Nigeria's largest city welcomes business aviation operators with new full-service FBOs. Just be careful moving about on the surface.
Transition to Democratic Government
A new Nigerian constitution was drafted in 1999 and a peaceful transition to civilian rule commenced. This was completed in 2007 with the country's first general election marking a civilian-to-civilian transfer of power. While the civil government has held, it should be noted that Nigeria — an artificial construct like Iraq assembled by Europeans that attempted to incorporate some 250 distinct ethnicities and disparate tribes — continues to be fraught with racial and religious tensions, some dating back hundreds of years to when the Lagos archipelago served as a staging area for war, others more recently as huge numbers of former slaves flooded into the country from surrounding nations.
In extending their 19th century land seizure hundreds of miles north of Lagos, the British must have been aware of the tremendous mineral and organic riches that the region contained. The most prominent of these, of course, is oil, with huge reserves in the northern and western parts of the country. As of last year, proven crude oil reserves amounted to 37.2 billion barrels, of which 2.5 million barrels were being recovered per day, ranking Nigeria 11th in the world in terms of oil wealth and 13th in production. The country has been an OPEC member since the 1970s.
The country's GDP stood at $414 billion in 2011 (31st highest in the world), of which crude oil and petroleum products represented 14% and foreign exchange earnings amounted to 95%. Additionally, crude oil sales have supported 80% of government revenues.
Given this level of wealth, one would expect to see a high standard of living in Nigeria; however, corruption and governmental mismanagement, especially during the years of military dictatorship, squandered this fortune. And the overdependence on oil revenues and failure to diversify the economy had a devastating effect on the larger populace. Today, poverty and its related aspects of disease and other privations (3.6% of the population is infected with AIDS and 220,000 people die from it every year) affect 70% of the population, unemployment hovers at 21% and crime is rampant.
Nevertheless, since 2008, the Nigerian government has been successful in affecting some market-oriented reforms such as modernizing the banking system or fairly distributing earnings from the oil industry; however, lack of infrastructure and the slow implementation of reforms remain impediments to growth. Meanwhile, the cornucopia of minerals and agricultural products coming out of Nigeria continues to attract international business to Lagos. In addition to oil, Nigeria's mineral and agricultural wealth includes coal, tin, rubber, timber, fertilizer, cement, various chemicals, corn, rice, sorghum, cassava, and animal and fish products.
One of the first things that business aviation operators will notice entering Nigerian airspace is the country's British heritage in terms of ATC procedures, which are universally ICAO Pan Ops. Trip preparation begins with visa application, as visas are required in advance for stays of 48 hr. or more for both flight crew and passengers (i.e., they cannot be obtained on arrival). “You will need a General Declaration with crew and passenger IDs and a [customs] stamp from your previous port of call,” Greg Linton, master trip owner at Universal Weather & Aviation, told BCA. (This applies even if departing from the operator's home base and flying directly to Nigeria.)
Fuel stops do not require visas, but crew and passengers will be confined to the airport for the duration of the refueling. “For tech stops, a sponsor is not necessary,” Linton added, “but for visits, especially those intended for transacting business, you will need a local contact, or sponsor, in order to obtain a landing permit.” A letter on the sponsoring business's stationary, signed by the contact, will suffice.
Permits are required at least 48 hr. in advance for both landings and overflights. “You will have to provide normal aircraft documents, including a noise certificate,” Linton said. “They also ask to see a copy of the last three pages of your maintenance log.” Note that in some cases, landing permits may be required by Nigerian Civil Aviation for domestic flights within the country by visiting operators; have your handling service check this out and make arrangements for the permit in advance.
In Nigeria, visiting aircraft are required to arrive and depart the country only at POEs in order to clear customs both ways. In addition to Lagos, these include Abuja, Calabar, Kano, Maiduguri and Port Harcourt. (Thus, if your business trip takes you, for example, from Lagos to Kano, you can depart from the latter — but determine first whether you will need a landing permit for Kano.)
Note for filing that the new, revised ICAO standard flight plan is now in effect throughout much of Africa. ATC services in Nigeria are provided by the government using English-speaking controllers; however, it is advised that flight crews always use standard ICAO phraseology. Reporting on the “International Feedback” page of the NBAA website, Gulfstream IV captain Jeff Lane rated controller English as “normally good” but advised Lagos-bound operators to expect “a lot of wasted transmissions and 'last calling, say again'” responses from ATC.
“It can be absolute chaos on the radio,” Lane continued, “but listen up, they will call you when they need you.” He also advised cockpit crews to have their charts (or EFBs) readily available, as controllers often will simply radio “contact Lagos” but will not assign a frequency.