I said in my last blog that I’d talk more about my previous posting in Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is one of the more challenging posts. Particular risks include violent crime and the prevalence of malaria. The climate is hot and humid and Lagos is densely populated (between 15 and 23 million inhabitants - no-one knows for sure how many), putting pressure on infrastructure and traffic flows. We confine daily life to two islands connected to the mainland by bridges (and we’re not talking palm-fringed beaches – more like bits of the city that happen to be surrounded by water). We have to drive everywhere we go, no matter how close it is.
So movement is restricted and involves forward planning, sensible precautions and alertness. Areas can become out of bounds or curfews imposed suddenly following an incident. Despite the security situation though, Lagos is a busy, bustling place, in the most prosperous country in West Africa. Nigeria is the sixth largest oil exporter in the world and the major oil companies have employees there from many different countries. Major airlines provide three to four flights daily to London and UK ties to Nigeria are strong. Investment is rising and there are significant Lebanese, Chinese and Indian communities with established businesses.
Lagos was the former capital and has plenty to offer in terms of restaurants, supermarkets and cinemas outside of work. And the more difficult the environment, the more the staff help each other out and socialise together. Until I started this job 18 months ago, I didn’t realise how important that is when your friends and family are miles away. I have a positive view of hardship postings from what I’ve seen so far (not just Lagos). There are clear difficulties and dangers, but if you are well prepared and alert, they are very rewarding in terms of what you can achieve. There is a lot more to be said on this subject, which will feature in future blogs.
I’ll tell you next about my job as Vice Consul in Lagos and. more about what the mission does. You can also check out the British High Commissioner to Nigeria’s blog for more about the country.