Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Kiss Point

We went past this on the way out of Abuja. But this is not my photo as we are forbidden to take photos outside the MSF Compound
On Thursday I finally made it to the MSF Project  in the town of Jahun, in the northern state of Jigaw.  It was a 9 hour drive in the standard issue Toyota Landcruiser, MSF flag fluttering off a short pole on the front right side, and a load of supplies and one other passenger returning from a visit to Abuja. The road was sealed all the way but reduced from 10 smooth lanes exiting Abuja to 2 patched and potholed ones by the time we were in Jigawa State, said to be the poorest in the country.

As expected it was a long tedious drive, with incessant slowing and stopping and starting for road blocks, pot-holes and congestion. The security checks were mostly cursory and we were waved though after a glance into the vehicle by a uniformed soldier with a rifle over his shoulder. At the half way point, the so-called Kiss point,  we stopped at a smoky dark restaurant, had a cold drink and a little food and waited for the arrival of an identical vehicle from the other direction – the drivers swapped, so they could return to their base, and we continued north with a new driver. Usually its the passengers who swap and the driver and vehicle from each end of the route go back the way they had just come but this time a vehicle also needed to be swapped.

I amused myself by counting Petrol stations : they’re everywhere, forecourts mostly empty, many unfinished, half done and abandoned with the unburied diesel and petrol holding tanks rusting nearby , while just along the road a bit  further new ones  are being built – I saw 8 in a row in one town, and 3 more further along. Hard to understand what its all about as theres a standard price for petrol, the only reason for preferring one place to another is the likelihood that at some, the pumps dispense less than what they Register, or that the fuel has been contaminated either accidentally or deliberately  to make a bit more profit. One interesting addtion  to the forecourt services provided in Nigeria that hasn’t hit Australia yet instead of car wash and rest rooms and minimart is the MiniMosque for travellers – some rather cute. Of mosques, there are many, everywhere, again some quite lovely.

We continued on across a relatively flat and massive fertile plain then detoured into Kano for milk – incredible fithy congestion everywhere, infrastructure almost non-existent on the roads we took , a totally uninspiring place that is one of the centers of “unrest” shall we say – and one can imagine part of the reason is the perception that Nigeria’s massive wealth neither trickles down – to the poor – or up – to the North of the country. Ordinarily Kano is out of bounds for MSF.

East of Kano, entering Jigawa the countryside was less densely populated, and for once I saw more rural scenes of village life , there was less rubbish on the roadside and I saw kids playing, donkeys wandering about on their own, cattle, not just the dirty white ones common further south but massive horned brown and black ones pulling heavy wooden carts with kids piled on, it was greener, and the fields of crops and maize looked better organized. Did people look happier here? I was told theres less unrest in this state so maybe they are, despite their poverty.
Unloading at Jahun Hospital

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