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"You’ll die within five minutes." This was how one of the visa applicants who had been doing business there for years began to befriend us at the Nigerian embassy. To be sure, Nigeria was one of the most worrisome countries on our itinerary: kidnappings and suicide bombings by Boko Haram are commonplace in the northeast, while oil company staff are often abducted in the south. Clashes between different communities are regular, and drivers encounter frequent and notoriously corrupt checkpoints along the way.

Of course, we muddled through as best we could: we downloaded the excellent application called MySafeTravel as soon as we approached Nigeria – and checked it several times a day – by which we learned about religious or tribal conflicts, bombings, and bloody military action ending in beheading. (Within the country, of course, we found an even better way to cause ourselves anxiety: every morning we searched for the stretch of road in front of us, and Google always first showed photos of dozens of fatal bus accidents over the past few weeks or the story of how a local councilor had been abducted on that stretch of road in broad daylight.

However, it cannot be avoided: Niger, to the north, sees even more kidnappings and terrorism, and to the south of Nigeria is the ocean. So it is no coincidence that we had only one goal in Nigeria: to drive through it as fast as we could. Bottom line: we entered Nigeria in a heightened state of nerves due to a lot of negative news.

Then, five minutes after crossing the border, all our worst fears seemed to be confirmed. A spiked barrier was pushed across the road and a dozen young men without uniforms rushed towards us. One of them demanded money right away, and we didn’t know whether we were being robbed or if this is the usual way of collecting tolls here. We didn’t dare stop, we couldn’t go, just as the car slowly rolled towards it, the roadblock was pulled back and we were able to speed past. Two minutes later we came to a similar roadblock, with the same sort of young men without uniforms, but this time one of them had a machine gun on his back. At this point we were seriously scared that the prediction had been confirmed, they will be robbed and/or dismembered within five minutes. In comparison, we were moderately relieved when it turned out to be just a checkpoint for the police and national security, who feared we were there to spread corruption. At this point, anyone who wants to read another scary Nigerian story can stop reading here, because after we had survived those first five minutes, everything went well.

Don’t get me wrong, our personal experience didn’t completely contradict the picture outlined above. Nigeria really is a violent, corrupt country, but travel in Africa is unpredictable. We really did have to stop at countless checkpoints, and they certainly want bribes: during 5 days of driving and about 1200 km we were stopped by 30 police officers, 40 road safety checks, 20 military checkpoints, and 15 other unidentifiable officials. Basically, though, everyone was polite, and we could easily make them laugh. As expected, we were often asked what we had brought for them, and the standard answer was ‘nothing but a friendly smile’. Csaba once surprised a soldier by saying that we had a question for him, which of the two possible roads is better. Our other favorite response we’ve heard from others is that he, the Nigerian soldier, should give us something since we are the guests in his country. The vast majority of check-in points were thus a particularly fun experience in the end, and all in all, our most unpleasant experience was when an overzealous soldier asked us to unpack the trunk of the car, but luckily he was bored by Suzy’s clothes too (well, not like he could have got much for them!). Another guy went on for at least five minutes to give him something already. We had the feeling that he really just wanted a souvenir from the white tourists. Well, he didn't get one, we stick to our principles.

Then it turned out that we had such a good time in Nigeria that instead of the planned five days in the country we spent double that, ten days.

Our best experiences along the way were totally unexpected ones. At first, we just wanted to speed across Nigeria, but then we set off to see the sacred forest of Oshogbo, one of the two Nigerian World Heritage Sites. The forest was saved by the Austrian sculptor Susanne Wenger, who also packed it full of quite fantastic deity statues and smaller but equally engaging depictions of people/animals.

Anyway, during the four days we spent there, we went walking several times in the rainforest. From a so-called canopy walkway built at the crown level of the trees, which had been half-destroyed by a huge storm and landslide, we saw how swiftly growing umbrella trees prevail in place of the trees swept away, just as we had seen them do in other, less protected environments during our trip. We also went on a night hike in the woods and saw bushbabies – tiny, monkey-like rodent eyes sparkled everywhere in the trees. At first, we didn’t realize that we had stepped in the way of a team of ants for a moment, and then we painfully ripped the huge, chewing ants off our skin.

We also climbed a mountain where we tasted a fruit called simply ‘African candy ‘by our guide: around its black core is bright red jelly meat that melts in your mouth and is as sweet as any store candy. And at the top of the mountain, we found a Nigerian Ph.D. student camping there for weeks to study the habits, size, and feces of bats.” (2017)

Practicals

Transport

The quality of some of the main roads is surprisingly good, but at the same time, there are a lot of roads in bad condition. Public lighting is insufficient inside the cities. The local car park's general technical condition is deplorable; the driving style is undisciplined and unpredictable, so extreme caution is needed when driving on the road.

Police officers often heckle drivers, clearly aiming to get bribe money. We can try to avoid somehow paying, but it's risky, as police officers can make real trouble for you. That's another reason to have a driver.

Nigeria - Osogbo - blue share taxis - s.v. photo

Nigeria - final push - s.v. photo

Nigeria - motor taxi - s.v. photo

Nigeria - oxen cart (or bullock cart) - s.v. photo

Nigeria - city of Warri - share taxis - s.v. photo

Shopping

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Nigeria - Ibadan - market - tomatos - s.v. photo

Nigeria - hawkers - s.v. photo

Nigeria - market - s.v. photo

Nigeria - fashion - s.v. photo

Fun

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Nigeria - street festival - s.v. photo

Nigeria - imaginative ping pong table - s.v. photo

Public safety

In Nigeria, the number of violent crimes against properties is exceptionally high. A European visitor can quickly become the target of an attack. If you walk, if you drive a car, you can get robbed practically anywhere. To have a reliable local escort is a must.

In Lagos, robberies, car thefts, and even kidnapping are prevalent. Most of the crimes are committed after dark and early in the mornings. When going around in any public place, foreign visitors should not carry much cash. Avoid the use of public transportation and walking in the streets. If you need to rent a car, do that with a reputable company only, and even better, hire a driver.

If you become a victim of a robbery, you better obey, by no means fight back. It is practical to have some mug money with you that may reduce the risk of suffering from physical abuse.

Nigeria is the ninth least secure country in Africa in terms of tourist visits (2020).



Nigeria -police officer

Nigeria - friendly police officer - s.v. photo

Nigeria - Police Complaint Box - s.v. photo

Health


In populated areas, malaria risk is significant because of the close connection between a flawed drainage system and tropical rains. Please, use mosquito repellents when you are outdoors, especially in the late hours.

In Nigeria, the banknotes in circulation are often very dirty, so wash your hands or use a disinfectant after touching money. There is even some risk of becoming infected by contaminated banknotes.

Cholera is spreading rapidly in the northeastern parts of the country and the city of Kaduna.

Nigeria - do not shit in the open - my toilet my pride - s.v. photo

Others

1. It's illegal to commit suicide in Nigeria.

Nigeria - VIP Barber shop - s.v. photo

Background

Nigeria - national flag

Destination in brief

Nigeria is in West Africa. Neighbors: Niger (north), Benin (west), Cameroon (east), Chad (northeast). Nigria has coast along the Gulf of Guinea.

Size: 923,768 km² (356,669 mi²)

Capital city: Abuja (not Lagos!)

Population (in 2020): 205.8 million - largest ethnic groups are: 29% Hausa and Fulani, 21%, Yoruba, 18%  Igbo (Ibo), 10% Ijaw

Nigeria is by far the most populous country in Africa (Ethiopia is the second with 115 million).

Languages: English is the official language - Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fula, and English Creole are widely spoken.

Religions: 51,7% Muslim, 11,1% Roman Catholic, 35,6% other Christian, 9% traditionalist - the North f the country is predominantly Muslim, the South is Christian

Nigerian Muslims and Christians are mostly divided between the country's political matters.

Form of government: federal republic, presidential system

Currency: Nigerian naira (NGN)

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 180 USD

Most common surname: Ibrahim

The Nigerian movie industry (Nollywood) is the biggest in Africa, and ranks third in the world.


Geography

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Nigeria - Niger State - Zuma Rock - s.v. photo

Nowadays

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Nigeria - Abuja - Nigeria Investment Promotion Comission building - s.v. photo

Nigeria - small town of Biu - s.v. photo

Nigeria - Owo Kingdom - s.v. photo

Nigeria - the city of Ogbomosho - s.v. photo

Nigeria - a pagan temple - s.v. photo

People

Stereotypes:

Nigerians are very ambitious. When they want something, they go for it. It does not matter what kind of obstacle is in their path.

Not all of us

Nigeria - Osogbo - jug vendor - s.v. photo

Nigeria - seamstresses - s.v. photo

Nigeria - sweat and sweets

Nigeria - Lagos - hairstyle - d.l. photo

Nigeria - shopkeepers - s.v. photo

Tourist etiquette

1. Nigerians will tell you that things are wrong in their country but won't like you telling them that because they already know.

Gastronomy

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Nigeria - suya - spicy beef meat skewer

Attractions

Lagos

Population (in 2020): 9 million in the city area and 14.5 million in the urban area

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 230 USD - (Nigeria average: 190 USD)

“Lagos is a huge, chaotic, but in its own way thrilling city, though it isn’t – to put it very mildly – a tourist paradise. Even the locals think it’s dangerous, and especially for foreigners. Hotels are protected behind high walls, barbed-wire fences, and armed guards, while the conference also took place with serious security precautions in place.
Only once was I able to leave my hotel and the streets of the conference center, and that was when they took us on a bus tour of the city. We would have liked to pay a visit to Lekki Market, which is one of the most popular sights in the city, but while our guide liked the idea, our driver refused to drop us there (three white people and three guides) because he didn’t think it was safe.
Though I saw relatively little of Lagos, Nigeria is such a different world that I came home with a lot of new experiences. There are practically no Europeans, and many people stared at us on the streets, at the airport, and on the bus.
It doesn’t hurt to take precautions, since many people on the street seemed to see us as walking wallets. This was particularly true of airport staff, officials, taxi drivers, and street vendors. This is a very poor country, with high levels of corruption and crime. The wealth that comes from oil revenue goes into very few pockets.” (g.l., 2018)

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“A monstrous metropolis, and also the economic and financial center of Africa. Moreover, it is the most populous city in Africa and has the largest port. It also has the highest GDP on the continent.

It has a population of eight million, according to one agency, while another agency puts the figure at 16 million. Together with the suburbs, there are certainly 21 million living in this cramped jewelry box of a city. By the way, it also has the longest bridge in Africa.

The main attraction of Lagos? The truth is, I couldn’t find a single one. It is no longer a capital, as Abuja has been the new government headquarters since 1991, so embassies have been dragged there as well. That didn't do Lagos any good either.

Luckily, I lived on Victoria Island, which is full of quite astonishingly rich people. And on the street where the otherwise impeccable, though small and homely hotel is? Well, the cheapest house on the street costs three million dollars.

If you want to be in an enclosed but very big, expensive, and boring place in Nigeria, then Lekki Peninsula, which is on Victoria Island, will be your place.

I’m used to the fact that all over Africa, sewage flows in open drains in the street, which of course often get clogged, and you have to jump between heaps of crap while doing a thousand mph hurtle past and splatter you with the stuff.” (2018)


Kano

Ibadan

Nigeria - Ibadan - traffic - s.v. photo

Nigeria - Ibadan - traffic - s.v. photo

Nigeria - Ibadan - work - s.v. photo

Abuja

Nigeria - Abuja - on the left the building of Ministry of Budget and National Planning - s.v. photo

Nigeria - Abuja - National Church - s.v. photo

Nigeria - Osun-Osugbo

The sacred forest of Osun-Osogbo

"Grove of African Gods: Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Forest, Nigeria. The dense forest of Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Grove on the outskirts of Oshogbo is one of the last remnants of the original line of forest that once stretched across southern Nigeria. The grove is revered as the residence of the Yoruba goddess Osun, and the area around the meandering river is dotted with shrines, altars, statues, and artifacts made in honor of Osun and other gods. The sacred grove, which is a symbol of Yoruba identity, is probably the last such place in historic Yoruba culture. The grove commemorates the former custom of designating a sacred grove next to each village.

The grove occupies 0.75 square kilometers of the fenced area on the outskirts of Osun, on the banks of the Osun River. Believers can approach the 40 shrines dedicated to Osun and other Yoruba gods on ceremonial paths, as well as the nine prominent shrines along the river. The forest was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005 as evidence of a living or extinct civilization and heritage related to their traditions. "


Owo Kingdom

Nigeria - Owo Kingdom - Prince, King and the Queen - s.v. photo

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