Occasionally, traffic lights stop working during power outages and traffic wardens are deployed to critical junctions. Abuja has some strict driving laws that are enforced. Seat belts are mandartory for the driver and front seat passenger, Also beating traffic lights. If violated, the vehicles of offenders will be impounded and only released on payment of fines. Many drivers tend not to observe road lanes within the city, often attempting to barge into any available space.
This could be precariously close to your vehicle . In some cases they may even drive on the sidewalks. Traffic accidents are frequent, so you need to be attentive. Occasionally, drivers from other parts of the country that are unfamiliar with the driving culture in the city try to beat traffic lights. If you're driving, pay attention, especially at junctions.
If you are a pedestrian, there are 2 things you should always be of. Firstly, when using the pedestrian crossings, even when the walk sign is green, make sure that the road is clear or any vehicle has stopped before you attempt to cross. There are drivers with no regard for the signs and some out of town drivers do not understand what the signs mean. Secondly, the major roads are wide and therefore have islands in the middle of the crossing. When waiting on the island, be very observant as again some drivers tend to use the space in the island to make U-turns.
Taxis and Motorcycle Taxis (Okada)
Taxis in Abuja are relatively safe and easy to use. There are two types: government sponsored and private. The government-sponsored taxis are green with white stripes. Private taxis can be any type of saloon car. The taxis will honk as they drive to see if customers want a ride. A wave of the hand will bring them to a stop. There two possible approaches to payment. A price can be agreed before entering the vehicle or you can just pretend you know what you are doing and wait to see if the taxi driver complains. Check with friends to ascertain the going rate for a local drop prior up significantly when petrol is in short supply and they are slow to come down thereafter.
As Abuja is a relatively new city, many of the taxi drivers are new as well. They tend to be most familiar with the main locations, so customers may have to assist (with directions to less well-known locations)
Duty is imposed on imported vehicles. Vehicles more than five years old are permitted entry. Newer vehicles may be imported provided they are for the owners’s continued use and are not for resale. As Nigerians drive on the right-hand side of the road, it is recommended that the car be a left-hand drive vehicle that has been acclimatized for the tropics with working air condition. It s also wise to ensure it is one of the most popular models available in the country for consistency in parts and servicing. Four-wheel drive is recommended if the owner plans to travel out of Abuja on a regular basis. Because of a lack of constant supply of petrol to more remote areas of the country, extra capacity in the petrol tank is also useful.
Documents needed for clearance include: passport (original); certificate of insurance; original purchase invoice with proofs of ownership; certificate of road worthiness (for used vehicles); registration or logbook; make, model and serial number of the vehicle being imported.
There are several options for car hiring services. Customers can negotiate with individual taxi drivers on the street for hourly or daily rates. “Car hires” found at the major hotels are more expensive. When you first arrive in country, it is a good idea to find a reputation major car companies are listed below. The rates include the cost of the driver, but remember the driver’s overnight costs will also need to be paid as well
New cars are expensive because of the import duties on new and luxury items. Nigeria assembles Peugeot 504s. They are considered good cars for the roads as they have high axles. There are also plenty of spare parts and most mechanics know how to fix them. For a new car, they are also relatively inexpensive. Several new car dealerships have opened in Abuja recently.
A number of used cars are imported through the Republic of Benin. Used car markers are located throughout the city and change due to their nature (squatted land). A major one that has been here for a while is near the electronics market by the General Hospital in Wuse (Behind Tantalizers and heritage Printers, Off Suleiman Abubakar). People also travel to Kaduna or Kano to get a better price on a vehicle.
The purchase and sale of cars imported diplomatically require the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If the buyer does not have diplomatic status, he or she will be required to pay the custom duty. It can take up to a year to get things legally sorted out. Remember to keep copies of all the car insurance papers in the vehicle.
Petrol stations in Abuja are not self service; you will be assisted by an attendant. Therefore, when filling up at the local petrol stations, be sure to get out of the vehicle and monitor the sale in progress. It has been known for attendants to tell customers they have reached the agreed sale amount when in fact, they have not and then pocket the difference. They have also been known to fail to “zero out” the last purchase before pumping so the driver pays for the last customer’s gas as well. The best time to purchase petrol in Abuja is either early on weekday mornings or at weekends when there are fewer people in town.
Petrol shortages are quite common place. Some cities suffer persistent shortages, so it is wise for travellers to try and ascertain the availability of fuel at the destination prior to embarking on long journeys. In an attempt to stop the black market sale of fuel, the government is preventing petrol stations from filling jerry cans. This has made the purchase of extra fuel for emergency situations more difficult.
Car Servicing and Repair
Reliable car mechanics are difficult to find. Thus, when getting vehicles serviced, it is wise to have someone stay with the vehicle to ensure that the work is done properly. It is also important to make sure that your service bill is not inflated by the replacement of additional parts without your prior authorisation. You will find mechanics along the road who will change your oil (you may need to bring your own filter and oil), repair and balance tires, etc. There are more expensive but reliable places available.
It is essential that residents in Abuja obtain a Nigerian driver’s license as soon as possible. International driver’s licenses are not recognized. In order to obtain a Nigerian driver’s license, applicants will need to fill in a form, pay a fee (N6, 500 kin 2003), provide passport photos and a valid driver’s license from their previous country of residence. Once obtained, it should be carried on your person.
Vehicles require third party insurance cover at the very least. Vehicle registration papers are needed to obtain insurance.