Thursday, April 28, 2016

These GSM Boys are robbing us blind

I used to work for one of the big 4 GSM companies in Nigeria and cannot help but wonder when things deteriorated this much. Generally, the top 4 guys (MTN, Airtel, Glo and Etisalat) are decent when it comes to business practices, but pressure and greed make people do things. Be the judge at the end of this and tell me if the operators are greedy thieves, complacent thieves or criminal accomplice (thieves). My options are limited to these.

In this current issue, there have been several, my old man noticed some amount is being deducted per hour on his phone, an Airtel line. Naturally I get contacted as the first line support for everything telco in the family and I called 111. The agent confirmed the deduction for a service (group-chat or group-on chat or whatever from Elseji in this case). Dear God, who needs another ridiculous chat service when WhatsApp is free? Anyway, the choice should be yours right?

Wrong. No one opted into this service and they could not see any subscription or they (customer care agent of operator) would have pointed it out. I asked for a refund and they refused. That's not the first time. Basically, the way the cookie crumbles is this:
One of the VAS partners steal from you, shares with the telco and you get a "We're sorry" from the agent.That apparently is the way business is done in these hard economic times. 

Thinking about it now, it's the third time in recent memory and it's so funny that the last time I complained, the service was deactivated and a refund request refused despite not subscribing to the service in the first place. Less than a fortnight after that, another service was stealing from the same line and then another...

In case you're wondering why this behavior is rampant, remember, people respond to incentives. I'll break it down.

A VAS (Value Added Services) company steals from a subscriber i.e. you. Let's assume it's for N10/day and it happened to take 2 days before it's deactivated. You complain, they stop. The Telco refuses to refund because, "We don't refund anymore" despite the fact you did not subscribe. They make N20 from you. Not much right?

As at March 2015, NCC puts the number of subscribers on Airtel GSM network at 149 million.

See where I'm going yet? Let's say they steal from 1.5m people, a paltry 1% of active subscribers across all telcos, let's see:

N20 X 1,500,000 = N30m in just 2 days!

Just when you're recovering, they steal from another set of subscribers, a sample of another 1% to keep the complaint threshold low and do this several times a month. Since there are 15 days in a month for this grossly underestimated figures, we're have something like:

 N30m X 15 = N450m every month!

The VAS company meets it's revenue target and smiles to the bank. Of course they share spoils with the telco whom usually charges 60% to 75% of loot. Let's say VAS company makes 40%:

40% of N450m = N180m

A few people complain, some give up trying to call customer care, many on the long queue in a shop.

A paragraph for the impact: Mama switches her phone to another operator, Papa keeps his phone off mostly and for the first time in years is considering another provider. Somewhere in the operation of the companies, a finance person makes a payout, a marketing guy gets a good grade and a fat bonus, another one is kicked out for not doing well with customer retention, the war between customer care and marketing festers, the telco sees VAS revenue jump, albeit temporarily and customer base seems to be stalling. And yes, I get to complain online again.

So what can the telcos do? 
First, they need to make refunds to show sincerity. A shortcode (*902#) was provided which we all hastily dialed with the hope it'll end the woes but apparently it was a sham.

The regulators? 
In the USA, they have the National Do Not Disturb (DND) registry; once your number is in it and you say DND, no telemarketer or any of these scums dare disturb you, not even for the damned adverts. NCC, you're dropping the ball please. A centralized DND is the solution.

The customers? 
Let's complain more. I saw this on Nairaland so this is widespread. Oh by the way, *902# does not seem to work in this case.

I have nothing against value added services and who know I may run one soon, I do have everything against unethical business practices.

Friday, December 11, 2015


Executive summary, after all the world likes twitter:

  1. If you are shopping on Jumia on 12-12 or one of those funky sales splash things, make sure you choose pay-on-delivery.
  2. If you are going to buy from Jumia (I fear the other retailers may not be too different), BUYERS BEWARE and consider item 3.
  3. Check your order emails, if it says somewhere something like, "Please note that we will not accept returns for orders placed...". They mean unconditionally. It's the same as NO TESTING.
  4. Now you know. We still love shopping, but we can be wiser about it.

The holiday season is here and Jumia will be doing something (great?). Holiday goodies that makes your eyes pop. This is the current one but you can expect more before the year runs out.


This beautiful image, from Jacobs Injury Law says it all. Shortly I'll be making references to some of what they had to say on buyer's safety online and boy they do have a lot to say.

As for the discerning, you guessed right, there is a story behind this and until I filed a complaint, I did not realize it had something to do with special sales, BLACK FRIDAY in this case.

The story, abridged

I purchased a Transcend memory card for my camera on Jumia, turned out I made the purchase on the 27th of November, yes, Black Friday. It arrived well after Black Friday but first week of December which is decent by our current standards but alas, it was no Transcend, it was a defective SanDisk, meant for a phone but with a jacket (an adapter) to make it fit in a camera. I had since tried to make a return and the unpleasant response I got initiated this warning to my friends and my friends' friends and my friends' friends' friends... you get the drift.

You bought it on Black Friday, we don't accept returns on Black Fridays...

The morale of the story is that seasonal shopping, like BLACK FRIDAY and 12:12 are special days that suppliers ship bad stock to customers, with the incentive that it cannot be returned, and we know that humans respond to incentives.

Hmm, who knows what other days there won't be returns. It turned out that somewhere in the order verification email that I got the clause was inserted that there won't be returns. If only my interesting eyes had seen that I was buying a "No testing" item from one of the companies that revolutionized online retail in Nigeria, that same "No testing" that you will expect to get from... let me not mention those markets, boys dey provoke now.

But remember, it was not even the product I purchased.

As clearly stated by Jacobs Injury Law... 

The concept of “buyer beware” is premised upon the idea that when two persons enter into an agreement, they both have enough information to evaluate the transaction.
The site goes on to say:
Immunizing businesses from civil justice does nothing to help the safety of the community.  In fact, it does the opposite.  It lets businesses commit harmful acts in secret, hurt the community, and tell them tough patooties.
But Buyers Beware is our most commoditized avenue to protect ourselves as consumers, so I'll rub it in, best as I can and hopefully this tiny voice in a corner of the internet reaches out and protects someone.

Have a CAVEAT EMPTOR holiday shopping.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Corporate Affairs Commission: Another parastatal in dire need of overhauling? Part II

The story in Part I finally comes to a close.

5 months and 8 days, that's how long it takes to file a change of director, open an account in a bank (that one that has been around forever), complete the search and your account is activated. Along the way you also have to throw tantrum or it may take longer. Let's break it down.

1. You are naive like me, so you have a qualified company secretary but he does not understand that things don't just work in Nigeria, you have to "grease-the-wheel". So you file, 3 weeks before CAC in Yaba (Yaba is notorious for bad customer service) asks you to write a petition. Another petition in 3 weeks then you realize you're wasting time. 2 months down the line and you decide this is going nowhere, file a new set of documents, this time in Abuja.

2. You get a lot of traction in Abuja, correct a paper or two and 2 months later your papers are out. You submit at the private ministry (the bank). It happens to be at the end of the month so no one does anything, after all, your money will contribute to the monthly performance review (MPR) for that month. Then they try to make your money count towards the following month's MPR because they know you are pissed and will try to move everything to another bank.

By this time, you've spent 4.5 months trying to open an account, no thanks mostly to the CAC.

3. Your banker lies to you; actually they want the search to be fully updated on all CAC channels (apparently the channels are clogged) and this will happen in about 2 weeks. However you're made to wait 4 weeks and by this time your banker is not replying your emails. You go bunkers and escalate and threaten. It's already 5 months so you copy the bank's complaints unit, and put and, both Consumer Protection units external to the bank. The following day, your account becomes active. It's a few days to MPR but your money is finally "spendable". It has lost value to devaluation and operational losses including costs of borrowings but finally you have the money! 

Five months and 8 days! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Corporate Affairs Commission: Another parastatal in dire need of overhauling?

The protagonist of this story is the Corporate Affairs Commission (hereafter called CAC); the story was born on the 19th of May 2015, it is a real live story and still unfolding. It has become my civic duty to share this story since other channels have proven abortive.

An overview for the skimmers

On the 19th of May 2015, my tech startup submitted a change of director request at the Yaba Lagos office of the CAC. The intent of course is to change the director structure of the company since some people have moved on and new people have come on board, just like every other thing in life.
Today, 17th August 2015 is the third month anniversary of submitting the fully vetted documents at CAC for a process we were assured will take a maximum of three weeks. We have been to the same office at least 10 times, written a complaint letter and yet another petition. The verbal response we have gotten, just so no one is committed, is that they cannot find our file.
If you are tempted to say, “It’s just to change directors right? Business can still go on can’t it?” Well, it’s like this. So we have been on a project for “that very big old blue bank” for a few months. To mitigate some past issues we decided to focus and prioritize their project and worked at it dedicated for a few months. In another article, I will be writing on why startups may want to avoid the big enterprises, but again that is for another day.
To cut the long story short, our “benefactor bank” insisted that this time around they will only pay into an account domiciled at their bank and can no longer give us a bank check to pay into our other bank accounts, which has been the practice erstwhile. Some directors in our startup have moved on and yes we were already re-documenting and yes we did protest about how it was not a good time. Despite the protests, we had to comply and expedite, especially since, “We have a new CEO from retail, he won’t allow payment to another bank account” and “It’s regulatory” or “It’s a compliance issue”. The most important reason, unsaid, however was, “Dude, just do it. We’re big and when we say toad, you jump”.
Like a rational company, we swung into action, faster this time, and submitted the necessary papers to CAC Yaba, Lagos office. Now you know half of the whole story.

So, kinni big deal?

Our account is frozen!
The bank opened our new account, paid us and froze the account. The account is frozen so stiffly that we cannot even hedge our exposure to de-valuation of the fund because they won’t even allow us to invest the money in government treasury bills in the same bank. Can you just imagine working for months, finally getting a bank alert but unable to shout “Godwin” because the fund is untouchable? The bank has conducted searches, but it returns the previous director structure. It seems CAC’s computer system shows the old company structure but they cannot locate the physical files to update it or something along these lines. Bottom line, we have not received one, not one response in any form from the CAC and that is why it seems I’m saying a lot of “seems” here.
Not everyone understands how this affects small businesses
As you hopefully know, cash-flow is the single most important thing that can keep any startup or any business for that matter alive, not even profit as many people think. The impact on our operations includes projects that cannot be actualized; salaries delayed but paid anyway not to mention a rising debt profile.
Try to imagine a project that should be adding to the bottom line but cannot be done but salary has to be paid anyway. By the time the issue is resolved, the money that should fund projects are instead used to offset debts.

The CAC Office, a detour

If you have been to any public sector office for any transaction, you’ll feel my pain. I remember one old NEPA office where a lady said I cannot give here anything with my left hand when my right hand was healing from a burn because, “It’s disrespectful”. My wife cited an incidence when her office called NAFDAC to lodge a complaint and a cold voice at the other end said, “I said good morning…” Do you remember how you are inclined to be extremely nice when you visit government offices because you know the slightest offense may keep you waiting for hours for no just cause (don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate of being respectful to workers and others generally but you know what I mean).
On the other hand you will also relish the joy of speaking to the agent of a private bank or telco; recollect how they genuinely attempt to resolve your issue in a timely manner, how they strive to retain you as a customer and how you nag them despite all their efforts. That is the reward of service management, a topic that cannot be accommodated in this epistle.
Well, the CAC office is not different from that public sector office that you remember too well but discussing this will take us away from the today’s drama. Do you know it take hours to get attention at the CAC even when you can see no one is being attended to? Do you know a helpline exist but not very helpful? Do you know you can submit complaint letters and you are never contacted? Do you know you can write petitions and it goes down the drain? Do you know they lack service management? No ticketing system so no one can look at ageing requests and take appropriate actions?

So CAC can’t find the file? A theory

Some years ago, CAC relocated from Lagos to Abuja along with many other federal parastatals. After I spoke with several people while trying to resolve this impasse, there were suggestions that files may have been scattered, wrongly catalogued or stored in dusty rooms.
I find this inexcusable however; how will the CAC carry out its mandate as custodian of company and allied matters? How do we move from an agrarian society to a service society without mining the world’s latest most valuable raw material i.e. data? How do we then fight terrorism if every source of tangible data cannot contribute meaningful information to the pool? Has it suddenly become understandable how Honorable Abike Dabiri-Erewa’s name was wrongfully quoted as one of those accumulating bad debts in banks?
If they will allow it then I’ll bring volunteers from my 12-man team from Lagos to Abuja to search for the missing file.

So, why are you on social media?

If you have received your salary in the past 3 months I haven’t, and painfully not because I’m a sluggard who refused to work.  If you have wards in schools you already know school fees will be paid in September. Beside, a drowning man knows no straw. So if this is an accommodating medium where others have failed, I’ll cling to it. After all, no one is trying to pull down a PDP or APC government, just canvassing for better service management in the public sector.
And yes, we have written twice to the CAC; one a complaint letter submitted over 6 weeks ago at the same Yaba office and the second a petition to the registrar general, Mr. Bello Mahmud on the same day. None of these letters have commanded a response from the CAC even though it has full contact details including phone numbers.
I also got a scare; a friend told me it took him two years to resolve a similar issue. Another colleague spent nine weeks in an expedited attempt to register a company; CAC claims today that it 24 hours to register a company in Nigeria, apparently it takes three months plus to service them.

A note about our mentality, because culture matters to the wellbeing of a nation

As much as I empathize with our brothers in public service in many ways, from the need for an improved healthcare system to higher standard of living but dare I say it’s not all moonlight and roses in the private sector? The next time you carry a placard you must also consider if you have contributed your good to the national portfolio, if you were “on time” to work for the better part of last month, if you discharged your duty faithfully in your place of work, if you indulge in the fact that you are backed by a union and lose your sense of faithfulness in your call-to-service of the nation.
And it baffled me when a good number of people simply asked the same question in various ways, “Who is handling this document for you?  Does this person know what needs to be done?” I beg to say its impunity when you must know your “way around” before getting the most mundane task done at a government office.


If you have read up to this point you are probably a very concerned Nigerian and not here because of my eloquence for I make no such claim. If on the other hand you work for the CAC and you are concerned, you should be because I speak the truth and the truth may still be able to find strong benefactors in high places.
If you wish to represent me in this matter, I’ll appreciate it because it has been a traumatic experience. If it is arbitration, I welcome it in the interest of the nation. Above all, I’m an advocate of change; a change for the better that is.
I am Kehinde, I run Evince.

The saga ends, 5 months down the line. Part II

Sunday, July 06, 2014

RME and FL Studio: My first cut

I finally got my studio equipment setup and was able to take my first recording!
My setup consists of the following equipment:

  1. An RME Fireface UFX Audio Interface 
  2. A CAD Audio E100S Condenser Mic
  3. A laptop
  4. 25ft balanced cable from Shure
  5. Some more connectors
  6. FL Studio
Getting used to the TotalMix software that shipped with the RME was, intimidating at first glance but I adjusted after some time (been looking at this unit for 3 days but decided today is the day). I opened FL studio today and their documentation was gracefully good enough and after minutes of toiling I recorded a sample.wav file.

The next big this is the project file setup in FL studio; this is one major piece of work that must be understood fully so as not to create file nightmares. I'll be posting my file system setup when I'm all convinced I have a winning formula.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

EMBA 17: PAN African University, Lagos Business School

Yesterday (A few hours ago) marked my 1st day at LBS and the common threat is "You just sold your soul  for 2 years". It is estimated every participant will dedicate at least 18 hours a week (oh yes, besides the time spent attending lectures) to consuming and dissecting case study materials. If I though I had my hands full it just became an understatement. Attendance and class participation takes about 30% of every course grade, meaning introverts are about to loose their talents for keeping to themselves. Friday classes are usually from 12noon while Saturday classes are from 9am till 3pm so imagine all the wedding ceremonies and birthday parties missed! It was said of a guy whose wife parked all his course materials and set them ablaze.
EMBA 17 Class of 2012, about 70 man strong

I've decided to make this a very practical year:, even more practical than the case study method adopted here. Apply whatever I learn using Evince Systems as guinea pig. My hope is to make the period more tolerable doing this but today is just day 2 and I'm already running late reviewing pre-course materials for Analysis of Business Problems.

Yesterday we had a tour of the facilities and it was slightly amazing what the eyes could see in a building I had hitherto considered tiny: a library, a rather large amphi-teatre and a number of lecture halls and facilities some donated by the big names in telecommunications and conglomerates in Nigeria  Oh Yes I see a nice looking football pitch so I won't miss mobile FC at Unilag that much and not too far from this is a bar to replace the lost calories. Friday 20th will linger in my memories for a while.

The football pitch, beyond the last fence.

Impressive amphitheater, knitted somewhere in the building

I won't be the only one not forgetting Friday 20th January 2012 for a while, this day, Eneche Akogwu was shot dead in Kano. Eneche, a Channels TV correspondent was interviewing eye witnesses in Kano after a series of coordinated bombings. It was reported one of them drew a gun and shot him dead.
The bombings had since been claimed by the radical Islamic sect Boko-Haram. This bombing has been reported the most lethal till date with more than 100 people reported dead.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kodearena is back

After 5 years! (covers face in shame) and kodearena is born into fire nation. The next and biggest code jam and software developer conference in Nigeria. Kodearena disappeared in 2006 but we still believe kodearena can save Nigeria.

As usual, we advocate diverse programming languages. in 2006 was developed with django but 2011 will be mvc. The concept has changed slightly and we don't have a theme yet so I guess this is the best time for you to get on-board. has been renewed and set to auto-renew. The project for the website will soon be available on git. Watch this space for more developments.