Lagos: City at a Glance

City: Lagos

Country: Nigeria

Status: Financial center and largest city

Country visa requirement: Required in advance for passengers and crew for stays of 48 hr. or longer; exempt for technical stops; however, aircraft occupants cannot depart airport. Operator must present on arrival a General Declaration stamped from last port of departure and containing identification of passengers and crewmembers.

Landing permit requirement: Yes, 48-hr. advance notice

Sponsor letter required: Yes, signed and on local business contact's company stationary

Aircraft documents required: Airworthiness certificate, aircraft registration, noise certificate, insurance certificate with country coverage, last three pages of aircraft maintenance log

Any other requirements for visiting aircraft: No

Carbon trading requirement: No

ATC procedures: ICAO/Pans Ops

Any unique procedures: No. Aircraft must enter and depart Nigeria at POEs.

Altimetry: QNH

Metric or feet: Feet


WGS 84-compliant: Yes

Local navigator required: No


Name & ICAO identifier: Lagos Murtala Muhammed International (DNMM)

Coordinates: 6° 34' 38” N, 3° 19' 16” E

POE: Yes

Elevation: 135 ft.

Runways: 18R/36L, 12,794 ft. x 197 ft., asphalt; 18L/36R, 8,997 ft. x 148 ft., both equipped with ILS.

Slots: No, airport open 23/7; peak traffic afternoons and evenings.

Noise restrictions: No

Curfew: No

FBOs: ExecuJet Aviation Group and Evergreen Apple Nigeria, both full service. Additionally, the airport operates a general aviation terminal in the domestic wing of the main passenger terminal.

Clear CIQ at: FBOs and general aviation terminal

Parking: FBOs and general aviation terminal, space available; otherwise, aircraft will be moved to remote parking area.

Hangarage: Yes, ExecuJet Aviation Group

Fuel: Jet A1; seller: SO Aviation Fuel

Credit: Recommend fuel cards and prearranged credit

Maintenance: Yes, for most business jet types at FBOs.

Lav service: Yes, provided at FBOs and general aviation terminal.

Catering: Airlines (48 hr. advance notice) or local hotels

Fees: Landing, parking, handling. Generally, all fees can be credited to operator through handling service used.

Security: Airport is patrolled 24/7 and local security is considered generally good. Supplemental security (armed guards) is available for aircraft and passengers.

Ground Transportation: Recommend vetted transportation arranged by handlers, as crime levels in Lagos and greater Nigeria are very high and carjackings, kidnappings and road piracy are common.

Distance and driving time to downtown: 16 sm/25.7 km, minimum 1 hr. Surface traffic is extremely congested.

Remarks: Surveillance radar coverage under expansion in greater Lagos area. Crime levels high in Nigeria; exercise reasonable caution when on the street.

BCA appreciates the assistance of Universal Weather & Aviation and Landover Aviation in the preparation of this report.

Settled on an archipelago on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, Lagos serves as Nigeria's largest city, financial center and gateway to the country's interior.

While oil and other mineral recovery drives the Nigerian economy, Lagos is the repository of much of its wealth and the seat of numerous corporate headquarters, both domestic and foreign. It is also Nigeria's principal seaport — among the busiest in Africa — and, with a current population of 10.2 million people, one of the fastest growing cities on the continent.

What is today's Lagos originated on a collection of islands and sandbars at the mouth of a large lagoon emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The islands and bars protect the lagoon from ocean storms, traditionally providing a safe harbor for the port. The city's central business district — marked by a forest of high-rise buildings — is located on Lagos Island at the opening of the lagoon. Over the centuries since the area was settled by warring tribes, the city spread to the mainland where today it accounts for the majority of Lagos's area and population.

Europeans arrived in the 1400s led by Portuguese explorer Rui de Sequeira, who is credited with having named the area Lagos after, it is believed, the Portuguese seaport Lagos from which that country's African expeditions departed. (Indeed, the name translates as “lakes,” possibly meant to describe the waterways between the islands and bars at the entrance to the lagoon.)

Four centuries later, the British moved in, annexing Lagos as a colony in 1861 and establishing control over exports from the region. Twenty-six years later, the British expanded their occupation to include all of contemporary Nigeria. It remained the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria from 1914, with Lagos as its capital, until 1960 when it achieved independence as a British Commonwealth country, and the capital was moved to Abuja, a purpose-built city in Nigeria's interior.

For much of its early independence, Nigeria was ruled by its military following a coup in 1966. Between 1967 and 1970, the new state was nearly pulled apart by a civil war when several provinces in the southeastern part of the country attempted to secede as the Republic of Biafra. Enormously costly in terms of lives and resources lost, the war aroused long-standing tensions among various ethnic groups and included mercenary soldiers recruited from Europe. After a stalemate that resulted in the starvation of thousands of Biafrans, the Nigerian military, backed up by British logistical support, succeeded in breaking up the Biafran Republic in two bloody offensives. It is estimated that more than three million people died — many as a result of starvation and disease — in the conflict.

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.

Welcome to Lagos

The only airport serving greater Lagos is Murtala Muhammed International (DNMM), located north of Lagos in the community of Ikeja. “It is fairly good by African standards,” Universal's Linton observed, “with no unusual procedures. There's good radar coverage, and it's being expanded to the greater Lagos area.” (Jeff Lane added a caveat, however: As controllers often won't turn on the surveillance radar, don't always expect to hear “radar contact,” and as a backup, have the local VORs tuned up on your nav radios.) Murtala Muhammed is a 24-hr. airport with no slot requirement. Peak traffic times are in the afternoon and evening.

DNMM has two parallel runways oriented 18/36, the longest 12,794 ft. long by 197 ft. wide (see “City-at-a-Glance” for details), and the airport's elevation is 135 ft. Both runways are equipped with ILS approaches. Pilots report that while the runway surfaces are in good condition, there are many patched areas among the taxiways that should be taxied around, if possible. There are two FBOs on site, and the airport is equipped with a general aviation terminal located in the domestic wing of the passenger terminal.

The FBOs, only recently opened, are operated by ExecuJet Aviation Group and Evergreen Apple Nigeria. Both are full-service facilities boasting executive lounges, office space, on-site customs, business jet maintenance, lav and water servicing, and lots of ramp space for parking. Additionally, ExecuJet offers hangaring.

Upon landing, business aircraft will be directed either to the FBOs or the general aviation terminal where passengers and crew may clear customs. According to Linton, if operators provide their handling services with copies of the relevant customs documents, local agents can then coordinate customs in advance of arrival, ensuring an expeditious clearance process.“They see a lot of business aviation aircraft and are familiar with all types,” Linton claimed. Visiting aircraft will be parked at the FBOs or general aviation terminal, if space permits, or directed to remote parking areas after disembarking passengers if the FBO or general aviation terminal ramps are congested. It is recommended that operators bring their own chocks and tow bars for their aircraft, as ramp equipment is occasionally sparse.

Fueling is conducted on the FBO or general aviation terminal ramps, but operators advise to allow lots of time for the process as the airlines often receive preference. For expedience, it's advised to have the operator's local handler coordinate fueling with the on-site fuel broker, SO Aviation, and to make sure that all fees (including landing, parking, servicing, etc.) at the airport are invoiced directly to the operator's handing service to ensure accuracy in charging.

Two years ago, another pilot, David Fussell of Rhema Aviation in Tulsa, who crewed a Bombardier Challenger 601 into Lagos, reported on the NBAA “Feedback” page that “Your skill and fortitude will be tested here.” He advised operators to bring engine inlet and other airframe covers, claiming that while on the ground at DNMM the aircraft will be “blasted” by exhaust, wind, dust and trash and be “filthy” after a three-day stay. Speaking to BCA, Fussell also warned flight crews heading into Lagos airspace that controllers often will not immediately acknowledge radio calls. “The radio traffic can really be intense,” he said. “You will hear pilots making repeated calls, their voices getting more and more frustrated. Just keep calling and be patient; eventually they'll answer you.”

If having passengers picked up on the ramp (often a security requirement for “high-value” individuals), the operator will need to arrange for vehicles with airside access passes. While good brand-name hotels can be found downtown on Lagos and Victoria Islands, crews generally choose to stay as close to the airport as possible; a Sheraton just outside the gates is a popular hostelry. (It is being reported that ExecuJet has proposed building a hotel on airport property specifically to accommodate flight crews who wish to stay close to their aircraft.)

On departure from the country, the operator's handler will process outbound customs, as it is mandatory to clear CIQ when leaving. Both crew and passenger luggage is subject to screening both ways.

The Security Issue

Airport authorities maintain “reasonable security,” Linton said, “but you can hire additional security, which is recommended if staying overnight.” There are different opinions on wheth er supplemental security is necessary in Nigeria. Lane believes that the issues of crime and terrorism in the country are exaggerated and that, at least at the airport, additional security is unnecessary. “An aircraft guard will make you sleep better but will likely get more sleep than you do,” he observed.

Fussell noted that “there were lots of folks loitering . . . airside” at DNMM and recommended hiring additional security for the aircraft. (A representative of African handling agency Landover Aviation confirmed the presence of loiterers on the airport ramp, advising operators they could be approached by various people demanding cash for services. His advice was to deal only with the local representative hired by the operator's handling service, especially if it is necessary to pay for anything on site.) In any event, operators and their security advisors will have to make their own security assessments, with the understanding that if there are any doubts, it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Here's Linton's appraisal of the situation beyond the airport perimeter: “Crime is very high in Lagos. Carjackings, kidnappings, road block robberies [road piracy] and armed break-ins are common. It's been reported that some crooks even impersonate the uniformed police and military. Road travel is dangerous throughout the country. Avoid driving at night, and always use a reliable vehicle contractor vetted by your security company. Taxies and public transportation tend to be old, poorly maintained and generally unsafe. If you will be moving around in major Nigerian cities — any of them — we definitely recommend 'executive protection' [i.e., bodyguards].”

Furthermore, highway conditions throughout Nigeria are generally poor due to lack of maintenance of roads and debris strewn on them, and traffic conditions in the larger cities are often among the worst on the planet. “Get a good driver,” Lane said. “The traffic will rival anything you have ever seen.” Expect a minimum of an hour from the airport to the downtown business district.