Diplomatic Ramblings – Part 16 By Doug McAdam covering the whole of Nigeria: I had to maintain close contact with them so that we could keep our communities abreast of the ever-changing security situation and our contingency plans in good order.
View from Chellarams
In my last “Ramblings” I described the post I was about to take up in Nigeria’s Lagos as one of the biggest of our overseas management jobs. The Visa and Consular Sections I was to run were housed on the 10-12th floors of the Chellarams Building situated in the commercial heartland of bustling Lagos Island: the main High Commission Building in the early 90s (but nowadays in new capital Abuja) was on leafy and relaxed Victoria Island – fairly close geographically but in an entirely different world! At the height of our frantic summer season with our staff reinforced by temporary immigration officers, my staff in Chellarams numbered almost 100 – this included 10 Consular staff one of whom was my wife Sue. There were also Visa and Consular offices in our Deputy High Commission in Kaduna to the north for which I was also responsible. Furthermore, I ran a network of 90 voluntary Community Liaison Officers
There was always underlying tension in the air with violence never very far away. Communications were a problem with the ‘phone landlines unreliable (no mobile telephones in the 90s!) and all staff were allocated and expected to use individual mobile radios. The staff houses and flats were all well secured, the main motto being to make your house look more formidable than the one next door so that you were second choice when it came to a break-in! But, just in case, all our accommodation had keeps where occupants could take refuge until rescue arrived. We also shared a walking blood bank with other friendly diplomatic missions so that information was centrally available of individuals’ blood types. One Sunday I was taking a cold drink to one of the drivers delivering water (another downside) when I heard my name being called on the tanker radio. I have a rare blood type which I apparently shared with an Australian colleague who had multiple bullet wounds following a daylight robbery and the hospital concerned was desperately short of his blood type. So I dashed straight to the hospital and he survived, if only just. There was civil unrest at least once
every summer of our four years there and given our geographical location we were generally in the thick of things. Dilemma! Do you stay in your upper floor offices and risk being burnt alive or risk taking to the streets and getting involved in a riot? We had to evacuate my staff half a dozen times with the timing absolutely crucial to arrive shaken at the main High Commission only for them to be totally unaware of what we had been experiencing. There was also considerable unrest due to petrol shortages (criminal in a country producing over a million barrels of oil a day) and it was worrying when the police trying to control squabbling motorists at the service station we overlooked would fire their powerful M16 rifles into the air. The routine violence was bad enough but our position was complicated by “Operation Desert Storm” in 1991. Our office was located near the main mosque on Lagos Island so for a while we kept a very close eye on which direction the congregation were heading after Friday prayers. The situation was even more tense for our office in Kaduna in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north and because of specific threats we felt obliged to close this for a while. Doug retired to the Algarve 12 years ago after 43 years in the Foreign Office
World’s longest zip-line and cable car planned for Monchique It’s already a haven for nature-lovers, but Monchique could be about to become an adrenaline junkies’ paradise too. Plans have be submitted to build both a cable car and a zip-line connecting the quiet mountain town with the peak at nearby Pictoa, reports local Portuguese newspaper Barlavento.
current heliport. There will also be a restaurant, ice cream parlour, toilets, a small children’s leisure park and a stationery and a handful of shops.
Covering a distance of 2,360 metres, the zip-line would be the longest in the world. The current holder of that title is ‘The Monster’ at Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orocovis, Puerto Rico, which measures 2,205 metres.
An extreme sports hub is also planned, with a paragliding and hand-gliding launchpad and an abseiling area. Designed to blend in with the natural surroundings with a green roof and using raw materials such as wood and cork wherever possible, the cable car structure will also have a system for collecting rainwater, to be used for irrigation and cleaning.
Funded by a private investor, the €6 million project promises to revolutionise Monchique, making it one of the leading extreme sport centres on the Algarve. The plans received by Monchique’s Municipal Câmara show that the cable car entrance building will be built close to the town’s
The project has also sparked plans for a bus station near to the cable car entrance in order to improve bus links with Portimão and avoid traffic congestion. It is hoped that the development with help boost Monchique’s tourist trade, and in turn its local economy which has suffered recently,
by getting people to stop in the town rather than just passing through."The idea is to create a structure that will allow people spend a whole day in Monchique, not just an hour or two,” the project’s head architect, Eric Castaldo, explained to Barlavento. Pointing out that many local businesses have been forced to close their doors in recent years, Monchique’s mayor, Rui André, added: “This infrastructure will also be a way to revitalise the local economy, creating attractive new opportunities.” Provided the project is given the green light by local authorities, work is scheduled to start on the construction of the cable car and lip-line in 2017, with a view to open the facilities in the summer of 2018. Ticket prices for the cable care are estimated at €6 and the plan is to operate all year round, albeit with a reduced service in the winter months.
Published on Jul 25, 2016