Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Discrimination is something countless people have given their life to overcome. All around the world, countless stories tell the tale of those who suffered discrimination on account of their race, religion, tribe, sex and even sexual orientation. But despite our familiarity with the concept of discrimination, instances of outright bias against certain groups of people continue to stun the mind.

Nigeria's NEXT publication recently reported that Eleganza Estate, an apartment building in Lagos, does not rent to Nigerians. A newspaper advert for the Estate declared that it was for "Expats only". This is despite the fact that the building is owned by a Nigerian company and businessman - RAO Investment Property Company Ltd which is owned by Rasaq Okoya. When contacted by NEXT to determine whether Nigerians that could afford to live in the Estate could rent a unit, the publication was pointedly informed that the company had an alternate location where Nigerians are allowed to rent.

It is sad that in this day an age, a Nigerian would so clearly discriminate against, and thus disregard his own people. However, it is not shocking because there are Nigerians who show clear disdain for their fellow citizens. The fact that this practice of not renting to Nigerians is not illegal and not prevented by Lagos State and Federal Government authorities suggests that this practice is somewhat acceptable by authorities. This in a state seeking to transform into a globally competitive metropolis and a country that recently announced a rebranding campaign.

Some will argue that Okoya's decision to not allow Nigerian residents at Eleganza Estate is simply a business decision. However, even business decisions that clearly discriminate against a group of people is unacceptable. If there are certain standards that Okoya's company strives to maintain, then basic rules supported by fines will ensure that tenants of all color, race and nationality, work together to keep the Estate the way its owners desire.

There is also growing job discrimination as apparent on some websites. The following is an advertisement for a job opening in Lagos.
Accountant x2 - Indian
This is an excellent opportunity to for a leading IT Service/Solutions provider based in Lagos, Nigeria as an Accountant.
I'm looking for 2 accountants who are currently based in Nigeria that have between 1-4 years experience and degree educated (Indian preferable). You will be required to assist in all Accountancy matters and report directly to the Chief Accountant. The ideal candidate should be tenacious, dedicated and also be able to work in a fast paced environment you will also receive training so to develop your career.
Now, it is inconceivable that there are no Nigerians with the required skills and experience to satisfy this employers needs. So, why the need to specify a preference for Indian workers? Doing so clarifies that non-Nigerian workers are sought for jobs in Nigeria and the fact that such adverts are not unique is increasingly troubling. How exactly are Nigerians to find employment in their own country when expats are preferred for local jobs?

Nigerians must put an end to the discrimination they experience at the hands of their fellow Nigerians. After all, many Nigerians experience incredible levels of discrimination and disrespect from non-Nigerians, plenty of which is uncalled for, the Brutish Airways incident immediately comes to mind. The least they should expect is respect from their fellow citizens and the businesses they patronize. However to eradicate these instances of domestic discrimination, Nigerians will have to demand better treatment and can force the point by simply boycotting and suing those businesses known to discriminate against Nigerians and put pressure on authorities to enforce existing constitutional laws against such practices.

And now, British MPs are claiming racism because a Nigerian boat carrier will not take white MPs into the Niger Delta for fear of a kidnapping situation...

Hattip to Nnanna of for the job description information

What do you think? Are you a Nigerian that has experienced some form of discrimination in Nigeria? Share your thoughts and views on how to eliminate similar practices.

From the Archives:
- White Man's Magic
- Who Will Develop Nigeria?
- Who will fight for Nigeria?

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ChiefO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
9ja_Kuti said...

When all thing foreign are assumed to be better than same things nigerian. I'm not shocked at this. We have discriminated against ourselves for too long, though its not too late to right said wrongs.

Its the same discriminatory genes in us that'll make us buy made in china instead of buying made in aba. Bcos how else would we explain looking for 2 indians in nigeria, to fill 2 opening in a nigerian or indian company that does business with nigerians in order to generate revenue to pay the salaries of its exotic indian accountants

webround said...

During my NYSC, the company I worked for got a contract for a job and on getting there, the Nigerian Manager (from the client side) asked us - 'Where's the oyibo man working with you guys'. This is for a job that I alone could comfortably do, not to talk of my colleagues who were fully qualified and experienced.

Same thing happens when you visit some companies. The security men will be very rude to you at the gate but once they see a foreginer, they will practically kiss the ground for the person.

It is not only businesses doing it against employees. It also goes the other way. This is the reason why people will sew shirts in Aba (good quality ones) and stick a foreign label on the shirt becos we Nigerians will not buy a made in Aba shirt.

webround said...

Recently, Microsoft had to apologize for an online ad for poland in which they placed the head of a white man over the body of a black man (visually, the graphic was not bad) but it was the notion that they were being racially sensitive/discriminative (poland is more of a racially homogenous society) that ticked people off and they complained and Microsoft had to take down the ad and issue an apology. Yet, today Sony has released a new PS 3 AD in which a reference is made to Nigeria and 419.

Dee said...

They say charity begins at home…in this case I’ll say discrimination begins at home.

We have, as Nigerians developed and established a culture that promotes everything foreign better than anything Nigerian. This notion is practically ingrained in every facet of our lives.

We prefer foreign made products…we see them as better or more superior than anything made at home.

We’ll hire the Nigerian with the foreign degree (earned in some unknown college in a place we can barely see on the map!) over the graduate in Nigeria with the hard earned University degree, NYSC training and better overall qualifications…so its not a surprise that we hire the white foreigner over the Nigerian citizen?

Eleganza wants only expats in the estate. I believe its a discriminatory business decision that not only elevates foreigners on Nigerian soil to “Superstardom” but says indirectly that Nigerians are not worthy of living there.

I think we as Nigerians have to eradicate the after effects of colonization factor we still have. Even though colonization ended in the 60’s…I believe in our minds “we” unintentionally still see the “white man” and anything that has to do with him as superior, advanced…and even more knowledgeable than us.

Sad :(

Anonymous said...

Awful!!! People should not be allowed to discriminate against you in YOUR OWN COUNTRY. Let us not make Nigeria into former South Africa. Something has to be done about this or else a whole economy will develop in Nigeria, where money is taken from Nigerians yet Nigerians won't be able to penetrate and do business in it.

- Yemi A. from Facebook


@ 9ja_Kuti: My first year blogging at Nigerian Curiosity, I spent a lot of time talking about this issue of preferring anything foreign or white. The one post that comes to mind at this time is "White Man's Magic".

A lot of Nigeria's issues are purely psychological and as far as I can see, they are not being addressed adequately by the public/government sector. Private institutions and groups are trying their best but will need additional funding and support to really make inroads.

Well, we try to our best, the little bit we all can, shebi? How far?

@ webround: I cannot challenge your comment on any level because I completely agree. What is so sad, is that there is complete ignorance/disregard to the way we Nigerians are treated by many foreigners abroad. Even in Nigeria. I am all for reciprocity, you treat me well, I do the same and vice versa. Failure to do so is not to be tolerated.

Someone told me recently that we Nigerians let go of our legacy. I am beginning to understand what he means. We allow others to create the story of who we are with little challenge even in the face of clear contempt and disrespect.Hopefully us talking about these issues here is one step, all be it a small one, in the right direction.

Thanks so much for swinging by.

@ Dee: "
We have, as Nigerians developed and established a culture that promotes everything foreign better than anything Nigerian. This notion is practically ingrained in every facet of our lives."

Very well said. And we need to deal with this reality because until we do, we will continue to sell ourselves short and films like District 9 and the recent SONY/Playstation commercial will continue to be made, using us as scapegoats with little fear of retribution or retaliation.

How far?

@ Yemi: Reading your comment makes me think that we are already there, no? I have no problem with foreigners, don't get me wrong, but sometimes, foreigners can come with their foreign currency and manage to do much more than even some of our richer compatriots, talk less of the average or poorer citizen. Think about it. It has been like that for centuries... Read More. Fela called it "White Man's Magic" and till this day, we treat everything dark/black as inferior and anything white/light is fine. Its a complex psychology that will obviously take many more decades to if not overcome, then at least address adequately.

Nonetheless, I am in complete agreement with you that such behavior be curtailed now, because the potential repercussions if left unchecked will be devastating and only further the socio-economic gaps and maybe even tribal and religious issues that Nigeria already experiences.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your opinion. Your insight is always appreciated.

Anonymous said...

you should see what goes on at s.a high enraged!

- Sage H from Facebook

Anonymous said...

unfortunately, its only a matter of time before someone sets the place ablaze...

- Saheed from Facebook

9ja_Kuti said...

SSD, you know what. im actually curious to know what madam rebranding has to say, said or has done reguarding the direct hit from the sony commercial or the district 9 movie...pray tell, have you heard anything from her?

For the love of me said...

Nigerians are probbly the biggest self haters. But honestly the discrimination is the least of my problems, if the average Nigerian wants to keep hating him/herself, by all means let hi/her do so, I have bigger worries.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Sometimes it amuses me when Nigerians overseas complain about how they are been discriminated against because of their skin colour. But it is this same people who will tell you that they cannot tolerate, an Igbo man or Hausa. They even actively encourage their children from interacting with people from other ethnic tribe.

There is so much discrimination that exists in Nigeria. And most of it is down to ignorance and "colonial mentality".

Thanks for the post.

culturesoup said...

I saw this a while ago and my initial reaction was similar to what has already been said by others. I've been thinking since then and I know this story is about expats but i think the problem of discrimination goes deeper.

To me, the two main things that encourage this blatant discrimination in Nigeria are: placing more value on things that originate from outside Nigeria and a culture of prejudice as Heal Nigeria pointed out. I've already written about the mentality i think is behind the first point (as you know).

I'm still getting my thoughts together on the second point but it seems to me that prejudiced behaviour is so common in Nigeria, it is not really thought of as wrong. So colo-mentality is just another layer on top of that. I think that many Nigerians(or maybe most, i don't know)have a hierachy by which they decide what kind of treatment and respect other human beings are worthy of. I would say it goes something like this - people from the same tribe are accorded, more or less, an equal level of respect and humanity, people from other tribes are somehow lesser and people from abroad are worthy of deference. Even within the category of foreigners, there is a hierarchy with people like Americans being high up whereas the Chinese are much lower down.

I think anti-discrimination laws that are enforced would go a long way to eliminating these practices. So for instance, make it illegal to hire or serve people on the basis of arbitrary factors. If it cannot be demonstrated that the specified criteria has a reasonable connection to the point at hand then it is faulty. People being able to successfully sue for discrimination would be a deterrent to its more blatant manifestations.

sokari said...

Heal Nigeria @I completely agree with you - if there is one nation in this world which is full of prejudice and discrimination of anything and everything it is Nigerians - difference is not a word in any Nigerian language unless it applies to inanimate objects.

Is it really surprising that the prostitutes, pimps and gangsters in D9 are portrayed as Nigerians when there are so many Nigerian PPG in SA. The film is full of stereotypes and plays on these - its like a comic book and not a very good one at that.

sokari said...

SSD - forgot to mention the housing and job discrimination - these are issues which need to be addressed by the State and Federal government. I am sure there must be something in the constitution which speaks to discrimination (or well there should be)Certainly you cannot do that in the West or in South Africa thats why we need a Bill of Rights that is inclusive. Its outrageous that such adverts are not illegal.

sokari said...

PPS on D9 - I have only seen the short and trailers so I have to admit I am not fully qualified to comment :) before anyone lashes out of me and now I HAVE become defensive!

Beauty said...

Discrimination is an ugly word about an ugly practice. It is an assault on the very notion of human rights. At the heart of all forms of discrimination are ignorance and prejudice. In 2005, the so very well educated Anglican bishops in Africa led by their Chairman, Peter Akinola, described homosexuality as an "abomination" which contradicted the Bible and African values. They said if they condoned homosexuality, which, is criminalised in the majority of African countries, then Africans would leave the Church or turn to Islam. Before we point at others, perhaps we should put ours under the spotlight as The National Muslim Centre condemned gay relations as "immoral, and runs contrary to our cultural and religious values". D-9? Above all else, civility matters.

Anonymous said...

So with this housing discrimination against own in our own country then i have a serious question and that is -- what are the leaders of the state doing since i believe someone must have complained and where is the anti discrimination law of the land or haven't any charges brought against them yet and what was the outcome and why not the good guys simply stone their cars and burn down the place bcos i refuse to see anything wrong with street justice in an outragous cases like this.

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