We've put together some practical information and advice for anyone visiting and travelling in Nigeria for business.
Download Country guide as PDF Here
All non-nationals require visas except those of certain other West African countries. Temporary visitors' visas are issued at embassies with relatively few problems, though can take at least 10 days to be issued. Nationals of some countries require a transit visa even if they do not leave the airport. Always check regulations with a Nigerian embassy or consulate prior to traveling.
In addition to a passport, photograph and other requirements, visa applications require a letter of invitation from a host company stating the purpose of the visit and the length of stay. A vague answer such as 'business discussions' or 'official business' is advisable; any reference to fee-earning work (such as consultancy) may prompt a demand to re-apply for a temporary work permit. A refused application for a temporary visitor's visa is stamped in a passport, which may prompt harassment on arrival. Officials may demand to see the letter of invitation, which the embassy often retains, so applicants should request two letters from their host company (a photocopy is not acceptable).
Work permits are difficult to obtain. All companies operating in Nigeria are registered locally, and foreigners can be employed only within the limits of a national quota, which is rigidly enforced. Companies have to justify employing a non-Nigerian, which involves proving that there is no one available locally with qualifications to fill the vacant post.
A passport valid for at least six months, a return ticket, and a mandatory yellow fever vaccination certificate are required for entry to Nigeria. Vaccination regulations can alter at short notice, but yellow fever inoculation is currently compulsory and should be 10 days' old on arrival. Travelers are likely to have to produce their yellow fever certificate on entry. It is also wise to seek medical advice on other inoculations before traveling (see also Health).
Lagos remains the country's business centre; most international diplomatic missions and major international companies with interests in the country have offices there. The city is spread over a wide area and four main islands in the Gulf of Guinea - Lagos, Iddo, Ikoyi and Victoria - all of which are connected to the mainland and each other by a series of bridges.
Airport to the city centre
Roads to and from the airport are among the busiest in the country. Personnel arriving on international flights after 17.00 can stay at the Sheraton or Protea (Ikeja) hotels or other company procured/advised guest facility overnight, though travel after dark is possible with proper security measures.
Traveling around Lagos
Local drivers know how to avoid the jams and foreign visitors whose hosts do not provide them with transport are advised to hire cars and drivers with local knowledge from reputable companies.
Demand for rooms in the good hotels is high and bookings should be made well in advance and confirmed before departure.
Protea Hotel (Leadway)
1 Mogambo Close, Maryland Estate, Ikeja, Lagos
Tel: +234 (1) 279-0800
Fax: +234 (1) 448-2009
Excalibur Benin Hotels
23B, Etete Road, G.R.A, Beside NPDC, Benin City.
Tel: +234-802-942-3197 / +234-803-822-0626 / +234-805-230-5687
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
The Hilton Abuja
1 Aguiyi Ironsi Street, Maitama
Fax: +234 (9) 904-4025
Ladi Kwali Way (PO Box 143), Maitama
Tel: +234 (9) 461-2000
The vast distances between state capitals, the poor state of roads and railways and security problems make flying the most practical way to travel around.
Several reputable charter companies operate regular services to remote areas or single-industry zones (mining and oil) across the country. Regular travellers may seek arrangements with locally-based multinationals that operate charter services.
A car and driver is the most reliable form of transport in cities. Travellers should use reputable companies with drivers who are familiar with the city and local conditions.
Taxis are numerous. It is possible to hail a taxi from the roadside but safer to organise a taxi through your hotel or a reliable local contact. Fares should be agreed before getting in to the taxi; the receptionist will know the approximate price. Travellers should never get into a taxi with anyone other than the driver.
English is the official and business language. Up to 200 African dialects are also spoken. Lagosians tend to use a patois of local languages and English among themselves. Visitors to northern areas may find that only the local language is spoken.
Nigeria's economy is cash based. The local currency is the naira, which is divided into 100 kobo. Kobo coins and notes are now worth so little that most purchases are rounded to the nearest naira and kobo are rarely seen.
Traveller's cheques and credit cards can be used at hotels but are less likely to be accepted at restaurants outside hotels or in shops or supermarkets. Buying in hard currency is possible but not advisable; to be seen with quantities of hard currency raises the risk of being robbed. Residents can also subscribe to a local debit card, which is accepted by several vendors.
Money can be changed at the airport, at some banks and at hotels. Change money only when you are going to use it immediately. It may not always be possible to reconvert naira to hard currency. It is ill advised to leave the re-conversion of naira until you return to the airport. The terminal is frequently home to criminal elements and armed robbers have targeted foreign exchange bureaux. Foreign business visitors should spend as little time as possible in the public areas outside the airport.
Nigerians are friendly and welcome visitors openly. There is an easy mix between the expatriate community and Nigerians, both in business and socially. 'You are welcome' is a common greeting. Greetings and courtesies are generally not significantly different from the general standards of Western courtesy and protocol, and business cards are often exchanged. Shaking hands is common, and should always be undertaken with the right hand (as should eating). Small-talk can dominate early conversation; physical contact is frequent and should not be greeted with surprise.
Titles such as doctor, chief and director should always be used when they are applicable, including attention to honorific and religious titles as the image of disrespect is taken seriously, particularly in conversation with tribal or religious leaders. Initial meetings can appear formal. Meetings usually take place in offices rather than at private residences. Few Nigerians smoke cigarettes.
Smoking in public places is banned by law. Alcohol is available, though it should be remembered that many Nigerians - particularly in the north - are Muslim and do not drink.
Mobile telephone is the most efficient form of communication and is used by most business people. There are six major operators providing good coverage. Travellers can easily buy a SIM card for their phone in Nigeria and start using it immediately. Landlines are still plagued with problems and tend to be unreliable. Calls from hotels are very expensive. Internet connections are available and there are internet cafes in major cities, where rates are much more competitive than at hotels.
[Country code 234; Lagos code: 1; Abuja code: 9]
Nigeria has a range of good-quality English language newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian, The Post Express, Tell, This Day and The Vanguard. These are available nationwide, but it is important to note that these are southern newspapers. In order to balance opinion, business visitors should also read northern newspapers. There is also a vibrant radio and television service in addition to cable television, which provides Western programmes including international news coverage. Some media houses serve as political tools for some local politicians.
Weak infrastructure, under-investment and inadequate maintenance mean that power cuts, surges and other interruptions are commonplace; protective devices for sensitive equipment are imperative and many companies rely on independent generators.
Nigerian sockets use three-pronged power plugs.
In Lagos, which borders the Atlantic Ocean and is surrounded by lagoons and wetland, humidity is dense: air conditioning is essential. It rains virtually all year round (annual average rainfall is around 1,800mm (72 inches), but the heaviest rains start in March and continue until July. August usually offers a brief respite before rains resume in September. At night, temperatures are around 25C (77F); daytime temperatures are about 32C (90F).
Embassies and consulates
High commissions and embassies should be informed of all security incidents involving foreigners living in Lagos. It is equally important to register arrivals with them - even for short business visits. Commercial officers provide an excellent service and will be able to vet business contacts and may even arrange business meetings on your behalf.
Personnel are advised to consult a medical professional before travel to discuss vaccinations and any other health-related precautionary measures. Lagos suffers pollution like many developing metropolises, which affects the water supply. Visitors should avoid salads, unpeeled fruit and ice, and drink bottled water or bottled drinks.
Many tropical diseases are present in Nigeria. Inoculation for yellow fever is compulsory, and other inoculations may become so at short notice. Health centres currently suggest yellow fever, typhoid and cholera jabs. Anti-malarial prophylactics are essential. Tropical insects are common. You should ensure that you have comprehensive medical insurance, which covers a provision for medical evacuation.
Deaths from cerebro-spinal Meningitis were reported in February 2003. The areas affected are the Northern Nigerian State of Zamfara, Jigawa and Kano. Visitors to these States should ensure that they have obtained the necessary vaccinations.