Nigeria

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Nigeria is the ‘Giant of Africa’ and the most populous country on the continent. In 2014 Nigeria’s economy surpassed South Africa as the largest on the continent, after the West African nation overhauled its gross domestic product data for the first time in two decades.

FACT FILE
Population:
178 million
Time zone: GMT+1
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialling code: +234
Currency: Naira – $1=182NGN
Language: English

BACKGROUND
With its huge mineral wealth and vibrant energy, Nigeria is not only the economic powerhouse of West Africa, but the continent as a whole.

The export of crude oil – drilled in offshore wells and in the volatile Niger River Delta – accounts for two-thirds of its GDP, placing Nigeria among the world’s top 10 oil exporters. The country also has one of the world’s largest proven reserves of natural gas, along with substantial deposits of iron ore, limestone, lead and zinc.

Politically, the Nigerian government faces the growing challenge of preventing Africa’s most populous country from breaking apart along ethnic and religious lines, with the Al-Qaeda-aligned Boko Haram armed movement conducting an insurrection in the mainly Muslim north.

Presidential elections were expected to be held in February 2015.

BUSINESS TRAVEL NEWS

As one of Africa’s business travel hotspots, no surprise that there was plenty of industry-related activity in 2014.

Nigerian airline Arik Air expanded its offering by increasing the frequency of its flights from Lagos to Monrovia (Liberia) and Luanda (Angola). The Lagos-Monrovia service was increased from three to four weekly flights, although later in the year Arik suspended all flight operations to Liberia and Sierra Leone, following the outbreak of the Ebola virus. At a similar time, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority suspended all ASKY Airline flight operations to Nigeria.

In other Arik network news, the airline added Cotonou to its schedule, with the daily Lagos-Dakar flight going via Cotonou, the economic capital of the Benin Republic. The airline also extended its daily Abuja-Accra service to Dakar.

Arik also now flies to Dubai, with the airline operating five weekly flights, whilst Arik also continued the ongoing revamp of its technology offering in 2014, by introducing a mobile and tablet booking app. Arik also launched a frequent flyer programme. Arik Affinity Wings includes benefits designed to reward guests for their loyalty by giving them the opportunity to earn miles on domestic, regional and long-haul flights.

Elsewhere on the airline scene, Discovery Air launched flights on the Lagos-Abuja and Lagos-Port Harcourt routes; Africa World Airlines launched a flight between Accra, Ghana, and Lagos; Overland Airways recommenced its daily flight from Minna Airport in Niger State to Abuja and Lagos; Med-View Airline began flying from Lagos to Accra (Ghana) in mid-September; Dana Air resumed flight operations after more than three months of suspension; Lagos-based airline Overland Airways announced the commencement of scheduled weekend flight services on Saturdays from Murtala Muhammed International Airport to Ibadan Airport, connecting Abuja Airport via Ilorin International Airport; Aero Contractors began scheduled flights to and from Asaba Airport in Delta State, with Lagos, Abuja and Kano as its initial routes; the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority issued an Air Operator’s Certificate to Azman Air Services.

From an international airline point of view, Emirates added Abuja to its international network, and just months after launching the route upgraded the aircraft on it from an Airbus A340-300 to a Boeing 777-200ER. In related news, Emirates and its commercial partner Dubai Visa Processing Centre opened a Dubai Visa Application Services centre in Lagos.

Also showing interest in Abuja was RwandAir, which announced the commencement of operations from its base in Kigali to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

Turkish Airlines added Kano, Nigeria to its network, with a four-times-weekly service. Kano was definitely in favour in 2014, as Ethiopian Airlines also announced the commencement of four weekly flights to the city.

Gambian airline Gambia Bird announced plans to begin flight operations into Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.

On the hotel scene, the 2014 Marriott acquisition of South African group Protea Hotels should have some impact on the host of Protea-branded properties in Nigeria, in the long term. Protea currently has 11 properties in Nigeria, but also announced plans for the 125-room Protea Hotel Select Ikeja and the 155-room African Pride Avalon Hotel & Spa.

Swiss International has added two new hotels in Nigeria, six months after opening the Swiss International Mabisel in Port Harcourt. The D’Palms at Lagos International Airport has been re-branded to Swiss International. The Swiss Spirit Hotel & Suites Mardezok in Asaba was scheduled to open its doors on 1 July.

Also unveiled was the new Calabar International Convention Centre. The CICC is located in Cross River State, in the south-east of Nigeria, and was scheduled to open in February 2015. It will be able to accommodate up to 5,000 delegates in 21 different venues, with as many as 2,000 for plenary sessions and as few as 10 in a small meeting room.

In other hotel news, the Akwa Ibom government signed an agreement with Starwood International for the management of its Four Points by Sheraton Hotel under construction at Ikot Ekpene. The new hotel will offer 128 standard rooms, 16 suites and two presidential suites on 12 stories. The hotel is scheduled for opening in March 2015.

Another international group, Hilton Worldwide, announced the signing of agreements to open a further two Hilton Garden Inn hotels in Nigeria, in the city of Owerri and at Abuja Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. Hilton Garden Inn Abuja Airport is expected to open in the second quarter of 2017. Hilton Garden Inn Owerri, expected to open late in 2017, will be located in central Owerri in a prime position for nearby corporate, government and education organisations.

In related business travel news, Travelport launched six new technology solutions to benefit the Nigerian travel industry. These new solutions enable both corporate and leisure agencies to take advantage of the latest travel technology to help their agents work in a much more streamlined and efficient manner. Travelport has introduced six solutions for the country – Travelport Smartpoint, Agentivity, Travelport’s Merchandising Platform, Mobile Agent and ViewTrip Mobile, and Galileo E-tracker, an e-ticketing management tool.

CITIES

The main business travel destinations in Nigeria are Lagos – the commercial capital – Port Harcourt, which is home to many oil companies, and Abuja, which is the capital of Nigeria and the seat of government.

Lagos is the most populous city in Nigeria, the second fastest-growing city in Africa, and seventh in the world. The latest reports estimate the population at 21 million, making Lagos the largest city in Africa.

It is a bustling city and a hub with a vibrant night life. Due to its size and population, there is heavy traffic around peak periods in the morning and night. It is also a coastal city, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean, and as a result has many beaches from Victoria Island to Lekki.

Abuja is known for being one of the few purpose-built capital cities in Africa, as well as being one of the wealthiest and most expensive. Most visitors to Abuja have business with the federal government, or are there to participate in large regional conferences or conventions, which means that most hotels in Abuja are geared towards business travel.

Port Harcourt is the capital of Rivers State. It lies along the Bonny River and is located in the Niger Delta.

AIRLINES & AIRPORT

International airports are located in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu. There are also airports in most states of the federation and local air travel is widespread.

Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos is the main gateway, with a range of international airlines offering direct services to destinations across North America, Europe and Africa. The airport is 22 kilometres north of Lagos, although the journey to Victoria Island – the main business hub – can take hours, depending on the city’s notorious traffic. If possible, only travel with carry-on luggage, as baggage collection can be less than efficient.

MMIA is exceptionally chaotic in the evenings, so the recommendation is to arrive a minimum of three, if not four or five hours before your flight, to avoid the longest lines at check-in and immigration. There are several lounges that offer ‘fee-per-visit’ – in the region of $50 – and it is well worth taking advantage of them, as there are almost no general facilities airside. If you’re travelling in First or Business Class, there’s a very good chance that you will receive complimentary lounge access.

Immigration and airport officials are not among the friendliest people you will find, but courtesy and self-confidence go a long a way when engaging with them.

Refurbishment of MMIA has been underway for over two years, and the airport does already offered a greatly improved experience. The refurbishment project is expected to be completed in 2015. If possible, it’s recommended that you arrange a ‘meet and greet’ facility, particularly if you’re a first-time traveller to Nigeria.

HOTELS

Starting with Lagos, it’s another of those major African cities with a large supply of international brands, which are probably the safer bets.

As of 2013, InterContinental has a presence on Victoria Island, and the property is the ‘shiny new kid on the block’, offering 5-star accommodation and conference facilities. There’s a similar theme to the Lagos Oriental, which has quite an opulent offering, also on VI.

Starwood’s presence is in the form of a Sheraton in Ikeja and a Four Points by Sheraton on Victoria Island. Carlson Rezidor has the Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Lagos VI.

Best Western has a nice spread, with two hotels in Ikeja – in close proximity to Murtala Muhammed International – and one on Victoria Island, whilst Ibis has a similar approach, with one property near the airport and one in Ikeja. Golden Tulip can boast the Golden Tulip Festac Lagos, and the group also has a property in Port Harcourt.

From an African hotel group point of view, Protea (now part of the Marriott group) has the biggest presence, with six hotels in Lagos and three in Abuja, along with one in Warri in Delta State and one in Benin City. Sun International runs the Federal Palace Hotel & Casino on Victoria Island, Legacy Hotels & Resorts operates the Wheatbaker (luxury boutique hotel), whilst Tsogo Sun has the Southern Sun Ikoyi, which has a good reputation and is renowned for its food and bar area, which has a great vibe.

If you would prefer something local, there are a host of home-grown brands and properties, such as Morningside Suites, the Moorhouse Ikoyi, S&S Hotel and Suites, the Epe Resort & Spa, The Regent, Avenue Suites, the Palazzo Dumont Hotel, and the Eko Hotel & Suites, which has the largest meeting and conferencing offering, with heaps of exhibition space.

The 5-star Transcorp Hilton dominates the Abuja hotel scene, and has done so for quite some time, even though it could do with some sprucing up. Protea has the three hotels already mentioned, Hawthorn Suites is a fully-serviced extended stay property in the heart of Abuja, the Hotel de Bently is also in the CBD, and there’s a Sheraton, giving Starwood Hotels & Resorts a presence in the capital.

It’s worth noting that several hotels in Nigeria require travellers to pay before issuing a room key. Many properties request an additional security deposit as well as the room rate, and you will be refunded when settling the bill at departure.

CARD ACCEPTANCE

Nigeria has been a predominantly cash economy. Travellers used to have to ensure that enough foreign currency accompanied any trip, in order to cover one’s costs. But the past few years have seen the Nigerian government embark on a “Cashless Nigeria” initiative, with “Cashless Lagos” representing the first phase of the project. This has received a good response, although much in the way of education, adoption and trust in card payments still needs to take place. That being said, cards are now being utilised in most shops, stores, restaurants and commercial or entertainment facilities in the country. 

If you hold a Visa, MasterCard or Maestro Credit/Debit card, you can withdraw cash in naira from various ATMs around the country. Visa machines can be found at Standard Chartered Bank. MasterCard/Maestro machines are found in Ecobank and some Zenith Bank branches.

Be aware that these machines only allow you to withdraw 25,000 Naira (roughly $150) at a time, which is a relatively small amount in Nigeria. This means that you will have to make multiple withdrawals at a time.

The Nigerian payment method of choice is via MasterCard, Visa or Interswitch. The Interswitch Verve card is issued in 16 of the country’s major banks. There are currently over 10 million Verve cards active in Nigeria. Unfortunately, American Express is still not widely accepted. Diners Club and all other credit cards are not accepted in Nigeria.

Many international credit card companies block transactions from Nigeria, so it’s is best to advise your credit card company before you travel that you will be in Nigeria.

Bureau de change facilities are available at Murtala Muhammed International, but that isn’t recommended, unless it is absolutely necessary. Carry a small amount of US dollars, broken down into small denominations.

While there are a good number of ATMs available and supported by most banks in Nigeria, opt for an ATM in a hotel lobby or bank building. Fraud is still a problem in Nigeria.

VISAS

Foreign nationals who are not citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) need to apply for a visa to enter Nigeria. This can be obtained at Nigerian embassies, high commissions and consulates worldwide. In South Africa, the visa will cost you in the region of R6,000, whilst it’s advisable to start the visa application process well in advance, in order to meet the deadline of your trip. 

ECOWAS is made up of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

Visa on arrival: Kenyans can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days.

You cannot legally depart Nigeria unless you can prove, by presenting your entry visa, that you entered Nigeria legally.

CONNECTIVITY

Nigeria has one of the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world, with increased interest in the region by smartphone manufacturers.

The telecoms landscape has witnessed significant growth in the last ten years as result of the liberalisation of the market. The most reliable, quality Wi-Fi access is found in the major hotels, but also in shopping malls, cinemas, bars and even in cities outside Lagos and Abuja. Mobile roaming costs are relatively high, but affordable for corporates.

Mobile phone coverage (South Africa’s MTN Group, India’s Bharti Airtel, Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat and Nigeria’s Globacom are the key industry players) is not limited to cities, but is only available in some towns and villages. It is advisable for visitors to obtain a local sim card on arrival. It is affordable, although regulations stipulate that you have to register the number. Sim cards can be purchased at the airport, hotel, or sometimes while waiting at traffic lights from individuals representing the mobile operators. The cost of a sim card is usually less than $10.

Pay special attention to data roaming costs and remember to switch off your apps. Most hotels offer complimentary Wi-Fi.

HEALTH

You must ensure that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Nigeria. You also need to ensure that you take your yellow fever vaccination certificate with you. Despite yellow fever vaccination being a visa requirement, visitors may still be denied entry if they cannot present their vaccination certificate on request.

Vaccinations against meningitis, tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended. There are special precautionary measures for diptheria, hepatitis A, malaria, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever. It’s recommended that you consult a doctor well in advance of travelling to Nigeria.

Country exit requirement – if you will be in Nigeria for more than four weeks, the government of Nigeria may require you to show proof of a polio vaccination, when you are exiting the country. To meet this requirement, you should be vaccinated between four weeks and 12 months before the date you are leaving Nigeria. Talk to your doctor about whether this requirement applies to you.

Nigeria is part of the ‘meningitis belt’ of sub-Saharan Africa. It is recommended to take this vaccine if you plan to visit Nigeria during the dry season (December–June), when the disease is most common.

In the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in mid-2014, Nigeria did report a few isolated cases of the disease, but it was successfully contained, and the country was commended on how it responded to the outbreak. Nigeria has since been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation. That being said, complacency is not a threat, as the country remains on high alert to ensure there are no new cases. All travellers are subjected to health checks at the country’s airports.

All tap water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated, and bottled water is the way to go. Most hotels recognise this, and there’s usually plenty of bottled water in hotel rooms.

Remember to pack all regular prescription medications, plus any recommended medications, insect repellants and other supplies.

TRAVEL TIPS

Nigeria has received unwarranted negative publicity, and reading or hearing horror stories ahead of your trip is not advisable, particularly when visiting Lagos. Go with an open mind and common sense, and you will be pleasantly surprised, as Nigerians are very welcoming.

First-time travellers should listen to the advice of their hosts, and ideally make use of a ‘meet and greet’ service, as well as a hotel transfer. Public transport is not reliable. Europcar and Avis have both recently started a chauffeur service. Self-drive is not advisable or readily available from car rental companies, so a driver with your hire car is essential.

Lagos has some great restaurants, although the better ones are quite expensive. If you can spare some time in the evening, the night life can be quite enjoyable.

When arranging meetings in Nigeria, travellers should ensure that the contact is known to them, and that the meeting is held at a secure location.

Nigeria has an almost even religious split between the Christian and Muslim faiths. However, the country does have the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa. One should exercise discretion in behaviour and dress – in the north particularly – as well during the holy month of Ramadan.  

CONTACTS

www.visahq.com
www.nigeria.co.za
www.visarequest.co.za

OPINION PIECE
Bongani Sukazi
MD – BCD Travel South Africa

Visiting Nigeria can be quite daunting for first-time visitors. As Africa’s most populous country, the sheer numbers of people moving around you appear like organised chaos. Once you settle in, you will soon realise the warmth of locals – many have raved about African hospitality, and expect no less in Nigeria.

Although the airport has been undergoing a major rehabilitation programme, it is chaotic. I would advise that you arrange with your host that an accredited meet and greet service or fast-track service is booked – the expense is worth it.

Traffic to and from most places is congested, giving you plenty of opportunity to take in and observe the fast pace from the comfort of the back seat. Allow ample time between meetings, or even better, try and schedule some at the hotel you are staying at. If need to travel to meetings, try to arrange that you’re able to get some work done in the car, on the way.

Lagos is a bustling city, day and night, and it sometimes seems as if people never sleep. Working hours are quite long, compared with the rest of the continent.

As a regular traveller to Lagos, I’ve definitely noticed changes, both big and small, on each trip. The Governor of Lagos has ambitiously embarked on changing the image of this bustling city, from cleaner roads to new motorways and a noticeably higher amount of infrastructure development. 

Hotels are in abundance, but run very high occupancies. The increase in room inventory has done little to decrease the high cost of accommodation in Nigeria, so it’s advisable to get a booking in early. I have stayed at the Southern Sun in Ikoyi, the Federal Palace and the Wheatbaker Hotel, all of which are perfect for the business traveller. Complimentary Wi-Fi is standard.

Nigeria is a relatively formal society, and it is appropriate to address people by their surnames until you know them very well. Business is formal – suit and tie is my rule of thumb – and wait until the people you are visiting ask you to loosen your dress.

Do accept offers to experience the city and the rich culture from your host.

AIRLINES
Aero Contractors – acn.aero
Africa World Airlines – flyafricaworld.com
Air France – airfrance.com 
Antrak Air – antrakair.com
Arik – arikair.com
Asky – flyasky.com
Azman Air – airazman.com
British Airways – ba.com
Camair – camair-co.cm
Cronos – cronosair.com
Dana – flydanaair.com
Delta – delta.com
Discovery Air – discoveryair.com.ng
ExecuJet – execujet.net
EgyptAir – egyptair.com
Emirates – emirates.com
Ethiopian – ethiopianairlines.com
Etihad – etihadairways.com
Gambia Bird – gambiabird.com
Hak Air – hakair.com
Kenya Airways – kenya-airways.com
KLM – klm.com
Lufthansa – lufthansa.com
Med-View – medviewairline.com
Middle East – mea.com.lb
Overland Airways – overlandairways.com
Qatar – qatarairways.com
Royal Jordanian – rj.com
RwandAir – rwandair.com
Saudi Arabian – saudiairlines.com
SAA – flysaa.com
Saudi Arabian – saudiairlines.com
Skybird – skybirdaviation.com
Turkish – turkishairlines.com
United – united.com
West Link – flywestlink.com  
Virgin Atlantic – virgin-atlantic.com

HOTELS
ABUJA
3 J’s – 3jshotels.com.ng
Angeles – angeleshotelsabuja.com
Bolingo Hotel & Towers – bolingohotel-tower.com
Chelsea – chelseahotelabuja.com
Citilodge – citilodgehotel.com
Hawthorn Suites – hawthorn.com
Hotel De Bently – hoteldebently.com
La Don – ladonabuja.com
Nicon Luxury – niconluxury.com
Nordic Residence – nordicresidence.com
Nordic Villa – thenordicvilla.com
Protea Abuja – proteahotels.com
Protea Apo Apartments – proteahotels.com
Protea Asokoro – proteahotels.com
Rockview Royale – rockviewhotels.com
Savannah Suites – savannahsuitesgroup.com
Shafami Suites – shafamisuites.com
Sheraton – sheratonabuja.com
The Mediterranean – mediterraneanabuja.com
Transcorp Hilton – hilton.com
Valencia – valenciahotelsabj.com

LAGOS
African Garden Lodge – africangardenlodge.com
Best Western Plus Lagos Ikeja – bestwestern.com
Best Western Starfire – bestwestern.com
Best Western The Island – bestwestern.com
Bogobiri House – bogobiri.com
Bon Voyage – hotelbonvoyageng.com
Citilodge – citilodgehotel.com
Eko Hotel & Suites – ekohotels.com
Elion House – elionhousehotel.com
Epe Resort & Spa – eperesort.com
Federal Palace – suninternational.com
Four Points by Sheraton – starwoodhotels.com
Golden Tulip Festac – goldentulip.com
Hotel Ibis Lagos Airport – ibis.com
Hotel Ibis Lagos Ikeja – ibis.com
House J – housej.com
InterContinental Lagos – ihg.com
Lagos Oriental – lagosoriental.com
Lekki Oxford – lekkioxfordhotels.com
Moorhouse Ikoyi – mercure.com
Morningside Suites – morningsidesuites.com
Nekore Welcome Centre – welcomecentrehotels.com
Palazzo Dumont – palazzodumont.com
Protea Ikeja – proteahotels.com
Protea Ikoyi Westwood – proteahotels.com
Protea Kuramo Waters – proteahotels.com
Protea Leadway Ikeja – proteahotels.com
Protea Select Ikeja – proteahotels.com
Protea Victoria Island – proteahotels.com
Radisson Blu Anchorage – radissonblu.com
S&S Hotel and Suites – sshotelsandsuites.com
Sheraton Lagos – starwoodhotels.com
Solitude – solitudehotel.com
Southern Sun Ikoyi – tsogosunhotels.com
Sunfit – sunfitltd.com
Swiss International D’Palms Airport – swissinternationalhotels.com
The Avenue Suites – theavenuesuites.com
The Regent Hotel – theregentlagos.com
The Wheatbaker – www.legacyhotels.co.za
Three Arms – threearms-ng.com
Victoria Crown Plaza – wvcphotels.com
Yellow Tulip Courtyard – yellowtulipcourtyard.com

PORT HARCOURT
Best Western GRA Port Harcourt – bestwestern.com
Best Western Premier Port Harcourt – bestwestern.com
Claridon – claridonhotels.com
Elkan Terrace – elkanterrace.com
Golden Tulip Port Harcourt – wgoldentulipportharcourt.com
Hotel Presidential – hotel-presidential.com
Juanita Hotel – juanitahotels.com
Landmark Hotel – landmarkhotelsng.com
Le Méridien Ogeyi Place – starwoodhotels.com
Novotel Port Harcourt – Novotel.com
Swiss International Mabisel – swissinternationalhotels.com

CAR HIRE
Alamo – alamo.com
Avis – avis.com
Europcar – europcar.com
Hertz – hertz.co.uk
Sixt – sixt.com

TMC
Access-to-Africa – access-to-africa.com
American Express – americanexpresstravel.co.za 
BCD – bcdtravel.com
CWT – carlsonwagonlit.com
FCm – fcm.travel
HRG – hrgworldwide.com
TWF – travelwithflair.co.za
Uniglobe – uniglobe.com
Wings – wings.travel