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Safety Travel Safety: Africa: Nigeria

Nigeria: Federal Republic of Nigeria
Capital: Abuja
Population: 129,934,911
Currency: naira (NGN)
Languages: English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani
Religions: Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, indigenous beliefs 10%
Borders: Benin 773 km, Cameroon 1,690 km, Chad 87 km, Niger 1,497 km

Nigeria is a developing West African country that has experienced periods of political instability. Its internal infrastructure is neither fully functional nor well maintained. In 1999, Nigeria returned to civilian rule after sixteen years of military rule.

Parts of Nigeria regularly experience localized civil unrest and violence. The causes and locations vary. States where outbreaks of violence have occurred in the past year include Abuja, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, and Ondo. While the Government of Nigeria has authorized vehicle checkpoints to mitigate crime, unauthorized checkpoints continue to be a problem throughout Nigeria.

In the oil-producing region of the Niger River Delta, resident U.S. citizens and other foreigners have frequently been threatened and held hostage during labor disputes. While the U.S. Government will do everything possible to assist in the safe release of all hostages, it is vital that U.S. citizens resident in this area review their employer's security information and contingency plans. Tourists risk being mistaken for residents and should exercise caution. Throughout 2002-03 there were a number of occupations of U.S. oil company facilities and ships in the Niger Delta region; in at least three of the incidents, groups of women were involved in peaceful takeovers to help gain jobs and community investment from the oil companies. In April 2004, two Americans were killed while on an oil vessel conducting a fact-finding mission in the Niger River Delta Region.

Inter-ethnic fighting continues to be a problem in and around Warri city, located in the Niger River Delta. Due to fighting between ethnic groups in the region, the Consulate in Lagos recommends that American citizen travelers review their itineraries and avoid travel to Warri. Official U.S. Government personnel travel in the region is limited to essential travel only.

U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and the Consulate General in Lagos are required to notify their security officer if traveling outside the city of Abuja or outside of Victoria, Ikoyi or Lagos Island. In addition, the Consulate advises its employees to take security precautions when visiting Lagos Island or mainland Lagos after dark. Consulate employees travel in armored vehicles between the islands and Murtala Mohammed International Airport.

There exists little anti-U.S. sentiment among Nigerians. However, there have been several demonstrations against U.S. policy in the Middle East. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and maintain security awareness at all times.

Visitors and resident Americans have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglary, kidnappings and extortion, often involving violence. Carjackings, roadblock robberies, and armed break-ins are common in many parts of Nigeria. Visitors to Nigeria, including a number of American citizens, have been victims of armed robbery on the road from Murtala Mohammed International Airport during daylight and at nighttime hours. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian officials.

Upon arrival in Nigeria, U.S. citizens are urged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos, where they may obtain current safety information and advice on minimizing risks.

Nigerian-operated scams are infamous for their cleverness and ingenuity. These scams target foreigners worldwide posing risks of both financial loss and personal danger to their victims. Scams are often initiated by credit card use, through telephone calls, from use of Internet cafes in Nigeria, and from unsolicited faxes, letters, and e-mails. No one should provide personal or financial information to unknown parties or via Nigerian telephone lines.

A major and continuing problem is the commercial scam or sting that targets foreigners, including many U.S. citizens. Such scams may involve U.S. citizens in illegal activity, resulting in arrest, extortion or bodily harm. The scams generally involve phony offers of either outright money transfers or lucrative sales, or contracts with promises of large commissions, or up-front payments. Alleged deals frequently invoke the authority of one or more ministries or offices of the Nigerian government and may cite, by name, the involvement of a Nigerian government official. In some scams, government stationery, seals, and offices are used.

Expanding bilateral law enforcement cooperation, which has resulted in numerous raids on commercial fraud premises, has reduced the overall level of overt fraud activity, but new types of sophisticated scams are introduced daily. The ability of U.S. Consuls to extricate U.S. citizens from unlawful business deals and their consequences is extremely limited. Since the mid-1990s, several U.S. citizens have been arrested by police officials and held for varying periods on charges of involvement in illegal business scams. Nigerian police do not always inform the U.S. Embassy or Consulate of a U.S. citizen in distress. The Department of Commerce has issued advisories to the U.S. business community on doing business in Nigeria. The Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos, and the American Embassy in Abuja can provide business travelers with further details.

Prior to involvement in any business transaction originating from an invitation from Nigeria or West Africa, you should also contact your local U.S. Secret Service office. The telephone number is usually found in a U.S. telephone directory or by going to the U.S. Secret Service web site and reading the section on Nigerian scams also known as "4-1-9" fraud at

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which often differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Nigerian laws, even unknowingly, may be arrested, imprisoned, and/or expelled. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nigeria are strictly enforced. Those arrested routinely face prolonged detention before trial, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. Jail conditions are far below western standards.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the U.S., for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens, to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent.

Medical facilities in Nigeria are poor. Diagnostic and treatment equipment is most often poorly maintained and many medicines are unavailable. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a common problem and may be difficult to distinguish from genuine medications. This is particularly true of generics purchased at local pharmacies or street markets. While Nigeria has many well-trained doctors, hospital facilities are generally of poor quality with inadequately trained nursing staff. Hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Nigeria is provided for general reference only; it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor 
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor 
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Roads are generally in poor condition, causing damage to vehicles and contributing to hazardous traffic conditions. There are few traffic lights or stop signs. Lagos, a city of over 10 million people, has only a few operating traffic lights. The rainy season from May to October is especially dangerous because of flooded roads.

Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, and the lack of basic maintenance and safety equipment on many vehicles are additional hazards. Motorists seldom yield the right-of-way and give little consideration to pedestrians and cyclists. Gridlock is common in urban areas. Chronic fuel shortages have led to long lines at service stations, which disrupt or block traffic for extended periods.

Public transportation vehicles are unsafe due to poor maintenance, high speeds and overcrowding. Passengers in local taxis have been driven to secluded locations where they were attacked and robbed. Several of the victims required hospitalization. The U.S. Embassy advises that public transportation throughout Nigeria is dangerous and should be avoided.

Short-term visitors are urged not to drive. A Nigerian driver's license can take months to obtain, and the international driving permit is not recognized. Major hotels offer reliable car-hire services complete with drivers. Reliable car-hire services can also be obtained at the customer service centers at the International Airports in Lagos, Abuja, and Kano. Inter-city travelers must also consider that roadside assistance is extremely scarce, and lack of access to even modest health care facilities means that a traffic incident that might result in a minor injury in the United States could result in death or permanent disability in Nigeria.

All drivers and passengers are reminded to wear seat belts, lock doors, and raise windows. It is important to secure appropriate insurance. It is also important to realize that drivers and passengers of vehicles involved in accidents resulting in injury or death have experienced extra-judicial actions, i.e., mob attacks, in addition to official consequences such as fines and incarceration. Night driving should be avoided. Bandits and police roadblocks are more numerous at night. Streets are very poorly lit, and many vehicles are missing one or both headlights, taillights, and reflectors.

The government of Nigeria charges the Federal Road Safety Commission with providing maps and public information on specific road conditions. The Federal Road Safety Commission may be contacted by mail at: Ojodu-Isherri Road, PMB 21510, Ikeja, Lagos; telephone [243] (1) 492-2218 or 492-3369.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at

As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers, nor economic authority to operate such services between the United States and Nigeria, the FAA has not yet formally assessed Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet home page at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone 618-229-4801.

Permission is required to take photographs of government buildings, airports, and bridges. These sites are not always clearly marked, and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation. Permission may be obtained from Nigerian security personnel. Penalties may include confiscation or destruction of the camera, exposure of the film, a demand for payment of a fine or bribe, or physical assault.

Please also refer to the separate Travel Warning for Nigeria and to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

June 3, 2004 | Travel Warning

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