By Frank Tietie
On Monday, the 6th of February, I went to an Area 11 restaurant which commands a lot of patronage from the middle and upper-class elements in Abuja because of its reputation for good food that probably tastes like home cooking.
After purchasing the overrated food for such an understandably high price, the cashiers claimed their PoS machines weren’t working, and they don’t accept mobile transfers. Being so hungry myself with a medical condition that I couldn’t fast for much longer, I negotiated to eat first before sorting out the payments afterwards. They kindly allowed me.
When it was time to pay, the cashiers insisted that their PoS machines weren’t still working and the policy of the restaurant does not accept mobile bank transfers but that they have a PoS kiosk that was branded in the exact name of the restaurant, just within the car park of the restaurant. They said I could go there to either get cash to pay them or the PoS operator would transfer the money to their account.
However, it turned out that the PoS operator was charging 10% for every cash she gave or transferred to the restaurant. And the customers were grudgingly complying, but I became enraged at the whole scenario, called out the restaurant staff as criminals, and accosted the compliant customers as national saboteurs. The restaurant manager came and justified the situation and accused me of making noise. I told him he ought to be ashamed of himself for aiding such criminal extortion in the highly-rated restaurant. I promised him that I would initiate criminal proceedings against him, the PoS operator and the restaurant. He boasted that whatever I planned to do would amount to nothing. Some customers who knew me as a media personality started pleading that I should take it easy, but I took time to teach them how wicked, selfish and criminal the restaurant’s staff were. The PoS they were using outside with a service charge of 10% actually could have belonged to the restaurant. Still, they chose to exploit the Naira debacle to exploit their customers on top of the exorbitant charges for the overrated food they sell.
Since they allowed me to eat before payment, I went to my car to get them N5,000 cash from out the pitiable N10,000 that my bank managed to pay me after about two weeks of waiting.
Trust. I left everything I was doing and went to Garki Police station and demanded to see the Divisional Police Officer, who immediately gave directives to her officers to attend to me. I formally lodged my complaints, and two police officers followed me to the restaurant to obtain evidence and invited the manager and the PoS operator to the police station for questioning. The investigation has been ongoing, and guess what? The manager is now begging that there shouldn’t be a further investigation that could lead to prosecution.
The restaurant is one of the most popular brands in Abuja. It is not in my nature to destroy another man’s business because of the greed and indiscretion of unscrupulous staff. I am convinced that the owner of that restaurant chain could not have gone down so low to be that greedy and wicked. Am I now going to write withdrawing my complaints?
In my 19 years as a lawyer and social advocate, I have realised that Nigerians hate their country and themselves so much. It is as if cheating and exploiting one another are a way of life. The average Nigerian wants to use every opportunity in service to exploit his fellow countrymen and the system. It is a shame!
Sadly, many of us work hard so much at nation-building, while others delight in tearing down values and humanness. We must collectively rise to build a country that serves the interest of every citizen and human being. We cannot continue to operate as mutually hostile people in the competition of outdoing one another in a disservice. We want a country to be proud of, where we can work, raise our children and enjoy. The raging resolve by Nigerians to exploit themselves in Nigeria is suffocating. Whether in public or private service, nearly everyone operates with the ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality. The country is fast losing a sense of brotherhood and community, and a crescendo of such degradation is usually a conflict of the type of a civil war conflagration.
▪︎Tietie, a lawyer, is the Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER)