On the road (or in the air) – Nigeria

Thursday, 6 June 2024

Having started my African travels in Nairobi I continued north to Lake Turkana in Kenya and then crossed in to South Sudan, mainly spending my time in the Boma and Bandingilo National Parks. Next stop Nigeria, Africa’s biggest country in terms of population, but certainly not its most visited by tourists! Most of my Nigerian travels were in the often troubled north of the country with Médecins Sans Frontières and more on that shortly.

◄ Wherever I went there was always plenty to see on the roads, like this nicely decorated truck we overtook between Jahun and Kano

▲ Or this request to ‘mum’ to look out for me, on a minibus in Lagos, the mega-city of Nigeria. Having your mother keep an eye on things was often a pretty good in Nigeria

◄ A well loaded truck conveying mattresses between Katsina and Jibia, right on the border with Niger.

▲ I was intrigued by the cars, generally Land Cruisers like this one, Range Rovers or Mercedes with their ostentatiously covered-over license plates. The message was clearly ‘I do indeed have a license plate, but I am far too important to need to show it to anybody.’ It’s a topic of some interest in Nigeria and according to Professor Google there are only a handful of people in the whole country with the right to hide their license plate details away. I don’t think I kept seeing those same VIPs all the time.

◄ Another well loaded car, a Peugeot 504 (still so often ‘the car of Africa’) loaded up with drinking water. It’s so overloaded the passengers have to sit on the roof or hang out the windows.

▲ There are lots of Indian Bajaj autorickshaws everywhere you go in Nigeria, this one in Kano was piloted by another Bob Marley fan. No shortage of those in Africa as well.

◄ ‘Victory belongs to God,’ well that’s worth noting, on a fuel tanker in Katsina.

▲ I also took to the air, including flying out of Katsina which had this elegant aircraft road sign on the turn-off to the terminal. Most of my flights in Nigeria were with the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service in a Dornier 328 or with Médecins Sans Frontières in their Beechcraft 1900.

▲ I did fly from Abuja to Lagos with Air Peace, the biggest Nigerian airline, this elderly Boeing 737-300 had done its flight hours in China and then in Italy before eventually ending up in Nigeria. For a such a densely populated country and with all that oil money there aren’t a lot of flights, particularly internationally. Air Peace does have a couple of 777s, but the aviation story in Nigeria is nothing like Ethiopia where Ethiopian Airlines has become very much the international aviation connection story for all of Africa. Well Turkish Airlines tries pretty hard as well. Even Emirates doesn’t fly to Nigeria, they’ve got so much money tied up in the country which they have been unable to repatriate that they’ve simply decided not to fly there any more. If you want to get from Lagos or Abuja to Dubai you’ll have better luck going via Cairo, Addis Ababa, Istanbul or Doha.