How Nigeria Kills Her Entrepreneurs: The NuliWood Story

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At 10:55 am this morning, I received a whatsapp message that read:

“Lagos state is pulling down Ada’s shop.
So much for doing business in Nigeria.”

I was in the middle of a meeting when I received that message, but I immediately excused myself to make a quick phone-call to clarify the text.

Unfortunately the voice over the phone confirmed my fears, Ada Osakwe 2014 Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow of the Africa Leadership Institute and a fellow of the African Leadership Network (ALN) was just told a few minutes ago that her store had been marked for Lagos state demolition.

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And the Lagos state government came prepared, they had a bulldozer, and polices officers armed with guns ready to carry out the deed. You would think for a second that they were destroying a criminal hideout.

At the back of my head I was hoping the issue would be resolved. Maybe the Landlord needed to pay the right people and they would go away.

But then around 1:12 pm, I received another image from our alumni’s whatsapp group. The store staff were on the building trying to remove the NULI JUICE logo from the building top in an attempt to rescue it from the impending demolition. That’s when it started occurring to me that this was quite serious.

Immediately I decided to drive down to the store to see what I could do to help. And what I saw was really the saddest thing I had seen in a long time. It was this picture…

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The entire building and store had been reduced to a pile of rubbles. I saw business owners wading through the mess trying to salvage whatever they could find. Maybe a “door frame” or an “electrical wire” whatever they could get their hands on.

And across the road was Ada dressed coincidentally in black watching as a business with so much promise … one that she had poured her heart and soul into for months being buried in less than a few hours with nothing but a few minutes of warning!

I remember the first time she told me she would build a store in Lagos. The ideas she had, the passion and the optimism, I saw fire in her eyes. She showed me pictures from the Abuja store and showed me the app that allowed her watch her stores 24/7. She was excited and I was excited, here was someone my classmate who was going to do something different … something BIG.

When I heard the store was opened I went down to see it, and everything was exquisite, the furniture, the attention to details, everything just as she had described. I would drive by the store often and there she was in the window at her computer working, marketing and planning.

nuli juice

But now all that was gone. The dreams and visions “temporarily” reduced to a pile of rubbish.

And in the midst of the concrete waste a lot of people will gather to discuss legalities.

But for me I choose to discuss “entrepreneurship” and what message the Lagos state Government sends to its young and aspiring entrepreneurs …

For a country in the middle of a recession, battling low unemployment and one desperately in need of jobs. For that country to destroy a legit business employing people without any warning to hardworking business owners sends the wrong message. It tells people that the government does not RESPECT or CARE about small businesses.

Because if it did this would never have happened.

A government that respects small businesses and understands their critical impact to the Economy will ensure that their businesses are not destroyed with just a 10 minute notice. They would do more to protect their entrepreneurs so as to encourage them create jobs. They won’t send armed police to break down a building as if they were common criminal hideouts. They will treat them with respect.

Today there was no sign of respect or empathy. It was just coldness and today I felt really hopeless about my future in Nigeria. Because I witnessed the birth and destruction of a business in a matter of weeks. I saw a business buried right in front of her owner.

The touch of sadness was palpable, the smell of hopelessness and frustration suffocating. I saw tears.

But I know one day (and this is really cliche) things will be different, because our generation will be in-charge and this generation that has failed us and still fails us will get to see in their last few years what Nigeria should and could have been.

And for every “Ada” out there, that has gotten their businesses harassed, barraged, insulted, degraded and destroyed by a myopic Government, hang in there. They can destroy your buildings, but they can never kill your IDEAS.

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Ofili

Author: Ofili

Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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15 comments on “How Nigeria Kills Her Entrepreneurs: The NuliWood Story

  1. And we wonder, why people are packing their bags to leave this country. Even a corrupt politician won’t experience sure horror. Sue that Landlord, his spirit, body and soul😡😡😡😡😡😡

  2. This indeed is a sad story. If there was any issue the least they could have done was seal off the building until it is resolved.

    The Spirit of Nuli is alive and will triumph.

  3. Le sassy on said:

    What is disappointing in the sentiments this is generating, is no mention of the landlord. You should change the title to how Nigeria(n)s* kill their entrepreneurs.

  4. It’s been quite long that ‘news’ or an article has brought tears to my eyes. I am practically weeping! This is very sad… #MakesNoSense!

  5. This is really sad. I used to be very hopeful about Nigeria but right nw, I’m just hopeful for will and life. Its difficult to sustain a business in Nigeria and when you do, they do everything to destroy it. The only sector they are not sure of how to destroy now is the strictly online businesses and they are still look for ways to destroy us. I don’t know. I am too tired to take risks. Not in this country.
    Elsie latest post is Dawn Behind a Red Door – 3My Profile

  6. The same insensitive government has done the same thing in Abuja. I witnessed the task force with armed policemen destroy business on along Aminu Kano crescent. The annoying thing is that these structures we temporary extensions that were within the parameters of the buildings. Its really sad that they should be doing this at a time when people are finding it veryhard to earn a living. Imagine how many more jobs have been lost. Sad Sad Sad.

  7. The story is a sad one. Whether she had approval or not, in this time of recession, destruction shouldn’t be the number one thought in the mind of the government.

    Phew!!! Who knows who will be next?

  8. keiskwerd on said:

    I saw the title and just the preview from my mail. ..I only had to see the pictures before the tears started pouring out. Reading just confirmed that indeed, someone’s hopes were actually crushed in such a brutal manner.
    As to the questions raised by other commenters, there’d always be grey areas in Nigeria. Why, because not all information is back and white in this nation. The bottom line is that she got a notification that the building would be crushed within 10mins of the event. Whether you chose to lay the blame on the landlord or government, it still boils down to government. It is not the duty of the tenant to find out if a building contravenes the State’s planning laws or whatever it contravened. As a tenant, she already has enough to worry about like fuel for gen despite paying PHCN bills without supply of electricity, paying for security that’s technically just to show you have someone and not to ward off criminals, in addition to the actual challenges of a business expected to make profit. Why would you add such responsibilities to her’s?
    Ultimately, I still blame the government because these issues mostly actually arise from their afterthought plans. They suddenly discover a road needs drainage years after or traffic would be eased if the road is dualised etc. They have these brainwaves after allocations for lands have been given whether at the government level or at the community level. They claim to plan to compensate the people. But what they don’t realise is that no matter how desperate the need to fix that road is, you must reach a logical agreement/concession with the rightful owners within a logical time frame and not by bullying.
    That building doesn’t look like it was an afterthought or a sham building that some poverty stricken person used zinc and wood to extend knowing one day he’d be asked to pack. The landlord likely has a C of O to that building. Granted he should have let the tenants know all these challenges were going on, but at the same time, he may have hoped the issue would be resolved. In that time, he would not have been expected to keep the building empty. He is afterall running a business. Most importantly, if a settlement agreement was reached with government, he wouldn’t have been renting the place out. He’d have been packing out himself..
    And Lastly, a government that’s sincere, thoughtful and sensitive would never operate in this manner. When you plan to destroy a man, do it with dignity. The least they could have done is to paste repeated notices all over stating clearly the dates the demolition would take place. That way, no tenant is unaware, that way, no newbie comes to rent a place and invest huge sums furnishing.
    This was wicked. Done without an atom or respect or empathy for the people involved. We realise that sometimes demolishing has to take place, but they must be done in manners not to attract retribution for such acts.

    • Alaba Oginni on said:

      Thank you for succinctly putting my argument on this matter forward. I’ve insisted that the onus fell on the “demolishers”(LASG) to effectively communicate and give time for the “demolishees”(Null Juice & co) to move out of the premises if it’s truly illegal and no compromise can be reached. We can’t on one hand be touting diversification and on the other hand destroying SMEs without any soft landing or palliatives. I’m sure nothing will happen on the demolished site for a very long time so why the trigger-happiness to kill businesses that could be taxed and provide jobs for families in a recession.
      😠😠😠

  9. This really touched me but after reading a few comments I had to say something…. This article was not a “breaking news” headline; so pls don’t come here and say the writer didn’t give enough information. It was clearly written from a personal point of view. It is stated that Ada had no idea this was coming. Hold up though!… do u think she would have spent millions of naira just to turn it to rubbish???
    Dear readers, it is important that we understand there will always be different aspects of approach. If we are to talk legalities I’m sure our government officials are the most lawless citizens (note: this is not a proven fact).
    Thank you ofili, I can relate to this as a business owner

  10. This is pure wickedness in high places. Can you imagine! She has to sue somebody ooo. Either the landlord or the govt agency. Was the house built overnight? What was the main reason for demolition? After they will come and tell young people to be starting businesses. They can demolish the buildings but not her ideas. She will continue rising.
    Adaeze Chianumba latest post is Bye Bye to August My Profile

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