionally, Search trends show that apprehension about the climate crisis has continued to grow. Search interest in climate change reached the highest level of the past decade in April 2022 in Nigeria, while searches for other environmental issues, including “climate change”, “pollution” and “global warming” reached an all-time high in April 2022.

Given these concerns, businesses need to both help customers make small, meaningful changes and to walk the walk themselves, reducing emissions and cutting their footprint.

Creating technology to help achieve this is a key part of our role. Google wants to help 1 billion people make more sustainable choices by the end of this year and is making changes to our most popular products to help make sustainable decisions easier. Our eco-friendly routing, for example, which was recently launched in Germany, will help users cut their bills and emissions by providing them with the most fuel-efficient and quickest route. This change alone could save 1 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year.

  1. Cybersecurity and privacy online have never been more important

With more people using the internet to manage their daily lives than ever, it’s no surprise that there has been an increase in searches about cybersecurity and privacy.

Nigerian searches for “what is phishing” increased by 40%, while searches for “phishing attack” increased by 50%. Additionally, search interest in Privacy increased by 30% in Nigeria compared to last year, and searches for private browsing went up by 60% compared to last year.

People want to embrace technology – but they want to know that their personal information will be safe. To help with that, Google has built many of the internet’s first tools to manage confidential data – like the Privacy Checkup, a central place which allows you to review your key privacy settings, and Takeout – where you can download or delete your Google data. We are also working with the industry and regulators to make changes across the board – prioritising users’ privacy and security.

  1. People want to understand the wider economic uncertainty – and are keen to save

As our CEO, Sundar Pichai, said recently, we face “an uncertain global economic outlook”. Search trends show that people want to understand better what’s happening and how they can manage it.

Searches for “how to make money” have been the top “how to make” search in Nigeria in 2022, while searches for “how to save” increased by 20%. Searches for “how to start a business” dropped in Nigeria this year.

We’ve seen this before. During the pandemic, businesses that adopted new digital skills built ‘a digital safety net’. Working in partnership with governments and other organisations, Google has helped 10 million people to find jobs, digitise and grow across the region – and we stand ready to support them again now.

These trends show people feel uncertain about what lies ahead, but no matter where we head, I’m hopeful that technology will form a part of the solution. Our mission at Google to make information accessible and useful has never been more important: and we’re here to help.

Nigeria:

  • In the last 90 days, “covid-19 household loan application form” almost trippled (+180%); “difference between covid and flu” and “symptoms of coronavirus” doubled (+100%); “causes of coronavirus” went up by 90%, “coronavirus history” increased by 70% and “signs of covid” rose by 40%

  • There is no search interest in climate anxiety or eco anxiety in Nigeria. However: Search interest in climate change reached the highest level of the past decade in April 2022 in Nigeria

  • Search interest in the vertical environmental issues – which tracks search interest in search terms such as “”climate change””, “”pollution”” and “”global warming”” – has reached an all-time high in April 2022. “

  • Search interest in Privacy went up by +30% in Nigeria in H1 2022 vs H12021 whilst search interest for Phishing increased by +40%. Search term “phishing website” more than doubled (+100%) while “phishing meaning” increased by 80%. “phishing attack” rose by +50% and “what is phishing” went up by +40%

  • Private browsing went up by 60% in Nigeria in H1 2022 vs H1 2021. Search interest in the topic has reached its highest point of the past 9 years in July 2022

  • Searches for privacy in general went up by 30% in H1 2022 vs H1 2021; selected terms related to privacy which also went up: “privacy policy generator” +130% and “privacy policy” rose by 40%.

  • Search interest in Money peaked in July in Nigeria.

  • “how to make money” is one of the top searched “how to” questions in the country so far in 2022. “how to save” went up by 20% in H1 2022 vs H1 2021

  • Search interest in “how to start a business” has dropped in Nigeria this year

Juliet Ehimuan is the Director of West Africa at Google

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