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Moving to Nigeria

Located in West Africa, Nigeria stands out as an economic powerhouse that is well connected to the West African region. Its southern coast lies on the Gulf of Guinea flowing out into the Atlantic Ocean and most expats relocating to Nigeria settle here, particularly in Lagos, or in the central capital city of Abuja. Nigeria is a multicultural nation with over 500 languages and 250 ethnicities and a diverse environment to match, so it’s best to get a sense of what to expect before moving.

In truth, media reports on safety and security haven’t painted the prettiest picture of the country. Nigeria has a dubious reputation with persistent reports of crime, corruption, kidnapping and endlessly inventive ‘419’ advance-fee scams. While this is not something to overlook, particularly for families with kids, and expats should follow guidance from their embassies and the authorities, safety concerns should not consume one’s entire perception of Nigeria.

Expats who move to Nigeria for work often benefit from a generous employment contract. Nicknamed the Giant of Africa for its large population and growing economy, major multinationals, particularly in the mining and oil sectors, have set up shop here and commonly employ foreigners. Recognising the potential hardship factors and the high cost of living, these companies offer a great financial enticement and sometimes a full relocation package, including comprehensive healthcare and medical insurance, accommodation, schooling and transport.

Large companies that hire expats often have pre-arranged accommodation in protected gated complexes with 24-hour security systems and guards. This housing usually comes with amenities such as swimming pools to cool off in the warm tropical weather.

These complexes are home to a sociable expat community and new arrivals positively report on this camaraderie. Life in a large city such as Lagos or Abuja affords many sports facilities and groups and there are upscale restaurants and trendy cocktail bars for anyone to enjoy. However, the typical expat lifestyle in Nigeria sees many foreigners living in somewhat isolated enclaves, far removed from the reality of Nigerian life. Those not stuck living in this ‘expat bubble’ may find their relocation to Nigeria a richly rewarding cultural experience.

Nigerians are famously hospitable and friendly and getting to know them can help overcome the initial culture shock. New arrivals will soon pick up some local slang or find interest in the local fashionable and colourful clothing. The diversity of cultures makes for consistently interesting discoveries begging to be stumbled upon by the more inquisitive expat.

Expats may be surprised by Nigeria’s hidden gems, from sheltered beaches to wildlife reserves and national parks with magnificent rainforest habitats and waterfalls. The famous Nollywood film industry also calls Nigeria home, and the popular Afrobeats music style has Nigerian and West African roots.

While there are adventures, there are also frustrations. Transport and driving are major causes of frustration. Despite some development of transport infrastructure, the city roads are chaotic, and traffic is a nightmare, whether it's commuting to work or taking the kids to school – most expats hire a driver to resolve any stress.

Like any other destination, Nigeria brings both pros and cons. We encourage expats to prepare themselves for the realities of life there, but also keep an open mind to enjoy the many positives.


Fast facts

Official name: Federal Republic of Nigeria

Population: Around 206 million

Capital city: Abuja

Largest city: Lagos

Neighbouring countries: Situated on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, Nigeria is bordered by Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Geography: Nigeria has a large and varied landscape from coastal plains to mangrove swamps and tropical rain forests. It is home to the Niger Delta, one of the world's largest river deltas, and is very rich in natural resources, most notably large deposits of petroleum and natural gas.

Political system: Federal presidential constitutional republic

Main languages: English is the official language. Other languages include Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulfulde and Kanuri

Major religions: Christianity, Islam, and numerous traditional religions

Time: GMT +1

Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz. Round (type D) and square (type G) three-pin plugs are used.

Currency: The Nigerian Naira (NGN), divided into 100 kobo. ATMs are available in Nigerian towns and cities. Credit card fraud is a concern in Nigeria and expats should keep a close eye on their bank and credit card statements.

Tipping: A standard 10 percent in restaurants, while in taxis, fares are normally agreed beforehand

International dialling code: +234

Emergency number: 112

Internet domain: .ng

Driving and transport: Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road. Road safety and traffic are major concerns in Nigeria and most expats have a car and driver provided for them by their company rather than driving themselves.

Weather in Nigeria

In line with its proximity to the equatorial belt and the Atlantic Ocean, the climate in Nigeria is tropical and the weather wet (which may come as a surprise to expats who associate Africa with only a desperate dryness). 

Temperatures are generally high and consistent, and seasons are more aptly characterised by the difference in rainfall than a change in the mercury. For example, in Lagos, average temperatures barely range from 77°F (25°C) to 82°F (28°C). June is the season with peak rains, while January hardly sees any by comparison.

In the south of the country, a coastal region that includes Lagos and the oil-rich area of Port Harcourt, it’s incredibly humid, but it rarely gets hotter than 90°F (32°C). This area is defined by two rainy periods, one short period and one long period. The long rainy season begins in late February or early March and lasts until July. The short rainy season starts in September and runs through October, though rains are not nearly as heavy as in the long season.

Inland and in the north of Nigeria, a large region that includes the capital of Abuja, the weather is incredibly hot, and the skies clear and blue for most of the year. The good news for foreigners moving from more moderate climes is that humidity is much lower than near the coast. Still, expect temperatures that reach from the mid-90s (mid-30s in Celsius) to over 100°F (37°C) during the day, and then anticipate a considerable decline during the evening, down to 72°F (22°C). In this area of Nigeria, the rainy season only starts in June or July and ends in September.

Expats moving to Nigeria would do well to bring light, loose-fitting clothes and, most importantly, an umbrella. In general, one can leave the winter jackets and long underwear behind and pack a favourite swimming costume and a high-SPF sunscreen.

 
 

Embassy Contacts for Nigeria


Nigerian embassies

  • Nigerian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 800 7201 (Ext. 113)

  • Nigerian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7839 1244

  • Nigerian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0521

  • Nigerian High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6215 8500

  • Nigerian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 0688

  • Nigerian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 660 4366


Foreign embassies in Nigeria

  • United States Embassy, Abuja: +234 9 461 4000

  • British High Commission, Abuja: +234 9 462 3100

  • Canadian High Commission, Abuja: +234 9 461 2900

  • Australian High Commission, Abuja: +234 9 461 2780

  • South African High Commission, Abuja: +234 9 462 4200

  • Irish Embassy, Abuja: +234 9 462 0611

Public Holidays in Nigeria

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Good Friday

2 April

15 April

Easter Monday

5 April

18 April

Worker's Day

1 May

1 May

Id el Fitri

13–14 May

2–3 May

Democracy Day

12 June

12 June

Id el Kabir

20–21 July

9–10 July

Nigerian Independence Day

1 October

1 October

Id el Maulud

18 October

8 October

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*Islamic holidays are subject to change based on sightings of the moon,

Safety in Nigeria

Nigeria is notorious for the poor level of safety and security within its borders, and it comes as no surprise that even well-seasoned expats with years of travel behind them will be concerned about their personal safety in Nigeria.

Many Western governments, including the US and the UK, have issued warnings to their citizens to avoid all but essential travel to certain parts of Nigeria due to safety concerns, particularly in the northern states due to sectarian violence, and in the southern oil-producing states due to the activities of rebel groups.

Nigeria, or parts of it, is undoubtedly dangerous, but foreigners that move to this West African country hardly live in perpetual fear for their safety. Most expats living and working in various areas of Nigeria report that, though they acknowledge the risks at hand, they do generally feel safe in Nigeria.


Crime in Nigeria 

Both violent and petty crime rates remain high throughout the country. Assault, burglary, mugging, carjacking and home invasion exist as serious threats everywhere, and many foreign nationals have reported being a victim of such crimes.

In some situations, the Nigerian police or the area’s relevant law enforcement authorities may not respond immediately. What’s more, these officials have even been pegged as perpetrators, coercing expats at checkpoints and elsewhere into paying bribes under the threat of jail time. In short, the police are not always dependable and are not necessarily an expat's friend. 

Expats should take certain precautions while living in Nigeria to stay safe. They should remain alert, take notice of the people around them and put in practice the same safety measures they would in any big city.

Many expats are fortunate enough to be housed in accommodation which is protected by 24-hour security (some even with armed guards), such as apartment complexes, compounds or gated communities. Nevertheless, it’s best to lock all doors and windows when leaving home, especially since robbers have been known to scale high walls and divert the attention of guards.

Note that many armed attacks in Nigerian urban centres happen at night. So, expats should carefully consider their need to travel after dark and, if they do indulge in the vibrant nightlife, they should stay alert at all times and keep to well-lit city centre areas. 


Fraud in Nigeria

No discussion of safety in Nigeria would be complete without mention of the ever-popular 419 or advanced-fee scams, named after the section of the Nigerian penal code that relates to financial fraud. These scams often involve an email or text message from someone claiming to be a relative, with a business proposal or in great distress and begging for a deposit into their bank account. Needless to say, this is just one of the many faces of financial fraud in Nigeria, and though the banking system has become more secure over the past few years, expats must still be vigilant when it comes to checking bank and credit card balances.


Terrorism and conflict in Nigeria

There is a threat of terrorism in Nigeria, and expats working in the oil industry in the Niger Delta region as well as across Northern Nigeria should realise the implications of their employment choice.

North and northeastern areas in Nigeria have faced a heavy threat of terrorism, particularly in Borno State. However, no region is free from this potential threat. Many governments advise their nationals against all travel to the northern states of Borno, Kaduna, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and Bauchi, and against non-essential travel to other states in the region. The main terrorist threat in northern Nigeria stems from Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), and Ansaru, a terrorist organisation based in the region. There is a high risk of attacks against international bodies and Western targets, and expats should be vigilant at all times, particularly in the vicinity of places of worship, including churches and mosques, and government and military installations.

Be aware that some states and areas frequently impose curfews and these should be obeyed. We recommend staying up to date with instructions from the relevant authorities.

Kidnappings

Kidnappings are common in Nigeria, connected to terrorist motives or for ransom. Expats involved in industries including humanitarian aid, tourism, journalism and business are potential targets for kidnapping and should ensure they follow all necessary safety precautions.

Protests

Violent protest action is unpredictable, but expats should be aware that it does occur frequently in major cities, including Abuja. It is best to avoid large crowds and steer clear of political gatherings and rallies.


Road safety in Nigeria

Road safety in Nigeria is well below standard, with incidents of armed robberies and hijackings carried out by gangs. Expats should avoid driving at night.

In general, road conditions and dense traffic make driving around cities a stressful and hazardous experience. Unfortunately, Nigeria's public transport doesn't guarantee safe arrivals. Most expats hire a driver, the cost of which can be negotiated as part of one’s employment package. When arriving at the airport, new arrivals should be sure to be met by someone they know and avoid taking a taxi unless prearranged through a reputable provider.

Working in Nigeria

Nigeria is one of the largest economies in Africa and work prospects for highly skilled expats are good, with opportunities available in a variety of sectors. Despite its wealth, Nigeria still gets bad international press given safety, inequality and corruption issues. Expats working in Nigeria may find themselves embittered by daily struggles, despite the country's continued efforts at reform within the business world, while others may embrace their experience in the country.

Those lured to work in Nigeria with high salaries should weigh this against the high cost of living, particularly when it comes to accommodation, healthcare and schooling, and should ensure that provisions are made to cover these costs when negotiating a contract for relocation to Nigeria.

When moving to Nigeria, expats will have to consider the employment market, how to find a job and aspects of business culture.


Job market in Nigeria

Oil refining only contributes a small amount to Nigeria’s GDP however, government revenues are largely chained to the oil sector and many expats in Nigeria are employed by oil and mining companies. There have been moves to diversify the economy, and major industries include manufacturing, food processing textiles and pharmaceuticals.

Many expats work in the banking, telecommunications and construction industries. Popular expatriate jobs within these sectors include project management, business development, engineering, human resources management, IT systems management and chartered accountancy.

Apart from jobs in these industries, expats who possess exceptional skills in the IT, journalism, communication and health sciences sectors will have more work opportunities available to them. The NGO sector is also a significant employer as several agencies and UN projects use Nigeria as their West African operations base.


Finding a job in Nigeria

Expats are commonly recruited and transferred from their company abroad to relocate and take up a position in Nigeria. These expats won’t need to search for a job but must be prepared to face the challenges of a different business culture and, if they have a spouse and children, need to consider the relocation process for their dependants.

This involves immigration and visa matters. Employers hiring foreign workers must obtain an Expatriate Quota and a Business Permit from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Only workers coming from other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not need a work permit. Expats must consult with their company on visa processes and regulations.

Expats who do not have an intra-company transfer must look for a job in Nigeria. One of the best ways of searching for employment opportunities is through online job portals, such as Jobberman, MyJobMag and LinkedIn. Job seekers interested in a particular organisation or corporation may be able to apply directly through the company website.

Note that Nigeria is notoriously associated with scams that pivot around job offers. For this reason, expats offered a position in Nigeria should confirm that the employer is legitimate by consulting with their local Nigerian embassy and by attempting to contact expats on the ground.


Work culture in Nigeria

With over 250 different ethnic groups and a multitude of foreign-owned multinational companies, expats working in Nigeria will find themselves in a very diverse and mostly welcoming, business environment. Still, adjusting to working life here may require a great deal of flexibility and patience.

It won't be long before expats find themselves a victim of the workforce policy on punctuality – “hurry up and wait”. The country functions at a relaxed pace, even when it comes to doing business, meaning that a meeting scheduled for 10am may very well only happen at 3pm, if at all. This may not apply to all companies, and expats should prepare accordingly and learn to be as flexible as possible.

Doing Business in Nigeria

Expats looking to do business in Nigeria, and especially those who have never done business on the African continent before, will certainly have to prepare themselves for some unique challenges.

Although great strides have been made within the corporate world in Nigeria – an oil-rich country and one of Africa’s largest economies – the country still suffers from massive corruption and a debilitating lack of infrastructure; two factors that can make doing business difficult, to say the least.

Expats should remember that a tremendous amount of business does get done in Nigeria, and jaded or pessimistic views about the country are not always well deserved.

Nevertheless, doing business in Nigeria is challenging, as illustrated by numerous international business surveys. Most notably, Nigeria ranked 131st out of 190 countries in the World Bank's 2020 Ease of Doing Business Survey. This marked improvements from its previous rankings and the country performed well for factors such as ease of getting credit (15th) and protecting minority investors (28th). But it continues to rank poorly for factors such as getting electricity (169th), registering property (183rd) and trading across borders (179th).

To help avoid or overcome any potential issues, expats relocating to and working in the Giant of Africa should familiarise themselves with key aspects of doing business.


Fast facts

Business language

In a country that claims many different ethnic groups and dialects, English has emerged as the primary language of business in Nigeria

Hours of business

Office hours are usually 8am to 4pm or 9am to 5pm, from Monday to Friday. This varies slightly for banks and government offices which usually close earlier. Some businesses also adjust their working hours during Ramadan.

Business dress

Smart and stylish; dark colours are preferred.

Greeting

Extended, warm handshakes that linger for a while are the traditional greeting among men. Since Nigeria has a large Muslim population and observant men will not shake hands with women, a safe, traditional greeting with a woman would be for a man to bow his head slightly when introduced. 

Gifts

There is no standard practice for gift giving in Nigeria – although, if receiving a gift, be sure to reciprocate. When exchanging a gift or shaking hands, always use the right hand.

Gender equality

Nigeria remains a patriarchal society, with traditional roles for men and women largely adhered to. Still, there are plenty of opportunities for women and many women can be found in senior positions within both the corporate and political sphere.


Business culture in Nigeria

New arrivals to Nigeria may experience culture shock in various aspects of their relocation, and the workplace is no different. Business culture in Nigeria is subject to a number of variable forces; over 250 different ethnic groups co-exist in the country and many foreign-owned multinationals have operations there. So, business etiquette demands that expats remain flexible and willing to improvise.

Business relationships

It’s vital to cement a working business relationship with associates. Be prepared to be patient and to wait for this trust to develop before diving into the nuts and bolts of business discussions. For this reason, business meetings in Nigeria are very social occasions, providing the framework for the creation of solid interpersonal connections.

Management style

The management style typically found in Nigeria is extremely hierarchical. The boss – invariably male, and almost always of an older generation – will expect and will receive respect from all those working beneath him, and will never be publicly criticised. This does not necessarily mean that all decisions are made from the top down; business relationships are extremely important in Nigeria and compromises can be reached.

Nigerian business leaders tend to lead strongly, giving their employees instructions that are expected to be followed closely. Teamwork and the ability to work together toward clearly defined goals are considered more valuable assets in the Nigerian workplace than independent thinking or individualistic efforts.

Attitude to foreigners

Nigerians are famously friendly and hospitable people who take a genuine interest in the lives and experiences of foreigners. If one makes an effort to get to know the locals, this friendliness will be repaid tenfold.

Still, it’s best to be wary of empty promises when tabling an offer; it is quite unusual for Nigerian officials to willingly give their internal business to non-Nigerian companies.

Bribery and corruption

Nigeria has a horrendous reputation for bribery and corruption. These are systemic problems, observable from the highest levels of government to the lowest level of street sales. It is unfortunate, though unavoidable, that expats will experience this corruption in some form or another while living and working in Nigeria.

Forming connections with prominent ministers and governors is essential for those wanting to be successful at business in Nigeria. Although not advocated, it’s an unfortunate reality that many companies appear to have a wide margin written into their budgets for bribes.


Dos and don'ts of doing business in Nigeria

  • Do be willing to improvise and to make a real effort at getting to know Nigerian colleagues

  • Do try to remain patient and calm in all situations

  • Do remember that bribery, corruption, favouritism and nepotism are still unfortunate realities of doing business in Nigeria

  • Don’t disrespect elders or those in higher positions of authority

  • Don’t criticise colleagues in public – rather have a private word with them, if necessary

  • Don’t fall into the habit of thinking about or interacting with all Nigerians in the same way. Nigeria is an incredibly diverse nation, and expats should try to familiarise themselves with the nuances of dealing with the different ethnic groups and different people

Visas for Nigeria

Most foreigners, whether going to Nigeria for holiday, on business or relocating there, will need a visa. Some foreign citizens are granted visa-free entry to Nigeria and others are eligible for obtaining a visa on arrival.

Citizens of member-states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and several additional countries are exempt from obtaining a visa; these citizens can enter Nigeria without a visa.

It is also possible to get a visa at the port of entry to Nigeria – depending on nationality and purpose of visit. Nigeria allows those travelling for business purposes and citizens from African Union countries to get a visa on arrival. It is necessary to apply for this first, however, via the Nigerian Immigration Service ePortal and making a payment. Once processed, full immigration clearance may be granted when arriving in the country.

The Nigeria Immigration Service has recently streamlined its system, so visas can only be applied for online through an ePortal, and in-person interviews at the nearest embassy or high commission may be necessary. Expats should always contact the nearest embassy first before submitting any applications online in case there have been changes to visa processes.

Expats should also be sure to check up on the recommended pre-travel vaccinations and what to expect in terms of healthcare in Nigeria.

The four main types of visas for Nigeria are tourist visas, business visas, temporary work permits and subject to regularisation visas.


Tourist visas for Nigeria

It is relatively straightforward to get a tourist visa. Foreigners who wish to travel to Nigeria for tourism or to visit friends or family must apply for this tourist visa, also referred to as a visitor visa.
Tourist and visitor visas are valid for 90 days.

Start the application process by applying online via the ePortal system and making a payment. Fees vary; citizens from developing countries are usually charged lower fees than those from developed countries.

Certain documents may be required to be sent via post or delivered in person to the designated embassy or visa application centre. Applicants generally need to write a letter of introduction and provide their flight and travel itinerary, among additional documents.

When applying, the embassy may contact the applicant for a further interview. Applicants given an in-person interview at the local Nigerian embassy should take along payment receipts from the ePortal system, a valid passport and the required accompanying documents. 


Business visas for Nigeria

Applying for a business visa is essentially the same process as applying for a tourist visa for Nigeria. The only difference is the documents required for presentation at the embassy, as expats will need an invitation letter from a business operating in Nigeria. 

Business visas are valid for 90 days, which cannot be extended. Expats travelling to Nigeria for short-term business may be eligible for a visa on arrival and should consult the Nigeria Immigration Service website for further guidance.


Work and residence permits for Nigeria

The primary work and residence permits are the temporary work permit and the subject to regularisation visa, which later requires a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card, or CERPAC. ECOWAS citizens can apply for a separate residence card.

Temporary work permit (TWP)

Expats planning on travelling to Nigeria for work purposes and providing their specialised skills should apply for a temporary work permit, also known as a TWP. TWPs are also valid for 90 days.

The applicant must already have coordinated with the corporate body requesting their presence. This organisation must request permission from the Comptroller General of Immigration (CGI) to invite the expat into Nigeria. After the request has been processed, first-time applicants will have to complete the online application on the ePortal and send additional documentation.

When applying for a TWP, we recommend expats communicate with the employing organisation for direct advice. 

Subject to regularisation (STR) visa

Expats planning on working in Nigeria or those planning on spending more than three months in the country, must apply for a Subject to Regularisation (STR) entry visa. This includes expat employees and staff of non-governmental organisations and dependants, foreign students and missionaries.

STRs are typically single-entry visas that are valid for 90 days after the point of entry, at which point expats must apply to be regularised. Only after successfully applying for regularisation are expats granted a long-term work and residence permit.

To apply for an STR entry permit, expats need to have confirmed a job with an employer beforehand and that employer must have received expatriate quota approval from the Ministry of the Interior. This is required by the Nigerian government to prevent the indiscriminate employment of expatriates when there are qualified and suitable Nigerians that can fill the positions.

Once this part of the process has been completed, expats can use the ePortal system to pay for and file their application. An interview date at the corresponding embassy will likely then be set, and expats should bring their valid passport and the necessary documents.

Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC)

Expats who have legally entered Nigeria under an STR and who wish to take up employment are required to apply for a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC), which is a combined work and residence permit. The CERPAC is valid for two years and is renewable.

Expats will have to apply to the Nigerian Immigration Service for the CERPAC, with the support of their employing company. An employment contract is required to obtain a CERPAC, which is then tied to that specific job.

ECOWAS residence card

ECOWAS citizens who are residing in Nigeria are eligible for an ECOWAS resident card. These citizens can start the application online and must submit the completed application at a chosen immigration office.

*Visa and work permit requirements can change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Nigeria

Underestimating the high cost of living in Nigeria is one of the worst relocation mistakes an expat can make. Expats with little knowledge of this West African country may be quick to assume life in Lagos or Abuja is relatively affordable. In actuality, Nigeria’s two largest urban centres are ranked as two of the most expensive cities in Africa. Lagos ranks 18th out of 209 cities in Mercer's 2020 Cost of Living Survey – making it more expensive than London. Abuja ranks 68th, placing it higher than the likes of Helsinki.

Rural areas and smaller urban centres in Nigeria levy a far less expensive lease on life, but the majority of expats are concentrated in these two aforementioned locales.

Many may wonder how an African country often reprimanded for its high levels of poverty, crime and corruption can beat out global powerhouses such as Berlin and Barcelona in the cost of living calculations. The answers lie in oil reserves, which have allowed economic expansion and population growth to explode and mushroom. As a result, private investment in luxuries and amenities catering for businesses and foreigners skyrocketed and prices followed.


Cost of accommodation in Nigeria

The cost of accommodation in Nigeria is undeniably high. In most cases, hiring companies will not only find and secure housing for their expatriate staff, but they will also foot the bill. In fact, many foreign companies have purchased or sub-let housing in areas that have become known as expat enclaves, and so are well-furnished and easily prepared to make the necessary home arrangements. This can be a life-saver as, otherwise, expats may face having to pay several months to a year upfront in terms of rent.

Additionally, due to Nigeria’s peaking crime rates and devastatingly unreliable electricity supply, expats will also need to prepare to account for security costs and extra facility (generator) costs.

Generators

The power supply in Nigeria is inconsistent and unreliable. There may be times, generally in the afternoon, when the power supply goes off completely. Consequently, many expats and locals invest in a generator. These convenient power supplies can be one of the biggest drains on one’s finances. They are incredibly costly to buy, install and run.

Generators will need to be refuelled regularly and checked consistently to ensure they are safe. Many small businesses decide to do without generators and find it easier and more economical to close for a few hours. If a generator is vital then the cost needs to be balanced carefully against one's income, as quite often, generators are a false economy that can cause small businesses to operate at a loss.

It isn't possible to give an accurate cost of running a generator as it depends on the quantity of fuel purchased and the amount of power required.

Repairs

This is a hidden cost that can really put a dent in the bank balance. Although Nigerian electricians, plumbers and roofers will do the best they can with the knowledge they have, every job can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Repair work is often carried out by those who diagnose the problem through a process of elimination, and even then, repairs may only be a short-term solution.


Cost of transport in Nigeria

Much like accommodation, the cost of driving and getting around in Nigeria can also levy some unexpected fees. Most expats prefer to hire a driver to negotiate the treacherous traffic and legendary gridlock that besiege roadways that are far below standard. This individual’s monthly salary must be tacked onto the normal costs associated with transport (car payments, petrol and car insurance). Nevertheless, employers will often subsidise these costs.

Taking public transport in Nigeria is not a highly-recommended option. The ramshackle buses and improvisational motorbike taxis (okadas) are often unroadworthy and risky.


Cost of education in Nigeria

With local schools not being an option for expats, those moving to Nigeria with children need to factor the cost of private schooling into their budgets as well. Tuition fees for private international schools are incredibly high. Most of these schools’ fees will also not cover things such as uniforms, textbooks, school trips or even end-of-year external exams. It is worth negotiating an allowance for school fees in an expat employment contract.


Cost of living in Nigeria chart 

Prices may vary across Nigeria, depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Lagos in January 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

NGN 400,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

NGN 80,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

NGN 150,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

NGN 40,000

Shopping and groceries

Milk (1 litre)

NGN 1,000

Chicken breast (1kg)

NGN 1,750

Dozen eggs

NGN 550

Loaf of white bread 

NGN 410

Rice (1kg)

NGN 940

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

NGN 400

Transport

City-centre public transport

NGN 200

Taxi rate per km

NGN 500

Petrol (per litre)

NGN 145

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

NGN 2,200

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

NGN 125

Cappuccino

NGN 950

Local beer (500ml)

NGN 300

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

NGN 15,000

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute)

NGN 20

Internet (per month)

NGN 16,000

Basic utilities (per month for standard household)

NGN 11,000

Culture Shock in Nigeria

Nigerian culture shock often precedes one’s departure. There is no doubt that Nigeria has a fearsome reputation for kidnappings, corruption and political unrest, all reported as common occurrences. It's only natural that expats may be concerned for their welfare before arriving in the country.

Nigeria's largest cities, Lagos and Abuja, are congested, chaotic metropolises that can incite considerable culture shock, even in seasoned expats. Nigerian drivers have a reputation for being aggressive and reckless, which can leave expats feel frustrated on the roads. Electricity supply is not always reliable. Laws also differ from those in many other countries, and those in the LGBT community face additional challenges.

Despite roadblocks and barriers, many expats who move to Nigeria have successfully created their own insular bubble in the bustling city that surrounds them. Westerners generally live in gated compounds and accommodation that recreates a familiar world quite apart from the maelstrom of Nigerian city life outside its electrified perimeters. Within these boundaries, expat life is a familiar blend of socialising, sports and entertainment.

Still, it is worth learning about local culture and customs, and the more expats venture out from their bubble, the greater their experience abroad will be. Nigerian culture is diverse and rich, and each event, such as weddings and parties, has its own vibrant character.

The reality of living and working in Nigeria can be a welcome surprise; people are friendly, good weather is guaranteed and the food is delicious. Although it is not without its struggles, if expats take the relevant precautions, brush up on the dos and don’ts of the different areas and remember at all times that Nigeria is a developing country, then they will have a worthwhile and enriching experience.


Meeting and greeting in Nigeria

Respect for elders is important in Nigeria; indeed, it is possibly the central tenet of life throughout the country. While an entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged across all generations, generally one will find that people in positions of power are likely to be a lot older than those in the Western world.

When greeting an older male, a safe and traditional greeting is to bow one’s head very slightly. This is seen as respectful and is an acceptable greeting across all religions and ethnicities throughout Nigeria. With an older Nigerian woman or one who holds greater rank and seniority, it is advisable to rise and then curtsy slightly before her. It's best to ask Nigerian colleagues or friends for advice on how to approach and greet someone in the given context.

It is appropriate when greeting Nigerians to take time and not rush through this process. For all greetings, it is necessary to be standing up, for both men and women. Men will generally shake hands on first greeting. Nigeria has a large Muslim population, so many men refrain from shaking hands with women. When shaking hands or exchanging something, always use the right hand – using the left hand could be interpreted as disrespectful.


Socialising in Nigeria

Both Nigerian men and women are known for their friendliness and are open to meeting new people, so expats who take the time to get to know the locals will be richly rewarded. Within Abuja and Lagos, there are bars, clubs, shopping malls and cinemas showing all the big-name Hollywood releases. Outside of these two cities, manufactured entertainment is rare. There will still be bars which serve food and alcohol, but cinemas will be more scarce and the major shopping mall will be replaced by markets in the centre of town.

Dancing is a popular pastime in Nigeria, which is understandable as Nigerians do it very well. Nightclubs are usually full of people who do just go to dance and have a good time. When out socialising, Nigerians may drink a lot less than is consumed in many Western countries. Drinking until drunk is incomprehensible to many Nigerians and could be frowned upon.


Language in Nigeria

Not only is Nigeria said to be home to over 500 languages, but Nigerians also incorporate a lot of slang into their speech. Learning key phrases in one of the major languages, including Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, can go a long way, while understanding slang, body language and eye contact is an important part of cultural integration in Nigeria. 

Though many Nigerian's speak English fluently and there may not be major language barriers, learning key words and slang can be fun and interesting, as well as beneficial to an expat's daily life.

When talking with Nigerians, queries should be made after the person’s health and also the health of their immediate family. Nigerians naturally talk in short, abrupt sentences, such as when they are inquiring after someone’s well-being, they use the term ‘what of.’ So the question, “How is your sister’s health?” would be “What of your sister?” Expats can also adapt their speech to ask questions in the same manner.


Religion in Nigeria

Religion is an important part of Nigerian life, and most of the population are Muslim or Christian. Other religions are also practised in the country, and all should be respected and understood. As Islam and Christianity are dominant, there are mosques and churches throughout towns and cities, and expats who practise these religions can easily find a community group for them to make friends and settle in.


Ablutions in Nigeria

The availability of public toilets may not be an expected element of culture shock, but it's important to note that these facilities are scarce. Even in Abuja and Lagos, the country's most developed cities, a good public toilet with a lock, toilet paper and a bin is hard to find. It's not unusual for expats in Nigeria to take their own toilet paper with them on many occasions. Bathrooms in upscale malls provide decent facilities.

Additionally, expat women should note that outside of major shops and big cities, tampons are not as easy to come by as sanitary towels and pads. Menstruation may be considered taboo and navigating this can be an added element of culture shock for women.

Accommodation in Nigeria

Finding a home away from home could either be incredibly easy if taken care of by an employing company or rather frustrating when going it alone. The housing situation in Nigeria is a dire one with demand dwarfing supply, and better quality accommodation is limited. As a result, the cost of renting an 'acceptable' bungalow, duplex, apartment or house in the country can be high and well beyond the price range of the average professional’s salary.

Buying land in Nigeria also comes with its challenges for foreigners. Consent is required from the State Governor for titles and further rights related to the land, and there are heavy fees and complicated processes involved. Expats considering buying property in Nigeria should enlist the services of a real-estate agent and lawyer to navigate the finer details.

Due to the restrictions on buying land and property in Nigeria, most expats opt to rent accommodation – some of which can be exceptionally lavish.


Types of accommodation in Nigeria

Accommodation for expats is usually concentrated in specific areas or suburbs of a city, within company compounds, apartment blocks or pre-established private housing complexes. 

Expat compounds and gated complexes in Nigeria usually include 24-hour security systems and guards, wireless internet, on-site amenities such as tennis courts and a pool, as well as domestic help.

Expats lucky enough to secure accommodation in Lagos’s luxurious Victoria Island and Ikoyi areas and Abuja’s Maitama, Asokoro or Wuse districts will find that safety threats are kept at bay by adequate precautionary measures. While some may feel that life in these gated areas is isolated, many residents take solace in the camaraderie that a tight-knit, insular expat community can provide.

Fully-furnished, semi-furnished and completely unfurnished housing is available. Expats working in Nigeria who are provided housing by their employing company are likely to be provided with a furnished property. So, while shipping goods to and from Nigeria is possible, it is not essential.

Nigerian housing can be incredibly spacious and equally beautiful for expats, though the wealth gap is evident in surrounding neighbourhoods. Low-income earners, who make up the majority of the Nigerian population, are the most affected by the inadequate supply of housing.


Finding accommodation in Nigeria

Thankfully for expats working in Nigeria, most hiring companies not only finance their employees' accommodation but also secure it and assume responsibility for any leasing logistics. In some cases, companies own properties specifically to accommodate their foreign staff. This is common in the large cities of Abuja and Lagos as well as the oil-rich areas of the Niger Delta, such as Port Harcourt.

Foreigners contemplating a move to Nigeria should ensure that a housing stipulation has been included in their employment contract; this is standard practice and expats should certainly demand that their company support them in some way.

It’s not unusual for expats who arrive to work in Nigeria to be put up in a hotel initially while the house-hunting process gets underway. There are many luxury and international hotels; this can be excessively expensive if expats must bear these costs.

Alternatively, expats can start their accommodation search online using property portals such as Private Property Nigeria and Nigeria Property Centre. It’s wise to contact a real-estate agent or find a relocation company that supports all mobility and relocation needs.


Renting accommodation in Nigeria

When expats have to organise their rentals themselves, without the help of an employing company, there are several things to consider.

Leases

Most rental contracts in Nigeria are for a two-year lease. It may be difficult for expats staying for a shorter period, and they may need to negotiate terms or find an alternative property. Long-term leases, lasting several years, should be registered at the State Land Registry, and it’s best to have the help of a legal professional.

Deposits

One of the most intimidating aspects of renting property in Nigeria is the costs involved. Landlords frequently demand heavy deposits and an entire year’s worth of rent be paid upfront rather than in monthly instalments. This makes not just paying deposits, but affording rent altogether, close to impossible for many.

Utilities

Rental agreements will state whether the tenant or landlord is responsible for paying utilities. Often, utility costs including electricity, internet and water, are paid by the tenants. Note that Nigeria struggles with temperamental power and water supplies. Boreholes and generators are a must, otherwise, residents can look forward to blackouts with little or no warning. Running a generator can be pricey and considerably adds to the cost of living.

Healthcare in Nigeria

The lack of quality healthcare in Nigeria is one serious drawback that expats and assignees have to begrudgingly accept. Though state-run hospitals and dispensaries exist, most offer poor to fair facilities, professionals and equipment. Private and non-governmental facilities exist but are not problem-free either.

Many diseases that are rarely seen in developed countries can still lead to deaths in Nigeria, such as cholera and tetanus. While this paints a largely negative picture, there is hope of improvement. Recently, Nigeria was announced to be free from wild polio – the last country in Africa to declare this, and there has been much progress in administering vaccines.

We advise expats moving to Nigeria to understand the implications of medical care in the country, including health insurance and health risks.


Public healthcare in Nigeria

Nigeria's public healthcare is regulated and implemented at federal, state and local levels and includes teaching hospitals, general hospitals and local dispensaries. Unfortunately, it is severely underfunded, and this has culminated in the national healthcare system having few qualified doctors and limited resources. The focus of state funds for medical care is on urban areas, which has also left rural areas largely ignored. As such, expats should be prepared to only access private hospitals.


Private healthcare in Nigeria

Expats should only use private clinics and hospitals in Nigeria, though even these may lack the creature comforts present in more developed countries. Some private medical facilities offer a decent standard of care, with well-trained and qualified doctors and nurses, but numbers remain limited in relation to the country's population.

Note that private institutions may lack the capacity to diagnose and respond to complicated medical problems. Expats in need of serious treatment should consider travelling elsewhere, such as to South Africa or Europe. For routine check ups and minor issues, however, private clinics in urban areas of Nigeria, including private hospitals in Lagos, are satisfactory.


Health insurance in Nigeria

Expats should note that immediate payment for healthcare is generally expected in cash upfront. It follows that private health insurance is essential, especially if one needs to fund an emergency evacuation abroad (expats should ensure this is part of their policy). In most cases, this is a stipulation included in negotiated employment contracts, and if it isn’t then expats should broach the subject with their employer.

The cost associated with private treatment can quickly escalate, even if a large-scale medical evacuation is not needed, so it’s best to ensure adequate coverage for any eventuality.


Pharmacies in Nigeria

Pharmacies are available across most Nigerian cities, although these may not stock many of the usual drugs that expats may be used to having access to at home. Certain pharmaceuticals may not be available in the country and the same goes for preferred name brand over-the-counter medication. It’s recommended that expats bring a sizeable supply of any required prescription medication with them to Nigeria.


Health risks in Nigeria

Nigeria is affected by tropical diseases including malaria, typhoid, cholera, Lassa fever and yellow fever. Water-borne diseases pose a greater hazard during the rainy season, between June and October.

Malaria is a concern throughout Nigeria. Expats are divided over whether or not to take malaria prophylaxes. These drugs do have side effects, and long-term use is not recommended. Additionally, they could mask the symptoms of malaria, which may impede rapid treatment. We recommend consulting a medical practitioner for advice on taking antimalarial medication and finding the most suitable approach. We also urge expats to be proactive with prevention: use a mosquito net, cover arms and legs, fumigate the house twice a year and visit the doctor immediately if experiencing any symptoms.

HIV and tuberculosis are also rife in Nigeria, so appropriate precautions must be taken. Tap water should not be consumed; water-borne diseases spread easily, and diarrhoea is a common ailment among new arrivals.


Vaccinations for Nigeria

The following vaccinations are recommended before travel to Nigeria:

  • Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis B

  • Measles

  • Meningitis

  • Polio

  • Rubella

  • Typhoid

  • Yellow fever

The above list is merely a guide. Expats should ensure that all their routine vaccinations are up to date and should consult with a medical professional before departure for further information on vaccinations for Nigeria.


Emergency services in Nigeria

Emergency response times in Nigeria are notoriously slow. Several private medical emergency services are in operation, particularly in Lagos, although coverage in rural areas may be limited. Expats must have comprehensive health insurance that covers air evacuation by private means.

Education and Schools in Nigeria

Education is highly valued by Nigerians and is seen as the key to one's future. Sadly, this appreciation is yet to transfer to the quality of the government-run school system. State-sponsored schools are a far cry from satisfying international standards and are plagued by staff shortages and a deficiency of learning tools, textbooks and facilities. Most expats send their children to private international schools in Nigeria, while some may opt for homeschooling.


Public schools in Nigeria

Nigeria’s public school system has been struggling as it is severely underfunded and many state schools lack basic facilities and learning materials.

Children attend primary school from age five, for six years, and take subjects including maths, English and a main Nigerian language (Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo), religious studies, agricultural science and home economics. A further six years is spent in secondary school, divided into junior and secondary levels. Students also have the alternative to join a technical college, being trained in a specific trade or craftmanship.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has seen little improvements in their schooling system, and many families who can afford it opt for private and international schools.


International schools in Nigeria

Foreign nationals may be surprised at just how many international school options there are in Nigeria's major urban centres, namely the capital city of Abuja and the commercial capital of Lagos. As expected, rural areas are unable to support the same type of provision; expat parents living far from a large city may want to consider homeschooling or sending their child to a boarding school.

Most international school curricula in Nigeria follow British, American or International Baccalaureate standards. The quality of education tends to be high, and students need not worry about falling behind during their time abroad. Many are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and offer a healthy choice of extra-curricular activities.

Although some international schools may follow the format of the school year in their home country, the school year in Nigeria runs from January to December and is divided into three semesters. The school day in Nigeria runs roughly between 8am and 3pm; timetables are subject to changes according to age level and institution.

Fees and admission to international schools

Expats should be fully aware that such a posh education amid a sea of sub-standard state options certainly comes at a price. On top of inordinately high basic fees, other expenses can include school uniforms, textbooks, extra-curricular activities and transport. Expats moving to Nigeria with children must secure subsidies and allowances for education in addition to their contracted salary.

Admission to the best schools can be competitive. It is often required that children sit for an entrance exam, submit up to two years of their records or even go for a personal interview.

In some cases, preference is given to students who have parents employed by a specific company, organisation or government body: organisations may have reserved spots in particular schools for the children of their employees. Before they begin applying to schools, expats should enquire within their company to find out if they offer such provisions.


Nurseries in Nigeria

Finding a kindergarten in Nigeria’s major cities should not prove too much of a problem. Many are integrated as part of a larger international school while others operate as a stand-alone preschool.


Special needs education in Nigeria

There have been efforts to integrate special needs education into the typical classroom settings in Nigeria, yet most schools for students with disabilities are separate centres that can provide full support. International schools will provide the best quality of facilities, including scribes, counselling and assistant teachers. Specific services available will vary though, and some schools may only offer limited assistance. It’s best to contact and meet with the schools directly for more information.


Homeschooling in Nigeria

Expats wishing to keep their children out of the Nigerian schooling system or those who are relocating to Nigeria on a short-term contract may choose to homeschool their children. Homeschooling is permissible in Nigeria, although there is very little policy to regulate it and few families choose this.

However, homeschooling and distance learning are becoming increasingly popular, and in some cases necessary. Expat parents should research the various curricula and see how homeschooling aligns with their lives and capabilities. Private and international schools may also provide varying levels of support and educational resources, and we also recommend getting in touch with the homeschooling community via social media.


Tutors in Nigeria

While schools encourage students to succeed, classroom learning may not be enough or suit every child. Parents can search for private tutors to provide extra classes to their children, and this can prove particularly useful around exam time. There are several tutoring companies located in major cities and independent tutors can also be found through online portals such as TeacherOn.

Transport and Driving in Nigeria

Getting around in Nigeria can be challenging. Driving is often a dangerous and painstaking affair, and though public transport is available, it doesn't come highly recommended. Most expats lured abroad to a posting in this African destination are provided with a car and driver, but it's still best to familiarise oneself with the rules of the road.


Driving in Nigeria

Most companies provide their expat employees with a car, a driver and, in some cases, a security escort. While expats are allowed to drive, most prefer to employ professionals to navigate the Nigerian traffic. Congestion in Nigeria’s urban centres can last hours and some commuters will even leave the house as early as 4am to avoid it. Other safety concerns include occasional instances of kidnapping and armed robbery, but these aren't common.

Foreigners are advised to ensure that, when being collected by a driver, they do not give their name or their employer’s name until they have verified their driver’s identification. A friendly face and plenty of distractions may lull one into thinking they have climbed into the right vehicle, only to find they are being held up, relieved of all their cash and delivered right back to the pick-up point.

Expats can drive in Nigeria with their national driver's licence for up to three months and on an international driver's licence for up to a year, after which time they are required to have a Nigerian driver's licence. Most employers can make the necessary arrangements for this.


Public transport in Nigeria

There are numerous options when it comes to public transport in Nigeria but, generally, these can be unsafe, unreliable and not recommended for expats.

Buses

Numerous bus companies operate in Nigerian cities but, again, safety is a concern due to poor maintenance of vehicles and low driving standards. While long-distance transport infrastructure is underdeveloped, there are intercity buses, such as those operated by ABC Transport.

The once-popular large yellow molue buses used to operate along fixed routes in and around urban areas, but have mostly been phased out. Now, Lagos is home to a Bus Rapid Transit System while Abuja has upcoming projects to improve its bus infrastructure.

Minibuses

One of the most popular means of getting around Nigerian cities are the yellow minibus taxis, known as danfo in Lagos. There is an on-going process of implementing a new system to replace danfo with more modern, larger, eco-friendly and air-conditioned buses. Meanwhile, danfo has also evolved into party buses operated by a private company – a great way to experience the nightlife in big cities.

Trains

Rail transport in Nigeria, like other means of transport, is not well established for passengers. In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), development of the Abuja Light Rail is underway. As West Africa's first rapid transit system, this train connects Abuja to Kaduna, as well as Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, and there are plans to continue growing. It's best to check the latest news on train schedules and safety regulations.


Taxis in Nigeria

Taxis are plentiful in Nigerian cities and offer a viable means of transport for expats. Taxis are either metered or have fixed fares. It is possible to hail a cab from the street, but a safer option is to phone and order one ahead of time. We suggest negotiating the fare before entering the taxi or making sure that the meter is working. 

Ride-hailing applications including Uber operate in Abuja, Lagos and Gulu.

Okadas

Okadas, motorbike taxis that hurtle down highways weaving in and out of traffic at breakneck speeds, regularly transport locals in and around Nigerian cities. Although these are arguably one of the fastest and cheapest ways to get around, safety is not guaranteed. In some Nigerian cities, including Abuja, okadas have been banned from operating in certain areas or at specific times of the day.

Kekes

Kekes or tricycles are auto rickshaws that provide a quick way to zip around traffic in Nigeria and travel short distances. As with okadas, some cities have bans or regulations controlling where kekes can operate.


Air travel in Nigeria

Due to Nigeria’s vast size, as well as numerous safety concerns, travel between cities is best done via air travel. The country’s two main international airports are Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Other cities, including Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu, also have international airports.

Several international and regional airlines, such as Arik Air, offer services to and from Nigeria and smaller charter services offer transport to more remote destinations. Expats should choose their airline carefully, though, as local Nigerian airlines have a dubious record or are unreliable.


Boat travel in Nigeria

Given Nigeria's geographical nature, lying on the Gulf of Guinea, travelling by boat is an option. Nigeria's main ports are in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar. Water transport is developing, and part of this includes recent investment in ferry services, particularly in Lagos.

Shipping and Removals in Nigeria

Many reputable companies offer shipping and removal services to Nigeria. When importing or exporting personal items to or from Nigeria, it's best to go through a reputable agency, such as a well-established relocation company. Some companies offer storage services as well as insurance on goods.

Customs duties depend on the shipping costs and the value of the goods. Airfreight services to Nigeria are the quickest but often are considerably more expensive than seafreight services.

Shipping costs can be pricey, so expats should be sure if it is a necessity or they can source the products locally. Expat accommodation can be found fully and semi-furnished, while buying furniture in Nigeria works out cheaper than importing one’s own belongings from abroad.

Expats worried if they will be able to find a certain prescription medication in the country can find out via expat forums and by contacting healthcare providers and local clinics.

Expats interested in shipping items to Nigeria should note that these must all go through customs clearance. Items prohibited from import include drugs, currency and dangerous goods, among other items. This list is subject to change.

Shipping vehicles to Nigeria is a relatively simple process, but vehicles older than 15 years won't be granted entry. A clearance fee is paid on each vehicle, and thereafter one can register the vehicle for use. Given the high price of cars in Nigeria and the poor condition of the roads, it can be well worth importing a decent four-wheel drive from one's home country. Alternatively, buy one through the expat community once settled in.


Shipping pets to Nigeria

When considering a move abroad, expats with pets may be desperate to know how bring their animals with them. When shipping pets to Nigeria, it’s best to go through an accredited moving or relocation company that specialises in these services. 

Pet owners should microchip their pet and make sure their vaccines are up to date, especially against rabies. Dogs and cats have further recommended vaccines. but all pets will need a health certificate signed by a qualified veterinarian.

Pets must travel to Nigeria by air, arriving at the international airport in Lagos or in Abuja. Airlines provide further information on costs and regulations on how animals can travel on board.

Frequently Asked Questions about Nigeria

Expats considering a move to Nigeria will naturally have many concerns about life here. From personal safety and security to the transport system and being able to keep in touch with friends and family back home, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in this West African country.

How reliable is the electricity supply in Nigeria?

Power supply in Nigeria, even in the larger cities, is notoriously unreliable and most expats have a generator or power inverter to cope with frequent power outages. 

How safe will I be in Nigeria?

Although Nigeria has a dubious reputation when it comes to safety and security, the majority of expats enjoy a trouble-free stay there. Companies view the safety of their foreign staff as a priority and most expats live within secure compounds with access control and good security features. Many expats have a car and driver provided so they don’t have to navigate the treacherous Nigerian roads alone, and some may even provide armed escorts, depending on the position and seniority of the employee and their location within Nigeria.

How good are Nigeria's internet and cell phone services?

Mobile phone services are plentiful, reliable and relatively cheap. South African telecommunications operator MTN has the largest cell phone network in Nigeria and offers good value and great coverage, and there are several other service providers to choose from. It's easy to set up WiFi and expats living in accommodation organised by their employer may find it already prepared for their arrival. Internet speeds are decent, but internet access can be very expensive in Nigeria.

Do I need a car in Nigeria?

For most expats, yes – cars are the most common way of getting around. While the thrill and adventure of public transport are relished by some, having one’s own car is vital for safety and comfort, and many expats have a driver who knows their way around navigating the chaotic Nigerian roads.

Is it easy to get a visa for Nigeria?

Getting a visa for Nigeria is pretty straightforward. The main visas expats will consider are tourist visas, business visas, temporary work permits and subject to regularisation visas, and many expats will also require a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC). The ePortal is helpful for starting online applications, but foreigners should contact the nearest embassy for the latest information on visas and work and residence permits.

What are the schooling options in Nigeria?

Most expats and well-off Nigerians send their children to an international school, and Lagos and Abuja are home to many of these. Education and schooling are highly valued in Nigeria, but the public school system is underfunded. Private schools following an international curriculum offer some of the best teaching and learning facilities. This does come with a price, however. Homeschooling is a feasible alternative for parents who are willing and committed to it.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Nigeria

Nigeria has a developed banking sector and both local and international banks have a presence in the country. Most expats, particularly those only staying for a short while, prefer to keep an offshore bank account and open a local account primarily for day-to-day living.


Money in Nigeria

Nigeria's currency is the Nigerian Naira (NGN or ₦), which is divided into 100 kobos. Kobos are worth very little though, and are not used commonly. Naira is available in the following denominations:

  • Notes: NGN 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000

  • Coins: NGN 2 and 1, and 50 kobo

Exchanging foreign currency for the local Naira is relatively simple, though converting back may be more difficult. Money can be exchanged at international airports and large hotels, though rates are not always favourable. It's often better to convert currency at banks or official money exchange services.

One element of dealing with money that expats will notice is the art of haggling at a local market in Nigeria. New arrivals may stand out and can easily fall victim to overpriced goods. Though getting the hang of bargaining may take time, it's worth attempting to negotiate for a better deal in Nigerian markets.


Banking in Nigeria

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is the main bank in Nigeria and the institution that regulates banking in the country. Other banks in Nigeria include, among others, Ecobank Nigeria, Access Bank, Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank and Union Bank of Nigeria.

Banking systems in Nigeria operate various services including cellphone and internet banking. While expats may be concerned about the safety of online banking and have perceptions that systems are not always reliable or secure, in reality it's quite safe. Advanced-fee or 419 scams are common in Nigeria where scammers may send emails convincing an individual to send them money. We recommend that expats ensure that each transaction is legitimate and follow general internet safety guidelines with online banking.

Opening a bank account

Expats are able to operate both foreign and local accounts in Nigeria. Foreigners generally prefer to maintain their foreign accounts and open a local one for small amounts of cash. Expat salaries are usually paid into foreign accounts and then changed over into the currency of choice by the employee, usually from the US dollar.

Do note that the costs involved in managing a foreign account are huge; transaction fees can be astronomical. Still, these accounts tend to be simpler for expats planning on returning to their home country. So, accepting the extra charges is a necessary evil.

Alternatively, operating a local account may require expats to have patience, and they will need to research the processes and documents required by the specific bank.

A useful bank account type for expats in Nigeria is a domiciliary account. A domiciliary account is a local, foreign currency denominated account. This means it accepts and moves other currencies, not just the Naira. Many expats recommend GTB (Guaranty Trust Bank), as well as Zenith Bank and Fidelity Bank, as the best and safest options to receive salaries locally and move money out to the country and currency of their choice.

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs are available at some banks, but not all of them accept foreign cards. Most ATMs have a daily withdrawal limit of around 150,000 NGN. Limits also apply abroad when withdrawing cash from a Nigerian bank account. ATM fraud is prevalent in Nigeria, so vigilance is essential when drawing cash.

Nigeria is still largely a cash-based society, so cash will still be necessary for many purchases, but the country is evolving to become more cash-less. Many establishments accept debit and credit cards as standard forms of payment for goods and services. 

If using a credit card for any transactions, expats should look carefully at their bank statements to ensure there has not been any credit card fraud. Expats should notify their bank before moving to Nigeria and using their card, as many banks will automatically cancel a card after just one Nigerian transaction.


Taxes in Nigeria

Whether an expat is liable to pay taxes in Nigeria depends on their resident status in the country. Expats are generally considered a resident for tax purposes if they have been in Nigeria for a minimum of 183 days over a period of 12 months. Yet, in some cases, non-residents may be liable for tax. For specific advice and support, we recommend that expats in Nigeria consult a tax consultant or accountant.

Income tax in Nigeria is charged at progressive rates of up to 24 percent of total income. Certain expenses may be deductible from tax, including charitable donations and healthcare and insurance costs.

Residents are taxed on their worldwide income. But Nigeria has double taxation treaties with several countries, including Belgium, Canada, China, France, South Africa and the United Kingdom, among others. Expats should confirm whether they are eligible for double-taxation exemption and if their home country has a tax agreement with Nigeria.

Expat Experiences in Nigeria

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who are living there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Nigeria and would like to share your story.

Vena Namukasa is an American who relocated to Nigeria in 2015 with her husband.  She shares her experiences of meeting people, being safe and other perceptions about life in Nigeria.  Read more about her experience in Nigeria here.

Clementine Wallop is a British expat who lived with her husband in Singapore before moving out to Nigeria in 2014. Both journalists, they decided to relocate to the city of Abuja to add variety to their lives and Clementine now works as a freelance writer and consultant and says she's enjoying getting to know the friendly people in her new home. Read more about her expat experiences in Nigeria.

British expat in Nigeria

Kim Kloppers is a South African expat who moved to Nigeria with her husband and son in 2013. They live in the southwestern Nigerian city of Ibadan and moved there due to her husband’s job. Learn more about her expat experiences in Nigeria.

Kim Kloppers - A South African expat living in Nigeria

Ann is a British expat living in Abuja. She initially moved to Nigeria with her husband, who subsequently returned to the UK. Ann loves every aspect of her life in Nigeria and has no intention of returning to her country of birth. Read about her expat life in Nigeria.

Ann - A British expat living in Nigeria

Keli is an American expat living in Lagos with her husband and young daughter. She is slowly finding her way in this bustling and exciting African city. Read about what she has to say about her expat life in Nigeria.

Keli - An American expat living in Lagos

Meredith Salinas is an American expat who lived in Lagos with her husband and two children for three years. Although now back in the States, Meredith looks back on her expat life in Nigeria with fondness and shares some of her insights about life in this West African country.

Meredith Salinas - An American expat in Nigeria

Anvaya Ingle, an Indian living in Nigeria, sheds some light on all the misconceptions expats often hold about this notoriously troublesome country. She talks about the thriving Indian community, and what expats moving from the sub-continent should come to expect from life in Lagos.

Anvaya - an Indian expat living in Lagos

Celia Jarvis is an expert on international public relations and has developed a thorough understanding of Nigeria in her time living and working here. Read about her take on expat life in Nigeria and her ongoing love affair with this hugely underrated expat destination.

expat nigeria

Josephine, a British expat living in Lagos, has yet to scrape the city's surface; but thus far, she describes life in Nigeria as far better than expected. For those who feel like their upcoming transition to Nigeria is about as concrete as a crystal ball's prediction, reading what Josephine has to say is a great way to see what settling into life in Lagos is really like.

Josephine - A British Expat in Nigeria

Susan Cooke is a British governess who left the Queen's island over thirty years ago for life in the expatriate sphere. Having just moved from Cairo, Egypt, to Abuja, Nigeria, she reflects on the differences between the two African countries, and gives expats some insight into what they can expect from living in Nigeria.

susan cooke - an british expat living in nigeria