Nigeria is a developing West African country that has experienced periods of political instability. Its internal infrastructure is neither fully functional nor well maintained. The inauguration of President Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999 marked the return of civilian rule after sixteen years of military governments.
A passport and visa are required. The visa costs forty-five US dollars and must be obtained in advance. Promises of entry into Nigeria without a visa are credible indicators of fraudulent commercial schemes in which the perpetrators seek to exploit the foreign traveler's illegal presence in Nigeria through threats of extortion or bodily harm. U.S. citizens cannot legally depart Nigeria unless they can prove, by presenting their entry visas, that they entered Nigeria legally. Entry information may be obtained at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2201 M Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. 20037, telephone (202) 822-1500, or at the Nigerian Consulate General in New York, telephone (212) 850-2200. Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest Nigerian Embassy or Consulate.
Nigeria periodically experiences localized civil unrest and violence. The causes and locations vary. Locations where outbreaks of violence have occurred include the Lagos area, southwestern Nigeria, the oil-producing states in the Niger delta region, and Anambra, Benue, Kaduna, and Kano states.
Parts of Nigeria have recently suffered from ethnic-religious conflicts between Christians and Muslims. On February 21 and 22, 2000, there were demonstrations and civil unrest in and around the city of Kaduna in north central Nigeria. Subsequent disturbances occurred in the southeastern cities of Aba, Abia State, and Onitsha, Anambra State.
U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted in these disturbances and incidents. Nonetheless, they and their vehicles may inadvertently become caught up in a demonstration or disturbance.
Unauthorized vehicle checkpoints continue to be a problem throughout Nigeria. Although the Federal Government recently banned vehicle checkpoints by its forces of order, these checkpoints may be operated by armed bands of police, soldiers, or bandits. Many incidents, including highway banditry and murder, have occurred.
In the oil-producing region of the Niger River Delta, U.S. citizens and other foreigners have frequently been threatened and held hostage for ransom. As a matter of policy, the United States Government will not pay ransom or make other concessions to kidnappers; therefore, the U.S. Embassy's ability to assist U.S. citizens taken hostage may be limited. U.S. citizens who are resident in this area should review their employer's security information and contingency plans. Between May and December of 1999 there were four attacks and occupations of U.S. oil company compounds.
Due to security concerns, Embassy employees are advised to notify the Embassy in advance before leaving Victoria, Ikoyi, and Lagos Islands on the city's coast, where the Embassy and Embassy residences are located. In addition, the Embassy advises its employees against visiting Lagos Island or mainland Lagos after dark. Embassy employees travel in armored vehicles between the islands and Murtala Mohammed International Airport. When traveling to the airport at night, Embassy employees are accompanied by a second vehicle carrying a police officer.
Political gatherings and street demonstrations have been known to occur. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and maintain security awareness at all times.
Violent crime affecting foreigners is a serious problem, especially in Lagos and the southern regions of the country. 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. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly, if at all, and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and in encounters with Nigerian officials.
Upon arrival in Nigeria, U.S. citizens are urged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Lagos or the U.S. Embassy Office in Abuja where they may also obtain current safety information and advice on minimizing risks.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa" provide useful information regarding personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
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 even cite by name the involvement of an actual Nigerian government official. In some scams, actual government stationery, seals, and offices are used.
Expanding bilateral law enforcement cooperation, which has resulted in numerous raids on commercial fraud premises, does not yet appear to have significantly reduced the overall level of fraud activity. The ability of U.S. Embassy officers 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 business scams. Nigerian police do not always inform the U.S. Embassy 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. Both the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Embassy in Lagos can provide business travelers with further details.
Medical facilities in Nigeria are generally not up to U.S./European standards. 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 staffs. 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, and 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
Although there are some modern, well-maintained road arteries in Nigeria, roads are generally in poor condition, causing damage to vehicles and contributing to hazardous traffic conditions. Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, and the lack of basic maintenance and safety equipment on many vehicles are additional hazards. There are few traffic lights or stop signs, and even where these may exist, they are not always heeded. Motorists seldom yield the right-of-way and give little consideration to pedestrians and cyclists. Gridlock is common in urban areas. The rainy season from May to October is especially dangerous because of flooded roads. Night driving should be avoided for several reasons. Bandits and police roadblocks are more numerous at night. Streets are very poorly lit and many vehicles are missing one or both headlights.
Public transportation vehicles are both unsafe and overcrowded. Unwary passengers in local taxis have been driven to secluded locations where they were attacked and robbed. Several of the victims required hospitalization. The Embassy advises that public transportation throughout Nigeria is dangerous and should be avoided.
PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: Permission is required to take photographs of government buildings, airports, bridges or official-looking buildings. 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 can include confiscation or breaking of the camera, exposure of the film, a demand for payment of a fine or bribe, or roughing-up.
CURRENCY ISSUES: The Nigerian currency, the Naira, is non-convertible. U.S. Dollars are widely accepted. Nigeria is a cash society and it is usually necessary to bring sufficient currency to cover the expenses of a planned visit. Credit cards are rarely accepted beyond a few hotels. Due to the prevalence of credit card fraud in Nigeria and by cohorts in the U.S., credit card use is not advised. While Citibank cashes travelers checks, most banks do not. American Express does not have offices in Nigeria; Thomas Cook does. Inter-bank transfers are often difficult to accomplish, though money transfer services are widespread. For further information, visitors may wish to contact the U.S. Embassy.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Nigeria. The U.S. Embassy is located at 2 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island in Lagos. The telephone number is (1) 261-0050. The Internet address for the consular section in Lagos is: http://firstname.lastname@example.org. The Embassy Office in the new capital city of Abuja is located at 9 Mambilla, Maitama District. The telephone number is (9) 523-0916.
On December 22, 1999, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation announced that the United States was lifting its ban on direct flights between the U.S. and Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos. The decision followed a detailed review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) security experts that determined that the airport's security system had been extensively overhauled and conformed to international security standards.
The Nigerian Government has announced its intention to privatize Nigerian Airways. A number of Nigerian airlines serve the domestic market and some foreign destinations. Most Nigerian airlines have aging fleets and limited technical capabilities and face serious financial problems. The U.S. Embassy is concerned that some of their operational and maintenance standards may be inadequate to ensure passenger safety.
As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers, or economic authority to operate such services, between the U.S. 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 U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/iasa.pdf. 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 618-229-4801.