Squadron Leader Adefolajuwon Amoo (rtd), a mobile phone application developer, has accused the Nigeria Postal Office and Postmaster-General, Mr Bisi Adegbuyi, of stealing his application to develop the new address system being used by the postal service.
Recently, the Postmaster-General announced that NIPOST had locally developed a ‘three-word addressing system', which would be used to ease delivery for postal services across the country.
Two months after the announcement, Amoo, a retired military officer, has come out to claim that the three-word addressing system being used by NIPOST was "stolen" from him.
He further stated that the Postmaster-General deceived and lied to Nigerians, just as he insisted that the service is not locally-developed, but built by a foreign company owned by Chris Sheldrick.
According to Amoo, he developed an application called GridCodes, a technology that has been in use both on the web and mobile devices since September 13, 2017.
GridCodes allows users to generate codes similar to post codes and zip codes for home/business addresses, and has been accepted for a patent in Nigeria and in the US Patent Office.
The ICT expert stated that he proposed to NIPOST to adopt the technology in rebranding the addressing system of postal service in Nigeria, but the agency hacked into his technology and stole the features to develop another one.
He said: "As a true patriot and a product of the public sector, in January 2018, I began to offer GridCodes to the Federal Government of Nigeria for adoption as the National System for the codification of physical addresses in Nigeria, also for free.
"This is in line with the stated and underlying intent of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari's Executive Order No. 5, which aims to promote indigenous innovation to replace foreign technologies. I made this offer of GridCodes through a letter to Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi, the Director General of NIPOST. The letter was received by NIPOST on 18th of January, 2018. A similar letter was also made to the Ministry of Communications."
Amoo, however, mentioned that rather than contact him after deciding to use his technology, NIPOST hacked it and infused it into their services.
"I found out to my consternation that NIPOST had, on 31 July 2018, seven months after I wrote to the DG, released an app that both poached and attempted to disenfranchise my own product.
"Not only did NIPOST, under the leadership of Mr Adegbuyi, unethically hack my technology, it is also misleading the Federal Government into promoting a foreign technology called What3words, contrary to Mr President's Executive Order No. 5," he said.
Squadron Leader Amoo also raised the question on the collection of N1,000 by NIPOST for address verification, noting that the What3words system should be free.
He continued: "The postmaster general, Adegbuyi is further impoverishing Nigerians with the demand of N1,000 annually for a technology that is wholly free.
"Mr Adegbuyi, in concert with Mr. Sheldrick's UK technology, has asked an individual to pay N1,000 each for their addresses to be verified. This is unfair and exploitative of Nigerians. To charge Nigerians money for what is free is an unbecoming use of the enablement of a privileged government office."
When contacted for information on the operational framework and charges to use the What3words system, Giles Rhys Jones, Marketing Director of What3words, said the technology is free to use, but there is a rate attached to enjoy premium rate.
"The platform is free but the way it functions differs from country to country. Working on the website is free but countries can determine whether to charge individuals or companies and the amount to charge," Jones explained.
He added that though the technology was integrated into the Nigeria postal service system, the organisation doesn't know the way it works and how much is being charged in Nigeria.
The Position of NIPOST
When contacted on Amoo's allegations, Gbenga Odegbami, who spoke for NIPOST, insisted that the organisation developed the technology locally and did not steal it from any existing technology.
His words: "NIPOST identified four strategic objectives that will enable it to serve Nigerians more efficiently and transform into an institution that we can all be proud of, they are: The revitalisation of our national physical presence; bridge the addressing gap; create a digital economy mindset in the postal service; drive postal regulation reforms.
"The Postal service engaged numerous local and international partners to help drive all the initiatives based on the advice of Universal Postal Union and Pan-African Postal Union which have both conducted researches on how to transform postal services in emerging countries.
"As a result, NIPOST innovation and management teams reviewed numerous addressing technologies internally in early 2017 i.e. What3words (UK), Vokacom (Ghana), Plus Code (USA), Mapcode (Netherlands), Citocode (Germany), RiskScape (South Africa), etc. just to mention a few. All these are well documented and some of these engagements are in the public space.
"While all the digital addressing systems reviewed were competent and unique in their own ways, NIPOST decided that there is a need for a localised and Nigerian digital addressing system. NIPOST Innovation team was then mandated to come up with a commercially sustainable Nigerian addressing model. The NIPOST team visited CBN, Committee of Chief compliance officers of Nigerian Bank, Nigerian Police, NIMC, and FRSC, among many other partners, to gather their feedback on our approach. The team came up with a process and model which was demonstrated internally and approved for further exploration. Services that cannot be rendered internally was publicly tendered in different newspapers nationwide and the official tender publication of the government.
"As part of the mission of achieving the 4 strategic objectives, NIPOST invited different stakeholders to a stakeholder meeting on the 31st of August, 2018 which was well publicised in the media.
"We will appreciate if your publication can visit www.address.gov.ng or download the "Address by NIPOST" mobile application which is 100% free and compare it with any existing digital addressing system in the world. Any feedback will be appreciated to improve the system. The NIPOST addressing system has a companion system named NIPOST Address Verification System which was launched October 9, 2017, by the Hon. Minister of Communication. It is designed to help ease the burden of address verification in the financial and background checks industry. For this, NIPOST won an award on e-employment by United Nations' Information Technology Union WSIS for 2018.
"NIPOST categorically reject this false accusation in its entirety."
A check was performed on the three technologies; GridCodes, What3words and the NIPOST apps. Below is a screenshot of the three addressing system technologies:
What3Words (as adopted by NIPOST)
GridCodes (invented by Mr Amoo)
SaharaReporters, New York