Talking Point
Bugtown UK

Africa's most populous nation is seen by the West as being very behind tackling the millennium bug, as Y2K checks were only started in December.

Nigeria has had its mind on other things, dealing with the transition from military rule to democracy. But time is running out to fix computer problems that could arise on 31 December.

A millennium bug committee, chaired by science and technology minister Pauline Tallen, is checking for compliance and will punish ministries and businesses found unprepared. In addition, the government has announced 3.2m (500m Naira) to fight the bug.

Some of the West's fears may prove to be unfounded.

Nigeria is the world's seventh largest producer of oil and gas in the world, though multinational companies have been well aware of potential problems for some time and are not thought to be at risk. There are still some concerns remain about state-run oil refineries, though the sector has been assessed at 90% compliant.

In any case the public is well used to power cuts and problems with fuel and transport. Most businesses, even small companies, are so used to mains supply failures that they have diesel generators as a back-up, while most domestic gas comes from bottles. So any problems caused by computer failure seem unlikely to make a difference.

Similarly, the water supply is already poor in many parts of the country and does not rely on sophisticated computer systems that could go wrong. Many industries and consumers are reliant on bore-holes and water tankers and there is no national grid supply.

Transport is also unlikely to be affected. There is no tube system or sophisticated bus network and many Nigerian airports do not use electronic systems such as computerised landing systems.

Air safety generally is a particular concern for the international community although government assessments put airlines and air traffic control at around 92-99% compliant.

The Nigerian government is using "aggressive publicity" to reassure the public that the millennium bug is nothing to worry about.

Pauline Tallen said: "Lots of people don't know anything about it and the few that know have created a lot of fear in the minds of Nigerians. Now we have arrested the situation adequately and therefore there is no cause for alarm and panic."

Foreign & Commonwealth advice.

 Compliances Rate 34% (Gartner)
 Gartner Infastructure Problem
 Distribution  Impact
 Power  Moderate  Severe
 Phones  Moderate  Severe
 Gas  Isolated  Severe
 Air  Widespread  Moderate
 Oil  Moderate  Moderate
 Food  Isolated  Severe
 Water  Isolated  Moderate
 Govt  Widespread  Severe
 Banks  Moderate  Moderate
 Unrest  Moderate  Moderate
 Trade  Moderate  Severe
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