With over 190 million inhabitants, The Federal Republic of Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. Located in West Africa, Nigeria is bordered by Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon and has a coastline which stretches 853 km (530 miles) along the tropical Gulf of Guinea. The mighty Niger river runs through the south west of the country, finally tipping out at the Niger Delta. The capital of Abuja, in central Nigeria, is not the largest city – that accolade goes to the cosmopolitan coastal city of Lagos, home to 21 million people and the largest city in Africa.
Nigeria is a federal republic divided into 36 autonomous states, which are united by the Federal Capital Territory. A British colony until 1960, Nigeria is a multi-ethnic society, with the Hausa-Fulani people accounting for almost two thirds of the population. The country also has the highest density of people under the age of 25 in the world. Despite a rather tumultuous political history, Nigeria now has a relatively stable multi-party system. Rich in natural resources, the country is the biggest exporter of crude oil in Africa, which has helped its economy grow rapidly in the last few decades.
Nigeria also has a rich artistic and literary history and has produced the award-winning authors Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
With over 500 different ethnic groups and approximately 560 languages, Nigerian culture is richly diverse and fascinating. The largest ethnic groups are the Hausa, Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba. The different groups in Nigeria remain distinct and are proud of their history and individual cultures. It was only when the British colonised the country that these groups were brought together as a single entity known as Nigeria.
Nigeria is Africa’s powerhouse in terms of economy and natural resources and Nigerians view education and hard work as being integral to the country’s success. Religion also plays a significant part in daily life and the country’s population is almost equally split between Christians and Muslims. The family is the cornerstone of Nigerian culture – it is traditional for large extended families to live together and the wisdom of older people is revered. However, this culture has diminished in recent decades as young people leave their families to search for work in urban areas.
Food, from choosing, cooking, preparing and sharing, is central to Nigerian socialising and meeting for meals bonds large families together. The best way to cook jollof rice (a tomato and rice-based dish) is the subject of much debate around Nigerian dinner tables. Football is also a national obsession and the Nigerian team, The Super Eagles, are one of the most successful on the continent. The women’s team, The Super Falcons, also won the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigerian research has faced numerous funding challenges in recent years. However, following the establishment of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), an agency which disburses and manages funds to universities, research projects and opportunities are steadily growing.
Additionally, 16 Nigerian universities are currently benefitting from a $70million injection of funding from the World Bank’s Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) initiative. The programme has set up 46 education and research centres in 17 African countries. The ACE grant funds various research projects in Nigerian universities in areas such as infectious and tropical diseases and reproductive health.
The higher education system in Nigeria comprises 43 federal government universities, 47 state government universities and 75 private institutions. The most prestigious institutions are Nigeria’s oldest university, the University of Ibadan (public) and Covenant University (a private Christian institution), both located in the west of the country. The main language of instruction in Nigeria’s higher education system is English. Universities offer a three-tier system of Bachelor’s degrees (3-4 years), Master’s degrees (1-3 years) and Doctoral programmes (around four years).
Admission to university is determined by gaining the appropriate grades at secondary school and sitting the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) entrance examination. Demand for places at universities has soared in recent years and almost 300 applications to build new, private universities are currently being considered by the Nigerian National Universities Commission (NUC).
Tuition fees range between 18,000NGN (£38) to 60,000 NGN (£127) per year for an undergraduate degree. Fees for private universities are significantly more.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Nigeria is low when compared to the UK and USA. However, rents can be excessively high, although expats moving to Nigeria for a job will find it is common for employers to cover accommodation costs in line with your salary. The cities of Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt are considered the most expensive places to live. Food, transport and utilities are significantly lower than in most European nations. Foreign nationals are not covered by Nigeria’s state healthcare system, so it is advisable to take out a comprehensive international insurance healthcare policy before you travel.
Rented accommodation is in high demand in Nigeria. However, expats moving with a university or company are often housed in private compounds designed specifically for foreign professionals. For those heading to Lagos, the areas of Victoria Island and Ikoyi on Lagos Island are considered the most desirable places to live. In Ibadan, the areas of Bodija, Oluyole and Agodi are sought after, particularly among foreigners. The cost of a furnished two-bed apartment in central Lagos is around 850,000NGN (£1,800) per month, depending on where you live.
Visas and Eligibility
All visitors entering Nigeria must obtain a valid tourist, business or residency entry visa into the country. Visas are valid for a period of three months and you can apply online through the Nigerian Immigration Service’s ePortal. If you are planning on working in Nigeria, you must apply for a Subject to Regularisation (STR) entry visa which you must then use to apply for ‘regularision’ in order to gain a long-term work and residency permit. To apply for a residency/work permit you will need to provide proof of employment in the country. If you have secured a position before you travel to Nigeria, your employer is required to assist you in the application for residency.
Safety and security
Nigeria is a densely populated country, particularly in urban areas, therefore both violent and petty crime is higher than average. However, expats can mitigate this by taking appropriate precautions, such as living in areas known to be safer, keeping a close eye on their belongings and not travelling alone after dark in larger cities. Online scams have also become a problem in Nigeria, so it is best to avoid engaging with people you do not know while online.
The working day in Nigeria generally starts at 8am and ends at 4pm, Monday to Friday. Workers are granted one weekly paid rest day of no less than twenty-four hours after six continuous working days. By law, workers are only permitted to work a maximum of 40 hours per week. Employees are entitled to at least six working days of paid leave, after completion of 12 months continuous service.
There are 13 national public holidays in Nigeria, which incorporate both Christian and Muslim celebrations, as well as national celebrations such as Nigerian Independence Day (1st of October).
Nigeria is a culturally diverse country and is home to numerous multi-national companies. Therefore, expats will find a welcoming and inclusive business environment. English is the main language used in business and higher education and Nigerians are generally happy to switch to English in the presence of people who do not speak their language. Nigerian businesses and organisations are traditionally hierarchical, so care should be taken when questioning the decisions made by senior staff.
Cultivating relationships and connections in the workplace is essential for getting things done in Nigeria. Showing a keen interest in Nigerian culture and displaying a friendly manner will impress and help garner respect. Businesses are known to run at their own pace, so a patient and flexible approach is essential. Nigerians are known to be highly expressive people and it is not uncommon for there to be displays of emotion at business meetings, where the introductions and small talk can often last more than an hour.
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