THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC HISTORY OF ALCOHOL IN SOUTH-EASTERN NIGERIA


THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC HISTORY OF ALCOHOL IN SOUTH-EASTERN NIGERIA   

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

Alcohol has various socio-economic and cultural functions among the people of southeastern Nigeria. It is used in rituals, marriages, oath taking, festivals and entertainment. It is presented as a mark of respect and dignity. The basic alcoholic beverage produced and consumed in the area was palm -wine tapped from the oil palm tree or from the raffia- palm. Korieh notes that, from the fifteenth century contacts between the Europeans and peoples of eastern Nigeria especially during the Atlantic slave trade era, brought new varieties of alcoholic beverages primarily, gin and whisky.1 Thus, beginning from this period, gins especially schnapps from Holland became integrated in local culture of the peoples of Eastern Nigeria and even assumed ritual position.2 From the 1880s, alcohol became accepted as a medium of exchange for goods and services and a store of wealth.3 By the early twentieth century, alcohol played a major role in the Nigerian economy as one third of Nigeria‘s income was derived from import duties on liquor.4

Nevertheless, prior to the contact of the people of Southern Nigeria with the Europeans, alcohol was derived mainly from the oil palm and raffia palm trees which were numerous in the area. These palms were tapped and the sap collected and drunk at various occasions. From the era of the Trans- Atlantic slave trade, the import of gin, rum and whisky became prevalent.These were used in ex-change for slaves and to pay comey – a type of gratification to the chiefs. Even with the rise of legitimate trade in the 19th century alcoholic beverages of various sorts continued to play important roles in international trade.5 Centuries of importation of gin into the area led to the entrenchment of imported gin in the culture of the people. No cultural events such as marriage, naming, burial, meeting of elders, peacemaking, incantation, libation, offering to the ancestors, and gifts to important

personalities took place without the use of gin. According to Ofonagoro, imported liquor was known in Igboland as ogwo nnu oria (healer of many diseases) because of the declared healing properties on the label of most imported gin.6 Gin was soon integrated into traditional medicine and was used for mixing various herbs and roots as remedies to various health conditions.

Furthermore, gin was used as collateral in business negotiations, for payment of fines in courts,7 as store of wealth, as measurements of wealth and as an alternative to currency.8 This was because since the produce of the area under study, consisted mostly of perishable commodities, it was difficult to store them as wealth. Agricultural goods were converted to forms that could be stored such as lands, slaves or alcohol.9 According to Isichei

―the  depreciation  of  Igbo  land‘s  currencies  meant  that  liquor  was  a  useful  way  of accumulating wealth.‖10

Generally, during the early colonial period of Nigeria, the importation of alcohol played a major role in the economy. For instance in 1899, liquor accounted for about 90 percent of customs revenue in Nembe, Brass and Niger Coast Protectorate valued at

£645,517.11Explaining the importance of alcoholic liquor in Nigeria, Bishop Tugwell cynically remarked:

The greater the imports of spirits the richer the treasury: and the richer the treasury, the more rapidly we can advance in matters of reform. We import spirits for the purposes of revenue. How is the railway being built? By gin. How was the Carter-Denton bridge built? By gin. How is the town lighted? By gin. And now, if it be asked, how is the Town to be drained, or how are we to secure a good supply and good pure water, the answer is, with gin.12

There was a multiplicity of alcoholic drinks imported from Holland, Germany and Britain. By the early 20th century, the popular brands included Queen Yak, Bettoler, Anice and

J.J.W. Peters. An oral source indicates that in the 1950s, alcoholic drinks such as Anice were

cherished for their acclaimed medicinal value with the labelling which stated as follows: ―If you have it as wine, it will intoxicate you. But if you have it as drug, it will cure you.‖ 13

Centuries old importation of alcohol had impact on the economy, society and health in southeastern Nigeria. Missionaries petitions on the existence of widespread alcoholism which was seen as a hindrance to Christianisation and the civilising mission not only in southeastern Nigeria but in West Africa as a whole led to the Brussels Pact of 1890.14 This pact attempted to restrict the sale of alcohol; whereby alcohol should not be sold to colonies where it had not yet been introduced. With this development, Northern Nigeria was exempted from alcohol trade while the trade intensified in the South which had been exposed to alcohol trade for centuries. With this pact, there was increase in import duties making gin very expensive and resulting in the importation of poor quality gin. As a result of the Brussels Pact, there was an increase in import duties as follow: 1891 – 1892 (8d), 1893 – 1894 (1s), 1894 – 1896 (2s) and 1899 – 28th February, 1905 (3s).15

As from the 1920s, this increase in import duties resulted in the importation of methylated spirits which was blended and sold as alternative to gin. Although cheaper, methylated was more injurious to health. While methylated was 25 shillings a gallon, gin was 35 shillings a gallon.16 Later, the import duty on methylated spirit was increased hence people sought alternatives. This marked the beginning and intensification of the distillation of indigenous gin popularly known as ogogoro. Indigenous liquor impacted greatly on the colonial economy in the southeastern Nigeria. It led to a loss of income to government making the government to brand it illicit. It also led to the shortage of copper pipe and scarcity of sugar.17 By 1932, local gin had so gained in popularity that people refused to renew their liquor licence.18 Due to the loss of income, the colonial government started to clamp down on gin production without much success.19 Hence, local gin production and consumption continued even till date.

To contest with local gin, attempts were made to produce gin industrially in West Africa. Another attempt to domesticate alcohol production in the colonial economy was the production of lager beer. In the early colonial period, assorted beer was imported into Nigeria by different trading companies such as Gros and Dupuy. After the Second World War and with the import substitution policy of the colonial government, some companies including United Africa Company (UAC), Compangnie Francaise De L‘Afrique Occindental (CFAO), and Societe Commerciale De L‘Quest Africain (SCOA), came together to establish the Nigerian Brewery Limited (NBL). Their aim was to produce beer of international standard in Nigeria. From July 1949, NBL manufactured its lager beer at Iganmu Lagos. From then on and with the growth of cities, beer became a fashionable drink among the elites and urban workers.20 In the post- colonial era, the beer industry witnessed a boom providing employment and contributing billions in taxation.21

Alcohol was used as a barometer of measuring social status in southeastern Nigeria. It was believed that the social status of an individual determined the type of drink he drank and the type of drink offered to him.22 The greatness of a party and ceremony was measured by the amount of and types of drink offered. People of eastern Nigerian extinction through years of brainwashing through advertising came to prefer imported brands of wine and gin to those produced locally. Whether locally produced industrially or by indigenous distillers or imported, there was an increase in the quantity and diversity of alcoholic beverages available for consumption in eastern Nigeria throughout the period of study. The impact of alcohol on the socio-cultural and economic lives of the people of the area is central to this study.

Statement of the Problem

Alcohol is well entrenched in the culture of the peoples of southeastern Nigeria playing different roles at different historical times and acquiring various meanings. Drinking of alcohol beverages is so embedded in the economy and social life of the people of south

eastern Nigeria that not much thought has been given to its consumption and impact on the society. Given centuries of large scale production, importation and consumption of alcohol, the role of alcohol in the economy, socio-cultural usage, entertainment, social cohesion, diplomacy, conflict, gender and class relations and cultural creations in the history of eastern Nigeria has not received much scholarly attention. Much of the existing literature on alcohol in our area of study has focused almost entirely on the importation of foreign liquor as well as prohibition of indigenous liquor manufacturing during the colonial period. This work addresses this problem and gap on the subject both by exploring issues relating to the impact of alcohol on society both positive and negative up to 2010. It also addresses the question of why not much has been done to tackle the negative impact of alcohol on societies even though the effects are well known.

The colonial era presented new resources and opportunities to strengthen the role of alcohol in economy and society during our period. Although consumption clashed morally with the civilising mission of the missionaries, the financial exigencies of the colonial government led to the intensification of the importation of alcoholic drinks on which high import duties were placed. Attempts of the colonial government to control the type of alcohol that was consumed produced new forms of entrepreneurship among the people of south eastern Nigeria. The impact of colonial alcohol policies on indigenous socio-economic lives, endeavours and actions and reactions of indigenous people to these policies are significant to this study.

The growth of cities during the colonial era and the rise of elite and urban workers heralded the rise of modernity which was expressed in different ways including the consumption of alcohol such as lager beer became a mass commodity. The intersection between modernity and alcohol and its impact on the economy and society, especially after the Second World War remains unexamined and is of interest to this study.

In post- colonial Nigeria, the alcohol industry has remained among the higher income earning sectors of the economy for the government and individuals. The increase in incomes expansion of festive and celebrative occasions and general entertainment, increased the opportunities for the consumption of alcohol with impact on the economy and society. Alcohol consumption has been indicated as underlying factor in the development of many social vices in post-colonial Nigeria including southeastern Nigeria. It has been claimed that alcohol consumption has reached an alarming stage both in the urban and rural areas with obvious consequences. While it has boosted the economy in many ways, it has impacted negatively on society through accidents and alcohol related illnesses and death. Although in many parts of the world, the alcohol industry is controlled in Nigeria due to the huge income from the industry, government seem to lack the political will to initiate policies on alcohol consumption. There seems to be no minimum legal age for alcohol purchase and consumption as under- aged youths freely engage in alcohol consumption. The sponsorship of many events by alcoholic drink promoters, even in the educational sector and among the youths gives alcohol a form of legitimacy as people tend to forget the harmful effects of its use. It becomes imperative to examine the historical connections between government, the governed and the consumption of alcohol in pre-colonial, colonial and post- colonial south eastern Nigeria.

Significance of the Study

The study is significant because it investigates the changing socio-economic role and meaning of alcohol and its consumption in eastern Nigeria. It highlights the impact of colonial alcohol policies on the socio-economic development of eastern Nigeria. The study also interrogates the relationship between alcohol, inter-group relation, power relations, gender and class in southeastern Nigeria. It draws attention to the connection between alcohol advertising, notion of modernity and alcohol consumption. It brings to light the inadequacies

of government policies towards the production and consumption of alcohol and analyses the historical impact of alcohol consumption on society.

Such a study would be useful to social and health workers, government agencies, policy makers, planners, historians, economists, students of cultural studies, sociologists, non- governmental organisations and all those interested in socio-economic development of Nigeria and social change in the field of alcohol and society and socio-economic history in general.

Scope of the Study

This study is limited to the period between 1890 to 2010. The year 1890 is significant because it was the year of the Brussels pact condemning traffic in spirituous liquor to colonial territories was signed. Alhough the Pact was meant to reduce the importation of liquor to colonial territories; it inadvertently had the opposite effect in southern Nigeria. This study covers the various colonial policies on alcohol such as the licensing Ordinance of 1908, the Distillation of Spirit Ordinance of 1909, the Liquor Prohibited Area Ordinance of 1912, the Liquor Townships Ordinance of 1917 and 1945. Also by this study covered is the continuous effort to regulate the production and consumption of alcohol in Nigeria till 2010. Within this period change and continuity in the history of alcohol use, control, entrepreneurship and impact in south eastern Nigeria are articulated.

Geographically, the study covers the former Eastern Region. Presently states included in this area are: Imo, Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Beyelsa, Rivers, Cross River, and Akwa-Ibom States. It is made up of the following ethnic/cultural groups; Igbo, Ibibio, Efik, Ekoi, Ogoja, Ogoni, Ijaw, Kalabari and Oron among others.

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study is to examine the socio-economic history of alcohol in south eastern Nigeria from 1890 up to 2010. Specific objectives are to:

1. examine the role of alcohol in the economic and social activities among the peoples of eastern Nigeria societies in pre-colonial time beginning from their contact with Europeans to 1900;

2. study colonial policies towards alcohol and their impact on eastern Nigerian economy, society and culture from 1900 to 1949;

3. investigate the role of modernity and its impact on alcohol consumption and alcohol related economic and social activities between 1949 and 1960; and

4. investigate the impact of alcohol on social and economic development of post colonial southeastern Nigerian societies.

Research Questions

The following research questions will guide this study:

1. what role did alcohol play in the social and economic life of the people of south eastern Nigeria during the pre-colonial period?;

2. what were the colonial policies towards alcohol importation, production, distribution and consumption and what were the social and economic impacts of these policies on south eastern Nigerian society?;

3. what was the relationship between the rise of modernity, alcohol consumption and socio-economic development after World War II?;and

4. what was the impact of alcohol on the social and economic development of post- colonial southeastern Nigeria?

Operational Definition of Terms

Alcohol as used in this study generally to refer to liquor or intoxicants such as spirit, palm wine, beer, rum, brandy, whisky, and ogogoro (local gin) formed by the fermentation of sugars.

Liquor refers to any liquid alcoholic drink fermented or distilled for consumption. It is used in this study to refer to any form of intoxicant.

Rum is an alcoholic brand which was first introduced into Nigeria by the Portuguese around 1600s. It was imported into the region from England during the Trans-AtlanticSlave Trade and colonial period.Traders also brought a cheaper version from Antigua and Jamaica during the colonial period.

Whiskey is used in this study to refer to alcohol brands distilled originally from Ireland and Scotland, which contain ingredients from malted barley, maize, potatoes and cereals. During the colonial period it came into Nigeria as inferior and cheaper alcohol brand when compared with the Dutch gin.

Gin, in this study refers to intoxicants distilled from imported grains especially from Germany and Holland as well as palm wine distilled locally as ogogoro. It also refers to imported alcoholic brands such as schnapps also from Holland which was so cherished and was used as currency.

Palm wine refers to alcohol brands obtained from oil and raffia- palms known as ngwo in Igbo land and ukot in Ibibio, The chemical composition shows that palm wine when freshly collected, contains sugar solution and when fermentation sets in after three hours of collection, the sugar content which was initially at 6.80% drops to 0.58% while the alcohol content which was ab initio at 3.78% rises to 6.70%.

Ogogoro is an alcohol brand made locally from the distillation of fermented palm wine. It is also known as kai kai, crim kena, akpuruachia, ufofop.etc

Distillation is a process of decomposing a substance into vapour by strong heat in a retort and the collection of volatile liquids from the substance in a different boiling point. It involves the

process of separating, concentrating, or purifying liquid by boiling it and then condensing the resulting vapour as alcohol for consumption.

Fermentation is the chemical conversion of sugar into simpler substances such as the breakdown of fresh palm-wine into intoxicant by micro- organisms before distillation.

Theoretical Framework

This study utilises the theories of dependency, leisure and social constructionism. The aforementioned theories are used to explain the impact of alcohol on the socio-cultural and economic lives of the people. Dependency theory emerged in the 1950‘s when Raul Prebisch, as the Director of the United Nations Economic Commission of Latin America advocated that economic activity in the richer countries often led to economic problems in the poorer countries.23 Other scholars such as I. Wallerstein and Andre Gunder Frank have widened the frontiers of knowledge with regard to the dependency theory. Dependency is a situation in which the economy of certain countries are conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy to which the former is subjected. Andre Gunder Frank is generally considered as the leading exponent of dependency theory. In his book, Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America; he argues that the underdevelopment of the third world is as a result of the mode of its articulation of the colonies in the world capitalist system. Such a relationship of exploitation and dependency, can be traced back to the 16th century when great powers such as Britain, France and Spain conquered Africa, Asia and Latin America and made them part of their world empires.24 Such colonies supplied the colonial powers with cheap food and raw materials and in turn acted as new markets for the industrialised country‘s manufactured goods. Colonialism universally adopted a practice of tying the colonised territories to the apronstrings of the coloniser to the effective control of politics and economy. The two predictions from dependency theory are that foreign economic penetration leads

to: the slowing down of the rate of economic growth in the dependent countries and to inequality among the citizens.

On the argument that dependency retards economic growth the major tenets of the school include that: dependent countries suffer from direct exploitation. Foreign firms repatriate profits overseas rather that reinvest them in the domestic economy thus limiting the growth that can be achieved. Second, foreign supplies and economic interest tend to

‗dump‘ outmoded equipment and technologies on poor countries so that they cannot compete effectively in international markets or grow very fast. Third, dependency on foreign interests and foreign penetration keep the state weak and prevent it from effectively playing its necessary role in protecting domestic industries and fostering economic growth in the home economy. Fourth, dependency leads to vulnerability and susceptibility to price manipulations in the domestic and overseas markets. The domestic market becomes flooded with imported consumer goods while exports to pay for them are harmed by the instability of world demand and prices. The result is often trade deficits, growing indebtedness, and less capital to invest in economic growth. Fifth, dependency causes such economic growth that occurs to be confined to small enclaves and the domestic bourgeoisie in the enclaves are committed to foreign economic interest than domestic ones. Linkages with the rest of the domestic economy are minimal and these reduces the multiplier effects of foreign investment. The result is unbalanced development or economic dualism with a division between a small modern economic sector and the remaining backward parts of the economy and encourages reliance on dependency on foreign aid and credit which reduces the domestic capital formation resulting in a lower rate of economic growth.25

On the argument that dependency produces heightened economic inequality, the major tenets of this school include that: dependency fosters imbalanced development,

economic dualism and privileged enclaves, all of which lead to deterioration in economic distribution, between traditional or new elites and labour aristocracies generally benefit disproportionately. Second, indigenous elites are opposed to income redistribution and they use their influence over the government and their clout with foreign interests to forestall any government redistributive effort. Thus even while a strong state in present; it may work in the interest of the existing elites, rather than foster equality. Third, imported and domestically produced goods penetrate rural markets and undermine and displace domestic economic activities. This deprives rural families of importers sources of supplementary income and fosters inequality. Fourth, foreign firms keep important parts of their organizational structures oversea, or bring in their own skilled and technical personnel. Because of this, they do not foster the development of any middle class and middle level managerial and bureaucratic occupations that would tend to even out the income distributions. The importation of foreign alcohol brands created questions of imbalance development with elevated status placed on few privileged enclaves. It is obvious that before 1949 in Nigeria, factories for the manufacturing of alcohol was kept overseas. Few indigenous distributors of alcohol brands also benefitted thus resulting to income inequalities. Furthermore, economic growth suffered retardation because of the prohibition placed on indigenous liquor production, which orindarily if allowed to strive could have led to technological development among the colonized people. Hence, the colonial policy on alcohol did not provide a platform for commercial and industrial development in Nigeria.

The various legislative ordinances on liquor in 1917 and 1945 saw that only imported alcohol brands were sold as the colonial government declared indigenously produced gin as illicit and unfit for drinking. To a large extent, the colonial government in Nigeria benefitted immensely from import duties from alcohol as its major source of revenue. However, this

policy also subjected the people of south- eastern Nigeria to alcohol dependency from imported ones. It is in this context, that this study examines the socio-cultural lives of the people of south- eastern Nigeria with regard to dependence on foreign brands of alcoholic products.

The theory of leisure revolves round social consumerism based on class. With this theory, of the leisure class, Thorstein Veblen argues that as industrial society evolved, conspicuous consumption became the most practical way to demonstrate one's wealth. The leisure class is expected to consume the best in food, drink, narcotics, shelter, services, ornaments, apparel, amusements, and so on. This leisure class stands at the pinnacle of the stratification system, and as a result it is incumbent on all classes that rank below them to emulate their way of life.26 This theory provides ample opportunity to show that the importation of various alcoholic brands such as Anice, Queen yak, Bettoler, J.J.W Peters etc to a large extent widened the gap between traditional chiefs and their subject, elites and non elite because of its exorbitant price. The colonial substitution policy, which saw to the domestication of beer brewed in Nigeria as part of modernisation agenda, succeeded in making the people‘s cherished ogogoro gin to be viewed as the commoners drink while beer became the drink of the elites and the working class. The adulteration of imported alcohol brands was to accommodate the lower class of the society into drinking habits in a manner the would like them to emulate the affluent who drank original imported gin. Thus, alcohol consumption and class are inseparable in examining the alcohol culture of the people of south eastern Nigeria

More related to this study is the social constructionism theory which is adopted to explain the socio-economic history of alcohol in south-eastern Nigeria. The leading proponents of this theory Berger and Luckmann27 maintain that social constructionism uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the creation of their

perceived reality as shaped through a system of socio-cultural and inter personal process. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalised and made into traditions by humans. Social construction is seen as an ongoing process by which reality is reproduced by people on their interpretations and their knowledge of it.28 Hence, alcohol, the drinking culture and the meaning of drinking and what one drinks have different meanings and significance in various cultures and historical epochs. The nature of alcohol drinking and use in various cultural functions such as marriage, ritual, libation, oath- taking, are mere artificial transformation into local cultures. The socio anthropological status of south eastern Nigeria, especially its republican status to a large extent was responsible for the adaptability of some aspects of European alcohol culture. The continuous relationship between the power elite and the drinking culture and the grass root people trying to partake in the drinking culture continuously creates and recreates meanings and significance in cultural usage of alcohol. Hence, the meaning attached to brands of gin and ogogoro as well as other forms of alcoholic beverages by the the peoples of southeastern Nigeria can be interpreted as product of social construction, which has evolved into a tradition from many historical and social transformation processes. This constant reinterpretation of the role of alcohol and its usage provides a major economic field for the formal economy, informal economy and government. Methodology

This study utilizes the historical method for the collection of data. The historical method

involves a careful collection of data from various sources, assessment, and interpretation of data and synthesis of information, which is then used for historical analysis. Data were collected both from primary and secondary sources. Primary data were collected from the archives especially the National Archives of Nigeria at Enugu and Calabar. Other primary data were collected from the archives of some breweries in the area of study including the 33 Consolidated Breweries, Golden Guinea Brewery, Champion Brewery and the Nigerian

Brewery Plc. Information was also collected from the Federal Medical Centres in Owerri and Umuahia.

Furthermore, primary data in the form of oral evidence was collected during field work in the area of study between October 2008 and 2010. Identified knowledgeable persons in local histories in the area both men and women were interviewed. A total number of 150 people were interviewed individually and in groups and some of their views and ideas have been integrated into this study. Key informant (KI) interviews were also carried out. This involved an indepth interview of experts or people known to be very knowledgeable in a particular subject. For this study, ten key informants were identified and interviewed. These included: two local gin brewers, one in Trugbene (Bayelsa State) and another in Patani (Delta State). These areas are known as centres for the brewing of the best local gin. Other key informants were Managing Directors of Champion Breweries in Uyo, Nigerian Breweries in Enugu and Life Brewery in Onitsha. Others were the Chief Medical Directors of the Federal Medical Centres at Owerri and Umuahia. The rest were elders in Calabar, Port Harcourt and Enugu. Interviews were recorded on tape and later transcribed. Also personal observations were made through the visits of drinking bars and social events in which alcohol was freely served both in the urban and rural areas during the period of the field work. Such events provided opportunities to engage in random interviews on the issue of alcohol consumption and the changing roles of alcohol in the economy and society over time.

Secondary data were collected from the University of Lagos Library, National Library Owerri, Ebonyi State University Library, University of Uyo, University of Calabar and University of Port-Harcourt Libraries. In these libraries, books, journals, theses and conference papers on history, socio-economic and cultural studies relating to alcohol were consulted for relevant information. The internet was also used to locate relevant materials. The google search engine and Jstor data bank proved very useful. Information collected from various sources were collated, assessed, compared, interpreted, analysed and used for the writing of this thesis using the historical narrative style.

.

THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC HISTORY OF ALCOHOL IN SOUTH-EASTERN NIGERIA



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