Entry #41 – Coming to Nigeria

nigeriaWhy would you be crazy enough to come to Nigeria? I mean just look at that crazy colour scheme on all those unnecessary number of states (currently 36 when 12 would do!). I see popular searches like ‘relocate to nigeria’ being used to get to this site and I can only wonder ‘What’s chasing them?’ Well I can tell you that Lagos (the former capital of Nigeria where I reside) is like a metropolis – commercial and bursting with business. It is increasingly becoming cosmopolitan too, with Brits, Asians, Chinese, South Africans and Americans on the scene. I’d say Lagos is like New York but with a lot more black people and a hell of a lot more poor people. Sure we’ve got that minority who are stupendously rich. Then we’ve got the majority who are stupendously poor. Then you’ve got people in the middle of this spectrum…people like me…who persist in applying the principles of becoming rich but end up feeling stupendously…stupid. Anyway, there have been a number of job cuts since the recession first surfaced the newspapers but now there are recent cases of pay cuts. Banks are not so willing to lend to customers who may sometimes even have collateral which triples the requested loan amount. Electricity supply has gone from fluctuating to weak to virtually non-existent in the last few months. Owning or renting a generator is a must. You will need a car to get around town, a Nigerian guide who has lived here for at least 10years, a dose of anti-malaria drugs, light clothing (not too warm), and a valid form of identification on you at all times (e.g. driver’s licence, passport or national ID card). Get acquainted with some of the local lingo so that you don’t stand out like a sore thumb. If you can’t fake a typical Nigerian accent (which sounds like a fatigued loud-mouth whose been woken out of a deep sleep at 3am, pretty much) then try not to sound like a JJC (Johnny Just Come) or you will get duped sooner or later. Get a mobile phone and start with any of the pay-as-you-go packages – all the networks are just as good (and bad) as each other. When in doubt, don’t ask a crazy Nigerian a.k.a mad man for any assistance. He could flip you over a bridge or push you into high-speed traffic or something. There are so many crazy Nigerians out there – I’m the real McCoy 🙂

See my ‘Survival Kit’ for more info

~Safety: On the road

Whilst you move around on the Nigerian roads you need to be cautious about your surroundings. It is unfortunate that there are touts who like to parade around high-traffic areas where road congestion is frequent. If you are in a car, albeit the driver or passenger, ensure that you lock your car doors before you set off for your journey, and every time you get back into the car during the day. There have been past reports of hoodlums attempting to open car doors and carrying out robberies.

 

Always keep your windows wound up closed. I have a friend who kept her window only 2- inches down in a traffic-jam at night, when suddenly a thief forced his arm through the space and snatched her necklace. Endeavour to use the AC (Air Conditioning) in order to seal up your car as much as possible.

 

At night, do not follow shortcuts or ‘back routes’ which are hidden away from the general public. These could be potential hideout spots for rogues and armed-robbers. Only use such shortcuts in the daytime or when there are other cars using it when you are, preferably before dark.

 

As much as possible stay in your car at all times until you get to your destination – sounds easy enough, right? What if one night on the road you spotted a broken down vehicle up ahead with a woman seeming stranded and you decided to be a Good Samaritan? There have been cases of staged breakdowns used as an ambush for well-to-do motorists. Nowadays the LASTMA force is on stand by on major roads to assist or tow such broken down vehicles. I am not saying we shouldn’t come to the aid of stranded motorists. It could happen to you too but this is what I’d expect you to do:

 

Call for a friend’s assistance using your mobile phone (which is a must in case of emergencies) and if he/she is on his/her way then you lock yourself up in the car and sit tight till the cavalry arrive. Alternatively you can lock up the car and, so long as you’ve parked well off the road, take public transport to get assistance. Be careful when being approached by eager pedestrians who suddenly appear from nowhere to help. Keep your valuables (wallet, purse, watch, etc) in your glove compartment and lock your car up first. If you see that where you’re stranded has human-traffic then you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Never find yourself out late, alone and without a (fully-charged) mobile phone – ‘tis a deadly medley.

Housing/Accommodation

Before you return to Nigeria it is important that you weigh all your housing options: ‘Do I have relatives I can lodge with for a while?’ ‘Do I have a friend who could accommodate me for at least 6months?’ These are cheaper options than finding a hotel or guest house. Ideally, you want to land a job and save enough to pay 2 years rent before you consider moving out.

 

With regards house rent in Nigeria most landlords or property agents ask for an upfront payment of 1-2years rent. In some cases you can pay down for a longer period if you so wish. The good thing is that for this length of time you do not have to worry about rent. Ensure that you get a stamped official receipt as proof of payment and/or a letter to that effect.

 

Do your research if you are unsure of what part of Nigeria to relocate to. Lagos is a commercial hotspot so the tendency is for people in neighboring states to apply for jobs there. If you think you want to work in Lagos then consider the travel distance between your (prospective) home and the office. If you work on the Island i.e. Victoria Island (V.I), Lekki, Ikoyi, etc and you live on the mainland i.e. Ikeja, Apapa, Ogba, Festac, etc then you have to travel through Third Mainland bridge or Carter bridge. There are varying levels of traffic depending on the time you venture unto these routes.

 

Generally properties are more expensive on the Island compared to the mainland. You also tend to get better value on the mainland. For instance, a 1-bed apartment in V.I could fetch a 3-bed apartment in Ikeja. Also consider living in residential estates so you can be part of a community. They are usually more secure and well-serviced (e.g. street lighting, security guards, etc.)

 

When choosing your new place, also make sure that you are close to key locations. For example, pharmacy, hospital, mini-mart/shop, supermarket, etc. This would mean you could make those emergency stops and save money on your transportation costs while you’re at it.

 

..xTx..

NYSC completion

If you are 30years old or above then you are exempt from NYSC completion.

 

However, if you are a graduate and under 30years of age then you will be required to complete your National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) before gaining full employment into any private or public company. The government came up with this scheme decades ago to ensure that every Nigerian renders service to the community.

 

The duration is for 1year and registration is done at Abuja. You will need to have your Nigerian passport, Degree certificate(s) and passport photographs in order to register. The state in which you serve depends primarily on where you are from. For example, if you say you are from Lagos state then you will be posted in any of the other 36 states. The idea is that you are not permitted to serve in the same state you are from.  

 

You would need to get a head start by applying to companies that are recruiting Corpers. If you want to work in the banking sector, for example, then apply to a good number of banks so that you are can be supervised by them. In the event that you do not find a company to serve with, the NYSC officials may fix you in any job that is available and not necessarily linked to your degree discipline.

 

Whilst you work you will not be classed as permanent staff and your monthly salary would be very much lower than a graduate who already holds an NYSC certificate. For example, in the banking industry (as at Dec 2008) a graduate who completes his/her NYSC and gains employment at entry level may earn btw N90,000 and N120,000 monthly while a Corper would earn between N20,000 and N25,000 monthly.

 

Once you have completed your service you may wish to remain with the company with which you served. Once you are retained you stand to gain all the employee benefits available to permanent staff.

 

..xTx..

Freighting

This could be your biggest and most expensive house-move (unless of course you don’t want it to be). You don’t have to take everything you own back to Nigeria. You will find that a lot of is actually…how can I put this nicely…junk! Start a jumble sale or car-boot sale. Don’t see it as a way to make a profit. Your focus should be on being able to freight as little as possible to Nigeria. Having to pay for storage space in any country is like paying for rent…only, you don’t actually live there! For the professional ‘Netzines’ among us, you may want to try auctioning some of your goods on sites like ‘eBAY’. You could also list your items on social network sites/forums or even in the classifieds (Physical and Online newspapers, magazines, etc).You may end up doing some free giveaways – painful, but you’re off to a fresh start back home. You’ll have more than enough opportunities to acquire new junk over here. As a precaution, ensure that all confidential documents i.e. bank statements, utility bills, cheque books, etc. are either all destroyed or brought back with you.

..xTx..

Making your decision

It’s really important that the decision to relocate is wholly yours. As a suggestion, go there on holiday and get a good feel for the environment – that’s what I did. Can you adjust to the change of lifestyle in the long run? Public transport comes in the form of BRT buses (Government-owned, long buses), Public vans/’Danfo’, Public taxi, Car hire, Motorcycle/Okada and Hooded, 3-wheeled scooter/’Keke’. Electricity is not constant yet so alternative sources of power will be required e.g. Generators, Inverters, etc. These days a lot of goods seen abroad are usually available in big supermarkets at home. Lagos is very metropolitan, for those who are used to the busy city life. Abuja, on the other hand, is relatively quieter and has more of a countryside feel to it. Start getting used to the value of Naira and see how much you are likely to spend on average on a normal day. Other people’s decisions to return may influence you but still go with your gut instinct and pray for God’s guidance. 

..xTx..