CITY DIARY

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The Independent Online
Holidays of a lifetime? Not in Nigeria, thanks

The Nigerian regime is not one to let the execution of nine minority rights activists get in the way of the affairs of state. With world outrage against their repugnant leader, General Abacha, showing no signs of abating, the Nigerian Tourist Authority believes the time is ripe to promote the country as a tourist destination.

The tourist authority has turned up at London's Earl's Court this week for the World Travel Mart, the annual thrash of the tourism industry. Given that holiday visits to Nigeria are negligible (they do not even register on the Association of British Travel Agents' statistics) any improvement must be a significant one.

Sadly for the Nigerians this has not come about. No one has shown the remotest interest in their country and the delegation has been twiddling its thumbs. The tourist authority looks all the more isolated because the stands either side are empty. Nigerian Airways and the Nigerian Aviation Authority have not even bothered to turn up.

Uncomfortable moments for the clan elders at Scottish Mutual in a lamentable mix-up over hospitality venues.

A coven of the insurers, dressed in black ties, was discovered slaking its collective thirst in a Glasgow hotel, having unwittingly gatecrashed the wrong event. On arriving at the hotel the insurers had asked for "the Barings function'' and were ushered into a private room, generously stocked with drinks.

Only when they were stuck into the booze did a master of ceremonies arrive and ask them who they were."Scottish Mutual," chorused the insurers, and took the opportunity to confirm that this was indeed the room for the Barings bunfight.

"No Sir," retorted the MC icily. "This function is hosted by the British Lubricants and Bearings Association. If you would kindly finish your drinks ...''

Ian Lang, the Trade Secretary, is rudely interrupted as he explains to the Confederation of British Industry conference how the Tories have transformed the competiveness of British industry.

"I work in the pounds 2bn British hairdressing service sector..." squawks the sound system before someone switches it off in a hurry.

"We have been doing very well for the hairdressers too," retorts Mr Lang. A reference perhaps to Michael Portillo?

There may be more to rumours of a merger between Freshfields and a New York law practice after all. Brandon Gough, former chairman of Coopers & Lybrand, has replaced the former defence secretary Sir John Nott on Freshfields' partnership council, responsible for strategy decisions.

There is nothing Mr Gough likes better than a snap merger. You may recall his public disdain of the "King Kong'' accountancy mergers - barely weeks before he merged Coopers with Deloittes.

Christian Seely, the Englishman who runs Quinta do Noval, the port shipper owned by the French Axa insurance group, has left his spectacular estate in the hills above the River Douro to engage in a bit of market research. The wine merchant and his director of wine-making, Antonio Agrellos, want the City's opinion on next year's blend of Noval LB and have bought some sample blends for tasting.

"We have prepared three slightly different blends and we look forward to gauging the opinions of the greatest port drinkers we know - the Englishmen of the City of London,'' oozes the vintner. If you feel strongly about this drop then now is your chance to register your preference at Eaton's wine bar in The Minster today, and at Broadgate tomorrow.

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