Though it may offer career opportunities or attractive cross-border business deals, the savvy international person will proceed with caution. Corruption is high, crime is common and the infrastructure is often very lacking.
Having said that, many expats who find themselves in Nigeria (usually, it has to be said, because of work) are pleasantly surprised by the country. Nigerian people are friendly, lively and inclusive. There is a certain camaraderie amongst the expat community. The cities offer plenty of entertainment.
It also may offer business and investment opportunities with high potential profit; but correspondingly high levels of risk and frustration.
The Country: Nigeria
The Nationality: Nigerian
The People: Nigerians
Languages: English is the official language, although this is mainly spoken in urban areas. Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ibibio, Edo, Fulfulde, and Kanuri are more common in rural areas.
Time Zone: UTC+1
Currency: Nigerian naira
Currency Code: NGN
ISO International Country Code: NGA
Internet Domain: .ng
Telephone Dialling Code: +234
Capital City: Abuja (population estimate: 1,235,880 in 2011)
Area: 923,768 sq km (33 out of 254 countries)
Terrain: Varied. Mountainous in the north of the country with rolling hills and plateaux further south.
Climate: Although all of Nigeria is tropical, the climate varies regionally. Nearer the coast, for instance, seasons are far less defined than inland.
Most of this is from the Nigeria CIA World Factbook page – we’ve linked to other pages where relevant.
Foreign-born population: 0.65%, a total of around 1.2million (Trading Economics)
Ethnicity: From the CIA World Factbook:
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups; the most populous and politically influential are: Hausa and the Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%
UN Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index: 152 of 188 countries. This index is a list measuring the lost development potential arising from all types of inequality in a country. With perfect equality this index and the HDI would show the same result.
The medical system
The quality of healthcare in Nigeria is generally regarded as poor. There is a shortage of trained medical professionals and medical supplies, and the blood supply of the country is considered unsafe.
World Health Organization ranking of health systems (last release in 2000): 187 of 191 countries
Nigeria’s young political system has a turbulent and violent history, littered with military coups. Have a read through the post-independence section of Wikipedia’s History of Nigeria page for an idea, or see our suggested books if you prefer.
The Nigerian governmental system is somewhat of a hybrid. It is a federal republic with 36 states and one federal territory, which is home to the capital, Abuja. The President, who is elected by universal suffrage, is the head of state, of government and of the multi-party system.
The government exercises executive power; but the law-making body, the National Assembly (made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate), serves as a check on this power. The Supreme Court, the highest court in Nigeria, is seen as the ‘third arm’ of the government, and also serves as part of the system of checks and balances.
Any Nigerian citizen over 18 years old is allowed to vote. The BBC wrote a great article on Nigeria’s most recent election, which covers much of the process.
One cannot talk about Nigeria in good faith without mentioning corruption. It ranks at 148 of 180 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index (2017). The current Nigerian government has promised a crackdown to improve its pervasive culture of corruption. It is early days but many are optimistic after seeing President Muhammadu Buhari’s progress in this area. He launched the African Union’s Theme of the Year 2018, which is entitled Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation. His history is morally questionable (he ran Nigeria from 1983-85 after a military coup, and has an alarmingly poor record on human rights), and his CHANGE agenda has produced negative results as well as positive, but he has for decades stood against corruption and so he is largely trusted on this particular issue.
The Peace Index
Nigeria is ranked 149 out of 163 countries included in the 2018 edition of the Vision of Humanity “Peace Index”. This is just ahead of North Korea and just behind Colombia. Iceland comes first. Syria comes last.
Nigeria has been given such a poor ranking mainly because of internal problems: its high levels of violent crime, its internal conflict, and its problems with terrorism. Its external dealings are, these days, largely peaceful.
The methodology used to make this index may be open to some debate but it is a good snapshot of criminality, conflict, political attitudes and military expenditure.
The Global Terrorism Index
Nigeria is ranked 3 out of the 162 countries in the 2015 edition of the Vision of Humanity “Global Terrorism Index”. This is the end of the list you don’t want to be on. A low number is bad. Only Iraq and Afghanistan score worse than Nigeria. It suffered high numbers of terrorist incidents, high fatalities, many injuries and lots of property damage.
The legal system
Nigerian law recognises the independence of the judiciary. Its current constitution (you can read it here) was created in 1999.
Nigerian law is based largely on British common law, due to its colonial history. It also takes from Nigerian common law (case law which has developed since independence in 1960) and customary law (which takes from indigenous practices). Sharia law is also used in some northern states.
Nigeria is ranked a fairly dismal 97 out of 113 countries included in the 2017-18 edition of the World Justice Project’s “Rule of Law Index” (with 1 being the best). In particular, Nigeria ranks right near the bottom (111 of 113) when it comes to order and security; and it doesn’t fare much better in the corruption category.
As mentioned above, Nigeria also scores poorly on the Corruption Perceptions Index (148 of 180).
Reforms made in the last few years have made the Nigerian economy much more promising than it used to be. Though the country is far richer than it was only a couple of decades ago, unfortunately Nigeria is struggling to use its newfound wealth to combat poverty. Economic inequality is dire.
Nigeria’s economy is also more fragile than it may seem at first: the current economic growth it is largely propped up on oil, as manufacturing and agriculture struggle. Oil itself can be vulnerable, as militants continue attacks on infrastructure (which contributed to economic contraction in 2016). Nigeria is an exporter of crude oil and an importer of refined product, which has led to many people getting rich in middle man roles and the country missing out. As government has not successfully dealt with this problem, private enterprise is taking strides in the right direction: a massive oil refinery is being built in Lekki (just east of Lagos) by Dangote Industries. It is due to start production in early 2020, and the company says that it will produce enough petrol and kerosene to supply all of Nigeria.
Most of the below is from the Nigeria CIA World Factbook page – we’ve linked to other pages where relevant.
Economic capital: Lagos (population disputed, depending on your definition of the city’s boundaries. Somewhere between 8-16 million).
Unemployment: Stood at 13.4% in 2017, according to the CIA. However, Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics is less optimistic, and their latest data (PDF) put it at 18.8%. That number is also disputed, as detailed by Africa Check.
Although rewards can be high for those who are successful, there are significant challenges to doing business in Nigeria.
Logistical hurdles include poor mobile phone signal, frustrating traffic in cities (especially Lagos) and a shortage of electrical power, meaning that pretty much everybody is dependent on diesel generators (which get very expensive very quickly).
Bureaucratically, Nigeria is extremely corrupt, which can lead to difficulty when applying for things like development permission or other permits.
Nigeria ranked at 145 of 189 on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business Index” (2018). It is classed as ‘below average’ to do business in, scoring similarly to Pakistan and Gambia. As you can see from the overview, it is particularly difficult to trade across borders, start a business, get construction permission (or register property), source electricity and even pay taxes. On the other hand, it is very easy to get credit!