Difference between revisions of "Nigeria"
Revision as of 01:32, 22 December 2008
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.
The big red warning sign not to visit Nigeria is misleading. Personally I have been three times in the past six months and have visited Lagos, Abuja and Kano without incident. There are places to avoid at this moment (mainly in Delta) but to give a blanket warning for the country is unfair.
Varies; equatorial in the south, tropical in the center, arid in the north. Natural hazards include periodic droughts and flooding. Tornado's and hurricanes are rare because they typically are weak at this stage and travel west of the Atlantic. But still beautiful.
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.
Nigeria is a former British colony and a member of the British Commonwealth.
On 12 December 1991, the capital was officially transferred from Lagos to Abuja; most federal government offices have now made the move to Abuja.
Following nearly 16 years of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in May 1999, and a peaceful transition to civilian government was completed. The president faces the daunting task of rebuilding a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement, and institutionalizing democracy. In addition, the Yar'adua administration must defuse longstanding ethnic and religious tensions, if it is to build a sound foundation for economic growth and political stability.
Most travellers will need a visa, this can be obtained at any of the Nigerian embassies worldwide.
Virgin Nigeria and Bellview Airlines make local and international flights (to other African countries and London), Arik and Aero to others African countries.
Note: VirginNigeria's application for direct service from Nigeria to/from the USA has been approved by the US Dept of Transportation since April 2008. However, service has yet to begin. Visit Virginair [www.virginnigeria.com] for updates.
Note: North American Airlines (NAA) has canceled its service from the USA to Nigeria and Ghana as of May 2008 due to rising fuel costs. Visit www.flynaa.com for more complete explanation and detail. Hence, Delta is now the only US carrier connecting the USA directly with Nigeria. Visit Delta [www.delta.com] for more information. Hats off to Delta Airlines... competition would be nice. Come on VirginNigeria and Arik!!!
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.
I actually experienced ABC Transport from Lagos (Amuwo Odofin Station) to Accra. It was quite an amazing journey. The bus station in Lagos seems quite disorderly. If you are a virgin to this journey, you will have to pay an additional Naira 1000 at check-in. Shortly after the bus backs out of the station, ABC Transport's Chaplain grabs the microphone to speak, preach (a bit), sing, and speak in tongues. He'll even pray with you before he leaves the bus. I was really surprised at this on a public mode of transportation.
The bus itself is manufactured by MarcoPolo and is nice with a very clean bathroom (if you can stand the bus fumes), but the legroom is insufficient for people 6 feet tall and more, especially since the ride is a solid 12 hours. However, for the price (Naira 6900 one way), it's worth it.
Benin and Togo are quite interesting. Once in Togo, the roadway runs a stone's throw and parallel to the Atlantic Ocean which appears quite blue and inviting. If you are an US passport holder, you will be taken off the bus separate from the other passengers, who also must alight (but right outside the bus) at the Benin border and once you enter Ghana at Aflao. The bus stops at a station in Cotonou, then Lomé, and then a small place before Aflao. The bus attendant takes you to immigration officials who give you a declaration to complete. No funny business at all. Be prepared to see lots of people/vendors at the borders where all the passengers must alight and cross the border by foot and then reboard the bus. The vendors are quite respectful and never crowd you, but if you're not prepared for this scene, it can be quite alarming. Also, at Aflao, you will have to remove any checked luggage for inspection. I suggest you travel light and handle your own luggage. Some people don't know how to ask if you want help. They just grab and basically force you to have to give them a tip. One man told me that US 3 dollar s was not enough. Needless to say, he was ignored in a big way.
We arrived in Accra basically on time on the glorious date of 15 October 2008. I think I would do it again but not alone next time. (Clifton E. Hill 21 December 2008)
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 but there are various other modes of transport. The road systems in Nigeria are relatively poor compared with N. American and Euopean countries. 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.
Lots of aggressive street sellers surround the car when you get to crossroads. You shouldn't have a problem if you keep the windows and doors locked however. Armed ambushes are pretty common.
Nigeria's currency is the naira. On 6 April 2008, there were 117.44 naira to the US dollar.
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). 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. 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.
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: Okra soup, plantain (fried, boiled, roasted), pepper soup, amala, eba, efo, pounded yam (iyan - Yoruba for "pounded yam"), jollof rice, ground nut soup, ogbono soup, isi ewu (goat's head stew), egusi soup, suya (kebab), moi moi, 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".
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. Therefore, change sufficient currency at the airport because the foreign exchange rates at the hotels suck.
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 characterized 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 separatist 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 of addressing those older than you, from those younger than you. You do not hand things over to people, especially adults and elders 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.