Wednesday, October 11, 2017


By Aniedi Ukoenang

Apart from the good roads network, flyovers and relatively serene environment that may greet a first timer, or a returnee who has been away for a long time from Akwa Ibom state, another unexpected shocker likely to be experienced by anyone who must have spent a long time in more economically advanced cities like Lagos, Abuja, etc or outside the country is the poor, rude, discourteous, insolent and ill-mannered customer service approach at buying and selling points across the state.

Here the rules have changed, the customer is not the king it is the seller that is the Lord. Honestly some experiences could be so weird and shocking to someone who has been in cities where businesses compete for patronage and customers and treated as Lords, and they are always right. 

The reason for the use of the word ‘people’ in the title is because one may not experience the impudent treatment in shops owned by people from other regions  rather there is more than 50 percent likelihood that buying from an average Akwa Ibom person may not be fun.

There are very popular complains amongst the Ibibio, Annang, Oro people that Nigerians from other regions have taken over trade and commerce across the state, but there seem to be paucity of research or a coordinated attempt at getting to the crux of the issue to come up with an empirical solution.
A personal experience at a filing station recently gave me deep concerns. 

Few weeks ago, I walked into a fuel station at Idoro about 7:08am to buy premium motor spirit. The young annang-speaking girl who evidently had not washed her face yet walked up to me and asked ‘what do you want?’, being a person conscious of and certified in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), I asked ‘madam, no greeting at all?’ guess what, the girl, possibly just recovering from an orgasm (because I learnt orgasm is to girls what weed is to men) told me ‘what if you greet me first, what would have happened?’ oh my God, I felt like leaving behind a dirty slap, alas she is someone’s employee, suddenly a more elderly Ibibio-speaking young man was already approaching the girl asking for keys, I felt I had a partner to help me descend on the uncouth fellow, so I reported what just happened to the guy, and I received my shocker. ‘Yes nah, ekom idoho ima (greeting is not love) you could greet her or she could greet you, it’s the same. Sir abeg buy fuel if you came to buy, leave that thing’.

I asked, ‘young man do you know that greetings are part of good customer service?’ and he replied by saying that greeting has nothing to do with customer service. Being a man of few words, I simply walked away with my 1000 naira, with a vow to make an effort to meet the owner of that beautiful station controlled by uncouth fellows.
Ekom idoho ima (pleasantries/greeting shows no love) is a popular Ibibio maxim used by people even at market places across Akwa Ibom with an implication that is anti-customer service.

If you want to buy from an average Ibibio man/woman happily, be the one to greet him nicely, do not bargain for too long, do not give him/her money that will need change, do not accuse him that there is an original version of his product and if he is eating please wait for him to finish before he attends to you, the list of ‘do nots’ are endless. Unlike those from other regions who would volunteer to go and search and buy a product that they do not have, greet you nicely, educate their customers on how to use the products and the original or imitation of their products, some even help in conveying  purchases to car locations. 

 So what exactly is the problem?

I discovered that there are evil unions amongst traders of even petty goods, these unions fix the prices and even punish those who disobey the regulations. These unnecessary unions exist even amongst sellers of roasted corn by the road side. The union completely eliminates the culture of competition as someone who makes extra effort to travel and buy cheap has to sell the same amount with a lazy bone who bought retail but sells at the same location.

Secondly, it seems there is a blanket of mediocrity amongst traders here. Their ultimate goal in the business is not beyond subsistence buying and selling just to survive and feed the family. No plans to either expand and have branches, nor grow from a small shop to a supermarket. A simple check across neighborhoods will reveal that small shops opened over 10years ago have remained the same in stock, capital and patronage. No expansions.

Also the civil service/salary mentality of the people including sales boy/girl does not give room for an extra effort as against if it was a payment based on commission or settlement as practiced by other regions who settle their good servants by opening shops for them after years of diligent services. An average Akwa Ibom man is not too much interested in the growth of his subordinates, and the servant says, 'after all it’s not my shop'. 

Unfortunately the people would rather pray, blame witches, accuse successful people of using juju, and become offended by progress of successful business owners instead of looking inwards.
It is hightime the people changed the way they think about themselves and conduct their businesses with the best CRM standards.

Aniedi Ukoenang is a journalist and he's certified in Customer Relationship Management (




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