Relationships are very important within the business community. Meetings typically open with casual discussion about family, health and travel, along with an exchange of greetings and a handshake. The discussion commences at the host’s indication.
Business formal is required for foreigners in meetings, while locals choose between either Western or traditional attire. It is common for Nigerians to wear traditional dress on Fridays. Appearance is generally very important and indicative of social status.
As a former British colony, English is the official language in Nigeria – particularly in the commercial centres of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. However, many on the street use a pidgin dialect. There are over 500 indigenous languages spoken in the country, the most common being Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.
The average workweek runs from Monday- Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm. Business hours can vary during the month of Ramadan, particularly in the largely Muslim north.
Western visitors must obtain a visa in advance, applied for in their country of origin with a letter of invitation from an institution or individual in country. Meanwhile, citizens of ECOWAS can remain in the country without a visa for a period up to three months.
The national currency is the naira (N), which is free-floating. Bills come in denominations of five, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1000. As of March 2015, the exchange rate stood at around N199:$1, N217:€1, and N296:£1. Foreign tenders can be exchanged at licensed offices at major entry points. A large and commonly used establishment sits at the Eko Hotel in Lagos.
Power supply is highly irregular for those in cities connected to the national grid. As a result, most homes and businesses that can afford it employ the use of back-up diesel generators. Nigeria has a 230-V, 50-Hz network. Two-pin EU and three-pin UK plugs are both standard.
Tipping an additional 5-10% is acceptable, but not expected in restaurants, hotels and private taxis.
The country dialling code is +234. Landlines are rare in Nigeria and do not function well. Most businesspeople use mobile phones with pre-paid SIM cards, costing around N100 ($0.61). Given the poor quality of Nigerian networks, many have multiple phones under different carriers. Recharge cards for pre-paid phones are widely available from licensed mobile phone shops, convenience stores and informal vendors on street corners. Internet access and latency is still strained, but can be found throughout commercial centres.
Road travel is the most common form of transport in Nigeria, and more specifically car, as mass transit is limited. Yellow and red taxis are readily available in the streets and fares generally run N700-800 ($4.27-4.88) for a trip between Victoria Island and Ikoyi in Lagos. The introduction of transport smartphone apps such as Uber and Easy Taxi have simplified travel logistics in Lagos and become quite popular. However, most business travellers prefer the comfort and reliability of a private car, which can cost upwards of N20,000 ($122) per day. Longer trips are typically made by air, with an average trip between Lagos and Abuja costing around $140 with Arik Air and Aero Airlines, the two most popular carriers in Nigeria. While there are a number of rail networks, neglect has led to diminishing traffic. A light rail scheme is in the works in Lagos and Abuja.
The main business centres of Ikoyi and Victoria Island in Lagos have maintained a lower risk profile than the rest of Nigeria. With a reasonable level of awareness, individuals can safely move about during the day, but foreigners in particular should under no circumstances walk outside at night. The 24-hour emergency response phone line in Lagos is 767.
Anti-malarial drugs are highly recommended before travelling to Nigeria, particularly when visiting rural areas outside of Lagos. Proof of yellow fever vaccination is mandatory for all entries into Nigeria. There are a number of private health facilities in bigger cities, with registration fees as low as N10,000 ($61). You should only drink bottled or sachet water.