Our first week was a blur of activity – yet a few incidents and images stand out vividly in my memory.
After our kickoff session on Monday, the schedule for the rest of the week was packed with meetings with the ten FCTA departments that were part of our project scope. From Tuesday to Thursday, we met with three departments each day for two hours each, with meetings scheduled back-to-back.
On Tuesday, we covered the Land Administration, Geographic Information Systems and Engineering Services Departments. On Wednesday, we covered the Environmental Protection Board, Water Board and the Development Control Departments. And on Thursday, we covered Road Transport Services, Outdoor Advertisement and Signage and Parks & Recreations.
At each of these meetings, the departments were represented by a sizeable delegation of 12 to 15 members, headed by the Director and included his deputies covering most vital functions. We asked a ton of questions and got a more nuanced understanding of what each department did and their revenue collection challenges. We also discussed potential solutions to mitigating the issues that were raised.
Across all of the meetings, we were impressed by the well-prepared teams who were clearly motivated and appeared committed to find solutions. By the 4th meeting, some clear common threads were emerging in terms of issues they faced and possible solutions.
With the Engineering Services Department leaders
With the Abuja Environment Protection Board leaders
Friday morning, we spent 2 hours with a local primary school as part of our community service, talking with school kids about ourselves. The joy in the kids’ eyes at meeting our diverse team was visible. When I said I was born in India, they shouted a chorus of “Namastes”. Our team planted a tree at the school and promised to come check on how it was doing periodically.
That’s a packed audience – very enthusiastic and receptive kids
After the school visit, we met with the Internal Revenue Service, which was the last of the departments on our list. We managed to get lunch together – which was the first time the whole week that we had had lunch!
Now for the highlights of the week
- Marvin falls sick – On Tuesday, while doing the rounds of the Land Administration Department, my team mate Marvin started showing the effects of dehydration caused by an upset stomach, and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital. The incident, though a bit dramatic as it unfurled, demonstrated the calm and professional manner in which IBM and Pyxera responded as well as the super-helpful nature of our Nigerian hosts. Marvin was back in prime form by the next day.
- We visit the zoo – After our meeting at the Parks and Recreation Department on Thursday, we were invited by the Director to visit the adjoining zoo. It was a total hoot – we acted like excited school children, taking selfies with the Cape buffaloes (named Romeo & Juliet), ostriches, baboons and other assorted denizens.
“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” – “I’m right here!”
- We get caught in a fierce thunderstorm – On Thursday evening, just as we got into a cab and started out for dinner, the skies opened up. In no time, parts of the roads had become flooded and visibility had dramatically declined. Looking at the conditions, we decided to turn back and had a pretty “interesting” ride back.
A proper tropical rainstorm – enjoying it from the safety of the Blu Cabana Club