Earth : Africa : West Africa : Nigeria
Nigeria  (Hausa: Nijeriya, Igbo: Naíjíríà, Yoruba: Nàìjíríà) 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 third largest economy in Africa.
One of the official languages in Nigeria is English. However, while this may sound reassuring, only upper-class people in the largest cities actually speak it. The national lingua franca is Nigerian pidgin, an English-based creole language spoken by 75 million people as a second language and by 3-5 million people as a native language, mostly in the Niger Delta. Nigerian pidgin is intelligible to an English-speaker to a certain degree, but it will take time to get accustomed to it. The easiest way to overcome any initial language block is to ask questions. They will not hesisate to ask you to clarify what you mean, or admit that they do not understand an outsider's particular manner of phrasing. Do not assume that a Nigerian's inability to answer you indicates ignorance.
The pre-colonial era
In the northern part of the country, Kano and Katsina have 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. 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.
In addition, Tiv culture in the North central region of Nigeria dates to 6 B.C.. Some of the famous bronze terracota sculpture heads from this culture have been shown around the world.
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 (northern and southern protectorates) and part of the British Empire. In 1914 the northern protecorate and the southern protectorate under the colonial rule were merged forming one single entity named "Nigeria" (meaning: Niger[river niger] area. The name "nigeria" was given by the wife of the British Governor-General in charge of the country - Sir Lord Lugard.
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. As was the habit of colonialists during that era, no attention was paid to the fact that the "protectorates" suddenly and quite chaotically merged together hundreds of distinct and autonomous ethnicities, or to the fact that some communities were ripped apart by the sudden construction of boundaries that never existed before. There was never a truly developed sense of singular Nigerian identity. In part, it was this disequilibrium which set the stage in 1966 to several successive military coups. 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, many of them starving to death.
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. The highest point is Chappal Waddi at 2,419 m.
Foreign nationals who are not citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) need to apply for a visa to enter Nigeria. This can be obtained at Nigerian embassies, high commissions and consulates worldwide.
If you require a visa to enter Nigeria, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no Nigerian diplomatic post. For example, the British embassies in Pristina and Sofia accept Nigerian visa applications (this list is not exhaustive). British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a Nigerian visa application and an extra £70 if the authorities in Nigeria require the visa application to be referred to them. The authorities in Nigeria can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.
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 (there used to be no helmets but as a law the rider is required to have two helmets for himself and a passenger) 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.
Grass or branches on the road means there is a broken down vehicule ahead of you, be careful.
If you are white,get used to Nigerians shouting at you as you pass by. It will be something like "Oyibo", "MBakara", "Bature" or "white man" if you're white. It all means the same, they are just telling you.
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. With crime on the rise, you could easily wander into an area or a road block set by local gangs. 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 and never get angry, 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 (valid only for driving in Nigeria, Somalia and Iraq) (if you do not want to get the Nigerian license), not the normal one applicable to almost all other countries in the world.
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.
The last Saturday of the month is Sanitation Day in Lagos, when the locals clean their premises. While it is not illegal to be out on the street between 7:00AM-10:00AM, due to the higher than usual presence of police officers and road check points, most Nigerians choose to restrict their movements until after 10:00AM. Should you be caught at this time, you may be taken away by the police to perform some "public sanitation" duty, like mowing lawns, etc.
Arik, Virgin Nigeria and Aero Contractors have good scheduled domestic connections with modern aircraft to most significant destinations at reasonable prices. There websites are very user friendly and well updated.
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.
Nigeria's currency is the Naira. Around April 2012 the rate is about $1:N157.
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 worth 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. Banks will change foreign currency to Naira, BUT USUALLY NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND, EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE A FOREIGNER. You would therefore need to use the Bureaus de Change at the International terminal or the new Domestic terminal or street vendors to get foreign currency should you end up with unused Nairas at the end of your trip. A safe place to change in Victoria Island is in the tourist market of Eco Hotel in Victoria Island (not the hotel reception which will give you rip-off rates). If the Bureaus de Change at the airport do not want to help or are closed, the car park outside the International terminal is full of street vendors only to willing to change money from/into any major currency. When dealing with these street vendors, keep the money you are dealing with fully visible till the deal is finished (i.e. don't put into handbag and later discover it is wrong and then try and bargain) and count carefully with them, as they tend to try and short-change you with a note or two, especially when you change foreign currency into Naira (which is a thick bundle of small notes), but with necessary vigilance are generally fine. Street vendors are also plentiful at the main land borders to change Naira into CFAs (XOF (Benin and Niger side) or XAF (Cameroon side)) if need be. XOF and XAF are freely and easily convertible to and from Euros at a rate of 655.957 (sometimes with a small commission) when you are in the French countries.
Changing large bills of US Dollars or Euros will give a better rate with professional money changers, such as on the currency exchange market near Lagos Domestic Airport. This is a walled enclosure with a large number of money changers, which is primarily used by local nationals.
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, like GT Bank, UBA, Zenith, etc. This will save you a lot of stress carrying large sums of money and it is secured.
On Abuja and Lagos International Airport money can be withdrawn from ATM machine's. On Lagos International there are several ATM's, several may not function at all times. On Lagos Domestic Terminal there is also a functioning ATM in the domestic terminal on the 1th floor. Usually this a quiet ATM which also is very private and secure.
MasterCard / Maestro users can also withdraw Money from ATMs at several branches of Zenith Bank and GT 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. Visa is however a safer option if you are visiting the French countries around Nigeria as well, as Mastercard/Maestro is close to useless in these countries.
Also note that Nigeria is currently on an active drive to become a cash-less society, and as such, more and and more hotels, restaurant and shops (all the bigger ones at least) accept major credit cards (VISA being the preferred one - but ask first, there is both "local VISA" and "international VISA" - and MasterCard). Diners Club and Amex are almost universally useless in Nigeria. When paying by card, take the usual precautions (watch how they swipe, don't let the card out of your sight, etc.)
It is advisable that you know where to buy things in advance of your going out. This can save you unnecessary exposure to touts. Nigerian Yellow Pages  provides list of businesses, contact addresses and phone numbers and for shops and restaurants, your hotel can give you advise as well. When meeting businesses, the best thing to do is to locate the business, call their representative, who can give you detailed information on how to locate them.
At markets, 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.
Shops like supermarket and restaurants will typically charge fixed prices. Fresh products and Western-style sit-in restaurants are quite expensive, with it not being uncommon to pay $75 for a dinner per person.
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, gbegiri soup (beans soup), 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.
For the less adventurous traveler, there are loads of "foreign" restaurants in Lagos, e.g. Sky Bar and the grill at Eco Hotel, Churasco's, Lagoon and Fusion all three next to each other (all-you-can-eat Brazilian grill, Indian and Sushi respectively) with a nice view of the lagoon, Piccolo Mondo, Manuella's Residence (great Italian Pizza from Manuella the Italian lady), Bungalo (close to Coschari's BMW in VI) - good sports bar, grill and Sushi, great Sunday buffet at Radisson Blu. Chocolate Royal is a nice family restaurant with excellent ice cream selection (including ice cream cakes) and pastries in VI. Inside Chocolate Royal is an Oriental restaurant called Métisse. Bottles in VI is a grill and Mexican restaurant. And there are loads more flavours from every corner of the world. Just Google and ask taxi to take you there. Outside Lagos and to a lesser extent Abuja, Western food will tend to disappear, with "Jollof Rice and friend chicken" being a "safe" option if you are not adventurous.
Foreign restaurants are expensive and you can prepare for a bill of at least $50 to $75 or even $100 per head for main course, ice cream and one drink per person. If this is too much, try the Syrian Club in Ikoyi (turn North - away from the water) at the Mobil filling station in Awolowo Road (the night club street) in Ikoyi, continue a few blocks and on your left you will see the Syrian mosque, turn in the gate just after the mosque and the Syrian Club will be on your right on the inside of the premises with nice Lebanese/Syrian flair at very affordable (for Lagos) prices in an outdoor setting.
If you are a new expat living in Lagos, do yourself a favour and acquaint yourself early on with the following more expensive, foreign owned, but well worth-it, smaller specialist shops in VI selling all the delicacies and nice imported red meats that foreigners long for in and that Shoprite, Park and Shop and Goodie's (the main supermarkets) may not stock: 1. Deli's on Akin Adesola (the main road leading to Bar Beach), 2. L'Epicérie across the road from Mega Plaza and 3. La Pointe on Kofo Abayomi Street (close to the Brazilian Embassy/Consulate) and not easy to spot. Knowing these places will significantly improve your coping ability in the first couple of months.
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 restaurants, and/or French cafes.
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. 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 you 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.
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. 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--a common principle shared with many Western countries. 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. 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.
Be wary of traveling by road outside of the cities at night due to the risk of armed robbery
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.
Many foreign governments advise against travel to much of Northern and Central Nigeria due to ethnic tension, lawlessness and the current activities of Islamist groups such as Boko Haram.
The waters outside Nigeria is one of the most likely places to be attacked by modern day pirates.
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 safe.
Note that Swan water is almost out of ciruclation. It was popular back then in the nineties but has lost its market control now. It is better to go for Eva water by Coca Cola company or Nestle water by Nestle Nigeria. It is also of extreme importance not to buy water outside good-looking shops.
It is advisable to purchase bottled water from convenience stores rather than by the roadside. 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 or genuflecting for women or prostrating by men (especially among the Yoruba) 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). Some Islamic customs require women to cover their hair and bodies to other men and this is practiced in the North. Knock on 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.
Airports can be stressful, as the organisation is a bit confusing particularly at Port Harcourt Airport. If you are White, be prepared to keep hold of a couple of "dash" (Envelopes with a couple of Niara or American dollars), Nothing big, just a small courtesy tip, as sometimes Airport security take longer searching your bags on purpose, as they know and or assume you are wealthy, hoping for a small dash in order to make your search easier.
This may not always be the case, but if a general states "Do you have an coffee or mineral to give me", this is a hint that they would appreciate some dash.
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.