Day 89: Nigeria - the derelict country

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Tue 1 Feb 2011 20:21
Day 89: Tuesday 1 February, 2011. VIP Colony Guest House, Jebba, Nigeria. N09 07.134  E004 48.767  Distance driven 371 km
My day started badly; when I got up at 0630 all the toilets and showers were locked and the guy with the key was nowhere to be seen, although he had seen me walking across there with my towel. Amazing how stupid these guys can be!  I soon found all the staff sleeping in the ladies shower room and roused them but still the key guard was missing.  We then spent half an hour telling the staff just what was wrong with the place but I doubt it will change.  It was a nice new facility but the word "maintenance" does not belong in their dictionary.
We then set off for Ibadan on completely the wrong road which probably put 50 km on our day's run. Not a good start.  We then found a gas station which had diesel but it looked so dilapidated that I was wary of the quality of their fuel and only put in 30 litres.  We then found that only 1 in 10 stations today had diesel and it took us another 100 km before we able to fill up completely.  It seems that the price varies from day to day and, I suspect, on availability.  The posted price is fiction - you have to get a quote before filling up. 
There is an extremely high density of filling stations but 50% of them are derelict and abandoned.  Another 45% are derelict but still in business and probably 5% are maintained and in business.  Of the 50% open for business only a tenth had diesel today; most seemed to have petrol, today!  There is usually a chalk board outside "Gas - yes"! Never, "Gas - No".
Today we drove on all classes of road from a freeway downwards.  Even the freeway had giant potholes.  I drove hard for 9 hours and only managed to cover 371 km (222 miles). The roads are in a disgusting state, the drivers are mainly lunatics and the roads are strewn with wrecked vehicles, mainly trucks. We are fortunate to be travelling in a Land Rover -  I am certain that my regular saloon car (Audi) would not have managed the course today, and that was on main roads!
The whole country is derelict; everything is broken or falling down. Paint is a commodity unknown in Nigeria.  Everything is brown, drab, dusty, dirty, polluted, litter-strewn.  The roads are crap, the fuel is crap, the trucks belch out thick black diesel fumes.  Even my well maintained and almost new engine emits diesel fumes, the fuel is so poor and high-sulphur. Driving on the deeply potholed roads is a nightmare as the overloaded trucks have to go really slowly to negotiate the holes and they weave all over the road to find the least bad parts.  Going uphill in low gear they are enveloped in their own cloud of black smoke so that it is very difficult to see past them to overtake.
Most of the trucks are old and badly maintained and most are over-loaded.  They frequently break down in the potholed roads, but are never towed away.  They are repaired where they stand, even if the stand there for weeks, causing severe obstructions but everyone else finds a way round them, while the drivers change wheels, axles, springs, even gearboxes and engines!
Today we passed literally hundreds of wrecked trucks lying by the side of the road, mainly fuel tankers which had come off the road and crashed.  We passed one "truck stop" on the Ibadan freeway where there must have been 2,000 trucks, mainly tankers, parked by the side of the road over a stretch of 5 km.  I have never seen so many trucks in my life!
We are staying tonight at a Guest House belonging to the local paper mill, in an area of formerly grand villas set in woodland on high ground overlooking the Niger River.  Unfortunately, all these properties are now derelict.  Although this is the "VIP" Guest House, there is no running water in the bathroom and the electricity fails every half hour.  On being shown round by the delightful caretaker, he said that the water "does not rush out of the taps, but we do have water, Sir - I will bring water".  Not only does it not "rush" out, when you turn on a tap nothing comes out at all!
The people are all very friendly, very welcoming and very eager to help.  We were stopped several times today by the police but they were all very friendly and, I think, just curious to see a RHD vehicle. Once were stopped by a bunch of guys wearing fluorescent vests who had ID cards stating that they were from the Local State Tax Department and they demanded a vehicle revenue tax.  We just said, No.  We are a foreign vehicle, temporarily imported into Nigeria, and exempt. Once the got the message that we were not going top pay their tax they just demanded money for themselves!
All-in-all, a very interesting but tiring day.