Hello! When Last Did You Write or Post a Letter?

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You may not remember, but you are not alone. GBUBEMI GOD’S COVENANT, SNR went to town to find out how relevant the Nigerian Postal Services is in a Global System of Communication (GSM) age. His report.

 

The postal services used to be the only link between friends, family members, organizations, lovers, applicants and employers worldwide. Since the colonial days, Nipost was the first communication institution that ensured movement of mails, parcels, telegrams and so on.

Virtually everyone confronted with the question had to think hard to recall when they actually needed to post a letter. Insurance broker and business man, Okechukwu Innocent could not remember the date but told Daily Times of an unforgettable encounter he had with the Nipost.

“Ah! I can never forget one letter of interview that a company on Igbosere Street posted to me in 1974. The advertisement did not carry the company’s name and address so I waited for a letter inviting me for interview that never came.

“I had started work in Gottschalk Building Materials for eight months before a letter of interview came to my address in Mushin. That was when I knew that the company was in Igbosere. Before I got a job, I had written over 300 letters of applications. That was how NIPOST was in those days.”

Mrs. Mabel Chisom Mmaduka, a business executive with a private holding sighed at the question. “Humn. I don’t remember when last I wrote a letter o! I really can’t remember. Since the monopoly of Nitel was broken and other telephone companies started, everything with few exceptions has been done by mobile phone calls. I don’t think NIPOST is still relevant.”

 

Proprietress of a private school in Ebute-Meta West, Mrs. Olagunsoye said she had even forgotten we once had Nipost in the country.

“It is now that you mentioned it that I remember we had postal services before, but you can’t blame anybody. Who would want to remember the snail speed way Nipost staff worked in those years?

“Now I remember that a letter was once reported to have taken 90 days to travel from Lagos Island to Maryland; there were others that took a whole year to arrive their destinations, while some letters or parcels never ever got to their destinations; they just disappeared without trace especially if it is a parcel that contained valuables.

“But the worst was when large parcels of mails were dumped at inappropriate places, some on the sea shore, and some in forests, in dustbins and so on. The newspapers used to carry the news.

“As for their relevance, I don’t think they are still relevant in this age. When we didn’t have any choice, they were very relevant, but not anymore. What will make me to write a letter, when I could make a phone call, send a text message or use the internet? Well, I don’t know about others really, but I certainly don’t need them.”

When last did you post a letter? Ever had a pen pal? Are you still in touch and if not, how did or when did you break off with your pen pal?

Barrister Godwin Patrick James of Citadel Chambers in Ajao Estate, Lagos holds some fond memories of the Nipost of old and believes the services is still relevant.

“When I was doing my youth service in 1986, I posted a love letter to my fiancé who’s now my wife.

“I think Nipost is still very relevant. People are still posting parcels; GSM cannot carry parcels, and now they have haulage that carries goods. The post office boxes are still there, they’re renewing them all the time. There’s still no alternative to moving parcels, though they have courier services now and I know they liaise with Nipost because they need license from Nipost to operate.

“In fact, if they do well, they should be making a lot of money from fees, licensing, and even through Value Added Tax (VAT), which means they’ll be paying according to what they’re carrying which, incidentally, Nipost is not doing. So I think Nipost will continue to be relevant for as long as people still move parcels and other items around the globe. The GSM cannot make them redundant or obsolete.”

Mr. Mordi Nelson, MD, Divine Source Studios, Lagos posted a letter 15 years ago.

“I used to write friends and my brother in Agbor my home town, but since the age of GSM has come to stay, I don’t think the tradition of writing and posting letters is still in practice, because I don’t see why anybody will leave the Short Messages Sy), or E-mail or fax and begin to write a long letter. Apart from it being a cumbersome process, you cannot be sure when the letter will arrive or whether it will arrive its destination at all or who will receive or read your letter, while you can just dial a number and speak one-on-one to your friend or family member. Ah, no. I don’t see the relevance of letter writing in this age anymore.”

Mrs Victoria Ephraim-Umoette,

Ikot-Ekpene, Akwa-Ibom State

“Ah!” she sighed, “That was when I was in secondary school, about 1993 to 1995; but I bought a stamp recently. I used it for my transcript.”

Veteran actress and MD, Lufodo Productions, Joke Silva feels it still serves its purpose.

“Well nowadays, what do we do? Either someone delivers a letter to your house, or e-mails it. Even if you’re going to use the post, you’re likely to use any of these courier services rather than resort to the conventional post. But if you’re talking about its relevance, it obviously is for now, because people are still using it. I think all over the world you still find that post offices still exist.

Richard Ayoyinka (Papa Ajasco)

Actor/theatre artiste

“I last posted a letter when I was in junior high school. I am not a love letter kind of person, you understand; but I remember those days I did write letters, but not a love letter. I wrote to a brother of mine.

“I don’t think NIPOST is still relevant, but come to think of it again, people still post letters, so they could still be relevant to those who have need to write long letters.

“You see, technological advancement has changed many things. We use to hear of pen-friends or pen pals before, but that time is gone; now what we have is text-friends, fax messages, face book and all that.”

 

We are very relevant

An impeccable source at the office of the Post Master General of NIPOST who spoke off record stoutly defended the relevance and indispensability of the Nigerian Postal Services.

“Right now we’re doing sensitization of our services to the public. Any product you buy up to N1,000, the seller is required to issue a receipt, affix a stamp of N50 and charge it to the customer. It’s a law that has been in existence for ages, but we’re reinforcing it now.

“Presently we’re in the market because Nipost is now ICT compliant; we’re a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU); we’re hooking up to whatever is the current innovation, so Nipost is competing favourably with all the ICT firms.

“We have counter automation; our mails are tracked. By the time a parcel comes to our mail processing centre from abroad, the sender has already informed the owner your parcel has arrived and intimate the owner with the parcel’s tracking number. When the owner or claimer goes to the counter, they’ll use the computer to track and see where the parcel is, then they’ll tell the owner your parcel is in so and so post office, go there and sign for it.

“All the courier companies you see deliver their mails to us under what we call Bulk Mail, both individually and collectively; the banks also use our services. Like company and banks Annual General Meetings, dividend warrants, rights issues, share certificates and the rest of them. We’re the people that deliver them to their respective destinations and the companies and the banks pay for our services.”

One would expect the volume of mails Nipost has to sort out to have reduced to the minimum with the GSM phenomenon, buy the officer said they’re even understaffed right now.

But do people still post letters as before the GSM transformed communication globally? Certainly there should be a shortfall?

“People still post mails. They post ordinary letters, large packets, and post registered letters, express letters, etc. The volume may not be as much as before because people now use the Short Message Services (SMS) and voice calls, but every other activity is still there.”

Now, after this spirited defence and promotion of Nipost, when last did this executive write a letter, affixed a stamp and posted it out?

“Well, I won’t lie. I have no need to write a letter for now, but whenever the need arises, of course I will do so.

“So far I communicate with my people worldwide on the telephone and we use the internet a lot, but that is not saying I will not use the postal services whenever I need to.”

 

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