Warning: Due to recent terrorist activity, travel warnings are in place for certain areas in Nigeria. Read our section on Expat Safety in Nigeria for more information.
Most expats moving to Nigeria obviously choose Nigeria’s economic and industrial centers. The majority of these are found in the country’s southern coastal regions. Furthermore, many expats are living in Nigeria’s Free Trade Zones, which usually feature residence compounds for employees.
If you are not moving to Nigeria solely for business reasons, but also for the cultural experience, you might want to go explore the country in detail. Please consider the safety precautions we have compiled in our article on Living in Nigeria before you consider freely roaming the country.
Lagos is the largest city and thus the first choice for many expats moving to Nigeria. Though exact estimates vary, with a population in 2014 of around 21 million in the wider metropolitan area, it is considered the most populous city in Africa, surpassing even Cairo. The metropolis on the Gulf of Guinea has experienced rapid growth, as moving to the country’s economic and cultural center remains a big incentive for people from rural regions and abroad.
In many respects, Lagos is the most important Nigerian city. It is a large hub for banks, industrial enterprises, and the music and film industry. The three ports are the nation’s biggest transfer site for all goods, except for oil, which is shipped directly from the Delta. The metropolis also is home to the most modern international airport – you will have to at least change flights here when you arrive in Nigeria.
Lagos was the Nigerian capital until 1991. Most embassies, although now officially located in Abuja, handle visa applications from their Lagos offices. The city’s cultural and economic importance is unparalleled, as is the quality of life. Many expats moving to Nigeria opt for accommodation in the popular neighborhoods of Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Apapa, and Ikeja, where living is a more relaxed and safer experience.
Your employment contract permitting, you should try to relocate to Lagos. It will probably ensure the most comfortable and interesting experience for expatriates moving to Nigeria.
Employment in Port Harcourt means doing business in Nigeria’s oil production center. It is the main collecting point for oil produced in the Niger Delta and home to most of Nigeria’s refineries.
Ever since the first oil shipment in 1958, Port Harcourt has had considerable draw on the people of the Delta. This is both a blessing and a curse: The masses moving to Nigeria’s industrial centers from the rural regions have caused a housing shortage and infrastructural issues. Pollution is also quite severe in the area. While living in Nigeria, you have to come to terms with pollution, and Port Harcourt surpasses everything else in this regard.
Due to reasons we have outlined in our article on Working in Nigeria, the city has often been shaken by violence and by the illegal activity of militant gangs, who frequently target foreigners. Thus, for safety reasons, Port Harcourt should be avoided by expats if possible. Unless you sign with one of the large oil companies, which offer guarded compounds for their expat employees, moving to Nigeria’s other economic centers is a better choice.
The nation’s capital since 1991, Abuja is the unchallenged center of political power in Nigeria. Located right in the center of Nigeria between the Muslim north and the Christian south, Abuja has been built from scratch since the late 1970s; unfortunately, it shows.
Life in Abuja is a far cry from life in Lagos, both culturally and economically. There is very little industry located in Abuja, and the metropolis does not offer many incentives for expats moving to Nigeria. However, as construction is continuously going on and nearly all embassies have been relocated to the city, Abuja does have some opportunities for expatriates who are moving to Nigeria and making it their home abroad.
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