Difference between revisions of "Nigeria"
Revision as of 15:22, 2 July 2010
Nigeria  is a country in equatorial West Africa. It is the continent's most populous nation. It has a southern coastline on the Gulf of Guinea, and has Benin to the west, Cameroon to the southeast, Chad to the northeast, and Niger to the north. It is the largest oil producer and second largest economy in Africa.
One of the official languages in Nigeria is English. That sounds reassuring, but don't be fooled. Most Nigerians speak (little) pidgin (pidgeon) English which sometimes is very different from the English you know. Examples "I don't know" is "I no know". "I know" is "I know now". Add the Nigeran accent and this can be very confusing. Other difficulties are "don't" and "done" which sound alike in Nigeria. Remember that Nigerians prefere "no" where you would expect "don't". Like in many African countries, they don't use polite phrases. It sounds very direct and rude, but can be meant politely. "Could you please hand me the hammer" will be "bring hammer" or even "bring hammer now". Nigerians tend to say numbers twice. Ten Naira would be: "ten ten Naira".
The general rule is: it sounds like English, but make sure you know what they mean.
Remember that your English is as difficult to understand to them as theirs is to you.
Nigeria is a former British colony and a member of the British Commonwealth.
The pre-colonial era
In the northern part of the country, Kano and Katsina has recorded history which dates back to around 999.
The kingdoms of Ifẹ and Oyo in the western block of Nigeria became prominent about 700–900 and 1400 respectively. However, the Yoruba mythology believes that Ile-Ife is the source of the human race and that it predates any other civilization. Another prominent kingdom in south western Nigeria was the Kingdom of Benin whose power lasted between the 15th and 19th century. Their dominance reached as far as the well known city of Eko, later named Lagos by the Portuguese.
In southeastern Nigeria the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people flourished from the controversial date of around the 10th century until 1911 and the city of Nri is considered to be the foundation of Igbo culture.
Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to begin trade in Nigeria, and called the main port Lagos after the Portuguese town of Lagos, in Algarve. This name stuck on with more European trade with the region. The Europeans traded with the ethnicities of the coast and also established a trade in slaves which affected many Nigerian ethnicities. Following the Napoleonic Wars, the British expanded trade with the Nigerian interior.
In 1885 British claims to a West African sphere of influence received international recognition and in the following year the Royal Niger Company was chartered. In 1900 the company's territory came under the control of the British government, which moved to consolidate its hold over the area of modern Nigeria. On January 1, 1901 Nigeria became a British protectorate and part of the British Empire.
Following World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British Government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative and increasingly federal basis. By the middle of the 20th century, the great wave for independence was sweeping across Africa.
On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom. The new republic incorporated a number of people with aspirations of their own sovereign nations.
This disequilibrium and perceived corruption of the electoral and political process led in 1966 to several back-to-back military coups. These events led to an increase in ethnic tension and violence. The Northern coup, which was mostly motivated by ethnic and religious reasons, was a bloodbath of both military officers and civilians, especially those of Igbo extraction. The violence against the Igbo increased their desire for autonomy and protection from the military's wrath. By May 1967, the Eastern Region had declared itself an independent state called the Republic of Biafra and the 30 month Nigerian Civil War began. More than one million people died, may of them starving to earth.
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria joined OPEC and billions of dollars generated by production in the oil-rich Niger Delta flowed into the coffers of the Nigerian state. However, increasing corruption and graft at all levels of government squandered most of these earnings. Nigeria re-achieved democracy in 1999 and although the elections which brought Obasanjo to power in 1999 and again in 2003 were condemned as unfree and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development. Ethnic violence over the oil producing Niger Delta region and inadequate infrastructures are some of the current issues in the country.
Varies; equatorial in the south, tropical in the center, arid in the north. Natural hazards include periodic droughts and flooding. Tornadoes and hurricanes are rare because they typically are weak at this stage and travel west of the Atlantic.
Southern lowlands merge into central hills and plateaus; mountains in the southeast, plains in the north. The Niger river enters the country in the northwest and flows southward through tropical rain forests and swamps to its delta in the Gulf of Guinea.
Most travellers will need a visa, this can be obtained at any of the Nigerian embassies worldwide.
Arik and Bellview Airlines make local and international flights (to other African countries and London), Virgin Nigeria and Aero to other African countries.
Virgin Nigeria has ceased operations to the United Kingdom and South Africa. Arik Air now plies these routes quite successfully.
On 6/09/2009 Delta started direct service from New York to Abuja three times (Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday) a week using their narrow, single-aisle Boeing 757-200. This flight stopped in Dakar. However, on 2 June 2010 Delta replaced this service with NON-STOP service from New York to Abuja three times per week on a wide-body Boeing 767-300.
Getting around is relatively easy, except that there could be delays due to traffic jams within most major cities. There are multitudes of coaches and buses that will take you to any part of Nigeria you wish (ABC Transport Services is well known for its services among others). Lagos state government also operates a transit system (BRT buses) which serves the Lagos metropolis.
Transport by boat isn't widespread unless you venture into the riverine areas of Nigeria.
It would be best to travel around in your own car or a hired one (with a driver) but there are various other modes of transport. The road systems in Nigeria are relatively poor compared with North American and European countries, but often still passable. The "okada" (motorcycle) is not for the faint-hearted (no helmets) and should only be used for short distance journeys. "Okadas" will get you to where you want to go quickly and you will get there in one piece. In Lagos, there are lots of buses and taxis. There are two main types of buses, the molue and the danfo. Most smaller cities have more taxis than buses, and they are quite affordable. For travelling from one city to another, you go to the "motor park", find the taxi that's going to your destination, and wait until it "fills up". The price is fixed, you don't have to negotiate. Some drivers may have a risky driving style however - practically this means that the only rule consistently adhered to (by cars, not necessarily motorcycles), is keeping on the right.
Driving in Nigeria (especially Lagos) is somewhat unique, vaguely resembling driving in Cairo. If mastered, you should however be able to cope in most other countries on the planet. Or any other planet.
Roads are bad. Expect potholes of every size. Expect people to drive on the wrong side to avoid potholes or just bad patches of road. Even on the highway. Expect the road to be gone. Expect everything.
Don't use your headlights, people will think you are transporting a dead person. It attracts unnecessary attention. Grass or branches on the road means there is a broken down vehicule ahead of you, be careful.
Get used to Nigerians shouting at you as you pass by. It will be something like "Euebo", "MBakara" or "white man". It all means the same, they are just telling you. Have fun and shout "black man" back.
Self-driving for short-term visitors unfamiliar with the roads, especially in Lagos, is by no means advisable and could actually be quite foolish if not dangerous. Try and you will see why, if you can get any place to rent a car to you for self-drive. If you choose to rent a car, it will come with a driver familiar with the area and style of driving, which is a much easier and safer option.
If you as a foreigner wish to drive yourself, it is advisable to stick to the rules, as you will be an easy target for poorly paid police officers looking for somebody to "fine" (payable directly to the officer in cash without a ticket or receipt) for the most petty reasons like not indicating your intention of wanting to drive straight. Should you be pulled over, do not give your license, as you will then lose all bargaining power when negotiating the fine, which could easily be a maximum of all the visible cash you have on you at the time. Rather carry a copy of the license and hand that over, or show your license through your window. Also do not let the police get into your car. They are not really dangerous, but it could get expensive and certainly annoying. However, if you just don't pay it only costs time. They have no real power over you.
Especially over weekends and festive times, it is common practice for police, especially in the richer areas of Lagos, to flag you down and wish you happy weekend/holiday/christmas/easter/sunny weather/trip to work. In this case, you did nothing wrong and they do not intend to "fine" you, but are rather begging for some small money for them. If you insistently yet politely refuse to give something, they will eventually let you go. Just wish them a nice weekend/holiday/etc. too.
If you work for a big company in Nigeria, you will usually have a company driver to drive you around, thereby avoiding the abovementioned problems to a large extent. He can arrange a local driver's license for you should the need arise without a driving test or proof of foreign license.
Nigeria is not part of the most standard international Road Traffic Convention and as such will require a special International Driving Permit (if you do not want to get the Nigerian license), not the normal one applicable to almost all other countries in the world. Edit: I travelled through Nigeria a couple of times on my own (by car and by motorcycle) without even a visa (entered illegally) and was never asked for my drivers license.
Lots of street sellers surround the car when you get to crossroads in crowded areas. You should not have a problem if you keep the windows and doors locked however. Armed ambushes are rare since the security is getting tighter.
The last Saturday of the month is Sanitation Day in Lagos, when the locals clean their premises. It is illegal to be out on the street 7:00AM-10:00AM, and being out and about (no reason to be as all shops and businesses are closed) will incur the wrath of the powers, once again leading to a fat fine or possible arrest, which may be forgotten on payment of an even fatter fine.
Arik, Virgin Nigeria and Aero Contractors have good scheduled domestic connections with modern aircraft to most significant destinations at reasonable prices.
Note that in Lagos, the two domestic terminals, while next to each other, are about 4-5 km (of road which would not be wise to walk if you don't know the place) from the international terminal, and you would therefore need a taxi to get from the one to the other, should you wish to transfer from an international flight to a domestic one.
It is advised to cash all your naira back into another currency at the airport before you leave Nigeria. The rate is irrelevant, as the naira is not that much outside Nigeria. Naira bills/coins may be of interest to currency collectors, but other than that, they will be nothing more than colorful souvenirs of your trip. Be warned that some of the dollar bills you'll get from street vendors will likely be counterfeit, so stick with established banks for your currency exchange needs.
If you have a VISA card, you can withdraw money from Standard Chartered Bank ATM Machine's in Lagos - Aromire St., off Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja & Ajose Adeogun St. in Victoria Island Branch, Abuja and Port Harcourt (in Naira) and ATM Machines of some other banks with "Visa" stickers on them. This will save you a lot of stress carrying large sums of money and it is secured.
MasterCard / Maestro users can also withdraw Money from ATMs at several branches of Zenith Bank. Some ATM machines of Ecobank, First Bank and Intercontinental Bank also allow for MasterCard / Maestro cards. Look for the red ATM sign outside, or ask the on-site security officer at any branch. Also look for Ecobank, they have a branch within the premises of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
It is advisable that you know where to buy things well in advance of your going out. This can save you exposure to hoodlums who can attack based on your lack of knowledge of places. Nigerian Yellow Pages  provides list of businesses, contact addresses and phone numbers. The best thing to do is to locate the business, call their representative, who can give you detailed information on how to locate them.
Paying for anything by credit card is extremely risky, even in the very top hotels. Your details are likely to be stolen and quickly used fraudulently.
On the market, you are supposed to haggle for your goods (a notable exception is bread: its price is fixed). As a general rule, the real price is about half the price that was first asked. The seller may exaggerate the price when he or she thinks that you are a rich tourist ignorant of the real price. After agreeing on a price, don't walk away without buying, this is considered very rude.
There are many types of traditional cuisine to enjoy. For example: afang soup,Okra soup, Owo soup and Starch in the Niger Delta, plantain (fried, boiled, roasted), pepper soup, amala, eba, efo, pounded yam (iyan - Yoruba for "pounded yam" pronounce " ee-yarn" ), jollof rice, ground nut soup, ogbono soup, isi ewu (goat's head stew), egusi soup, suya (kebab), moin moin, ewedu, edikangikong, ground-rice, puff-puff, chin chin, ikokore, owerri soup (ofe owerri), which is the most expensive African soup in Nigeria. Not to forget 404 pepper soup - it will make you act like "Oliver Twist." You must realise that 404 means "dog meat." and yes It can only be found in certain parts of the country because in the west it is seen a barbaric.
Other drinks to consider include: palm wine, wine, zobo (red soft drink, is a tea of dried roselle flowers), kunun, kai kai (also called ogogoro).
The northern states have implemented sharia (islamic) law, which means that alcohol is prohibited. Ironically, the only places where you can drink a beer in these states are the police staff bars and the army barracks, because these are institutions under federal law. Beer is available in Kano, in restaurants managed by foreign or christian people, Chinese restaurant, French cafe. For a real night out go to the Sabongari area of the old town. Plenty of bars around that stay open till very late. Many do decent food as well. Try the Prince Entertainment Centre. Sabongari is also the place to buy alcoholic drinks and there are plenty stores open late into the night. Some hotels in Kano are "dry", however in Tahir Guest Palace the staff will be quite happy to buy you a few bottles of beer for in your room (all rooms have large fridges).
Important notice. Almost all hotels in Nigeria require you to pay before you get your key. This applies even to the Sheraton and the Hilton. Typically you are requested to pay 125% of the room rate and you will be refunded when settling the bill at your departure. If you stay more than one night you need to keep the credit up. However, paying this deposit by credit card can leave you open to subsequent fraudulent use of your details.
There are lots of private and public primary (elementary) and secondary (high) schools. It is worth it to organize a trip to whatever institution of learning you are interested in as this would give you a personal perspective on what facilities are available in your school of interest. There is a nationwide, standardized common entrance exam for students wishing to go into secondary schools, after they have completed their primary schooling. To gain admission into the universities (both public and private universities are in every state of the federation including the FCT), a prospective student has to sit for and successfully pass the UME(Universities Matriculation Examination) which is administered by JAMB(Joint Admission and Matriculation Board). Also individual universities regularly screen prospective candidates to make sure they are up to par for university level work.
Working in Nigeria can be a very positive experience. Nigerian organizations tend to operate like small families, taking in newcomers with open arms and avoiding the coolness and sterility that often characterize the Western professional work environment. For instance, don't even think about coming into the office in the morning without greeting each of your colleagues. Even if you don't, be sure that they will go out of their way to greet you and inquire about your well-being.
It is hard to make generalizations about a country with 140 million inhabitants, but some Nigerians have a work ethic that would put most Westerners to shame. An eight-hour day (not including lunch) seems to be the norm, though it's not uncommon for people to stay late into the night and even come in for a few hours on weekends. Depending on the organization, a foreigner may be able to avoid this, but one should be prepared to work beyond the standard 35-40 hr work week. On the other hand, it's not unusual to arrive in an office during working hours and find staff members fast asleep on or under their desks, sitting around a TV in a staff lounge, or simply not there, without explanation.
The notion of "African time" applies very much to the work environment in Nigeria. Meetings are regularly held later than scheduled and often take longer than necessary. Although Nigerians will unabashedly admit to their habitual tardiness, rarely does one see efforts to correct this behavior. Because punctuality is not strictly enforced, there is no incentive to arrive at a meeting on time if one knows that his time will be wasted waiting for the other participants. The higher ones position, the later one may arrive at a meeting. On top of that, starting the meeting before the important people arrive is very rude. The phenomenon of African time is therefore a cyclical problem and one that is bound by a severe degree of inertia. One should note, however, that when dealing with foreign organizations, Nigerians will often make some efforts to correct this behavior, for some Nigerians are aware that their conception of punctuality is not shared by all.
Those who are used to the strict North American conception of political correctness at the office may be shocked by the more liberal inter-sexual relations in the Nigerian workplace. Mild sexual jokes are common in meetings and in the office in general, though usually good natured and harmless. Anyone working in the area of gender politics should also be prepared to suffer through tongue-in-cheek comments that one wouldn't dare utter in a professional setting in North America. Nevertheless, so long as one is not too militant in their conception of political correctness, this form of Nigerian humor should not be a problem. In many cases it is even refreshing and adds a measure of healthy immaturity to otherwise strictly business-oriented meetings.
A white person working in an all-Nigerian workplace should also be prepared to frequently be reminded of their skin tone, though never in a nasty way. This can become tiresome, but Nigerians are generally very friendly. They use the term "Oyibo" (white man in Yoruba) or "Bature" (white man in Hausa) as a form of affection.
The use of professional titles in written and verbal form is very common in Nigeria. Expect to address your boss as Sir, Doctor, Colonel, etc., and avoid using the first name of a superior unless given permission to do so. Being a foreigner, you will be forgiven for any faux pas, but it is always best to err on the side of caution and politeness.
The mobile phone (cell phone) is an essential tool for virtually all urban - and most rural - Nigerians. Because of the instability of local networks, many people have two or even three "handsets", each on a different network. Anyone doing business in the country for more than a few days should consider having a mobile phone.
Nigeria is a fairly dangerous destination. Crime levels are high, particularly in Lagos.
The Niger delta area is unsafe for tourists. There is continual low-level violence between government and militant groups, and there have been several kidnappings of foreign oil workers.
The waters outside Nigeria is one of the most likely places to be attacked by modern day pirates.
Be aware of street salesmen. Actually, you could buy a lot of stuff while you drive your car but it's not recommended. Most of the merchandise will be Chinese copies of known brands like "Duracell" batteries and such.
As is expected all around the world, do not risk unprotected sex with strangers or even with the person you think you know. Travellers to Nigeria are also required to vaccinate themselves against yellow fever, preferably 10 days before arrival in Nigeria. As malaria is prevalent, malaria pills and mosquito nets are also recommended. Polio vaccination in Nigeria is intermittent and there is currently a high rate of infection in the north of the country.
Swan water is the safe drinking water to look for approx 80 naira for a big bottle. The cheap "pure water" sold in plastic bags is cheaper but not as "pure" as SWAN. EVA water, a brand by Coca Cola Company, is also recommended.
It is advisable to purchase bottled water from convenience stores rather than by the road side. These upscale convenience stores usually purchase their supplies directly from the suppliers, along with soft drinks such as Coca Cola and other bottled beverage products.
If you are speaking the language, some of the languages have different ways for someone to address someone older than themselves. You do not hand things over to people, especially adults and people older than you, with your left hand. It's considered an insult.
You don't cross or jump over someone's legs if they are sitting with the legs extended out. It's considered bad luck.
Avoid shaking hands with elders and older people in non Igbo villages. It's disrespectful to do that. Can you bow down a little? Kneeling for women or prostrating by men is the normal thing to do. You may not need to do it either, but just show some form of respect when greeting older people. You can get away with not doing that in big cities or urban areas, they are less traditional there.
When entering a house in the predominantly Muslim North, you have to let them know in advance that you are visiting so that the women can prepare (cover themselves up). Islam requires women to cover their hair & bodies to other men and this is practiced in the North. Knock the door and wait to be answered before going in. They will ask you to wait while the women are informed. Do not be offended by the wait.
The country code for Nigeria is 234.
Dialing out from Nigeria: you will need to dial +9 (followed by the) International Code (followed by the) phone digit numbers.
Dialing into Nigeria: callers use +234 (followed by the) phone digit numbers. There is also a company in Nigeria Elixir Communication Worldwide  that offers mobile phones for the blind and visually challenged. All the mobile operators have a roaming agreement with other mobile operators around the world.
For many people, this will be the only thought after spending some time in Nigeria. Other people love the country and will come back more often.
Or take a plane, you will be out of the country faster.