Nigeria Travel Alert
October 30, 2007
This Travel Warning is being issued to warn U.S. citizens of the possible dangers of travel to Nigeria, and to note the continued unstable security situation in the Niger Delta region. American citizens should defer all but essential travel to Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers states because of the very high risk of kidnapping, robbery, and other armed attacks in these areas. American citizens who are resident in the Delta are strongly advised to review their personal security in light of the information contained in this Travel Warning when deciding whether to remain. The ability of the U.S. Government to provide consular services to Americans in these areas may be limited. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Nigeria issued January 19, 2007.
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the possible dangers of travel to Nigeria. Periodically, travel by U.S. mission personnel is restricted based on changing security conditions, often due to crime, general strikes, or student/political demonstrations or disturbances. The lack of law and order in Nigeria poses considerable risks to travelers. Violent crime committed by ordinary criminals, as well as by persons in police and military uniforms, can occur throughout the country and tends to peak between November and January, during the holiday period.
After several weeks of armed clashes between heavily-armed rival militias, the security situation in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has stabilized slightly, due to the presence of a large military Joint Task Force (JTF). Despite the JTF presence, however, one expatriate was killed during a kidnapping attempt and at least one other was taken hostage. The restoration of order remains fragile and the potential for violent outbreaks still exists. In 2007, over 150 foreigners in the Niger Delta region have been kidnapped from off-shore and land-based oil facilities, residential compounds, and public roadways mainly in Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers states. While most hostages have been released unharmed, two expatriates have died since November 2006 while in captivity and many were held for weeks in hostile conditions. In response to the high number of kidnappings and two car bombs at oil company compounds in Port Harcourt, most oil industry personnel in the Niger Delta removed their dependents from the area and implemented "essential travel only" policies. U.S. citizens and other foreigners have been threatened during labor disputes. Criminal groups have kidnapped and held for ransom expatriate workers, including American citizens, and family members.
Despite Federal and State Government efforts to quell the violence and address concerns voiced by militant leaders, one faction threatened to resume attacks and kidnappings unless its demands are met. Although kidnappings of foreigners have declined since an informal cease-fire in late July, the Department of State continues to advise Americans to defer all but essential travel to Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers states at this time. American citizens residing in the Delta are strongly advised to consider the information contained in this Travel Warning when deciding whether to remain.
Crime in Lagos and Abuja is an ongoing problem. 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. Traveling outside of major cities during hours of darkness is not recommended. Visitors to Nigeria, including a number of American citizens, have been victims of armed robbery on the road from Murtala Mohammed International Airport during both daylight and nighttime hours. Even Victoria and Ikoyi Islands, which are generally safer than other parts of Lagos, have seen an increase in crime, including some involving expatriates.
Religious tension between some Muslim and Christian communities results in occasional acts of isolated communal violence that could erupt quickly and without warning. The states of Kano and Kaduna are particularly volatile. Rival ethnic groups have clashed violently in the Niger Delta region around Warri city and in Southeast Plateau State. Senior al-Qaida leadership has expressed interest publicly in overthrowing the government of Nigeria. Links also were uncovered connecting Nigerians to al-Qaida in 2004.
Road travel is dangerous. Robberies by armed gangs have been reported on rural roads and within major cities. Travelers should avoid driving at night. Because of poor vehicle maintenance and driving conditions, public transportation throughout Nigeria can be dangerous and should be avoided. Taxis pose risks because of the possibility of fraudulent or criminal operators, old and unsafe vehicles, and poorly maintained roads. Road travel in Lagos is banned between 7:00 and 10:00 AM on the last Saturday of every month for municipal road cleanup; police vigilantly enforce the ban.
Enforcement of aviation safety standards in Nigeria is uneven; civil aviation in Nigeria continues to experience air incidents and accidents, including four crashes with fatalities between October 22, 2005, and October 30, 2006. Incidents included fires on planes, collapsed landing gear, and planes veering off the runway. After each such occurrence, aviation authorities may temporarily shut down the domestic airline involved, ground a number of planes, and close the affected airport. Flights in Nigeria, including international routes, are often delayed or cancelled. Travelers should be prepared for disruptions to air travel to, from, and within Nigeria.
In general, international airlines have paid close attention to conditions at airports in Nigeria and have taken appropriate action. As such, international carriers operating direct flights to Nigeria have experienced far fewer incidents. However, domestic carriers operating within Nigeria and the region are less responsive to local conditions and may present a greater safety risk to travelers. Where possible, international travelers to and from Nigeria should avoid transiting an additional Nigerian city.
Travel by any means within Nigeria is risky. For essential travel, official Americans in Nigeria balance the risk between domestic air and road travel by using direct flights on Virgin Nigeria Airlines or AERO Contractors to cities serviced by these carriers. Currently, however, neither Virgin Nigeria nor AERO appears in most travel agency software. Additional information on current flight schedules is available at http://www.virginnigeria.com and http://www.flyaero.com.
Some Nigeria-based criminals conduct advance fee fraud and other scams that target foreigners worldwide. These fraudulent activities pose great risk of financial loss. Recipients traveling to Nigeria to pursue such fraudulent offers have been subject to physical harm, and local police authorities are often unwilling to help in such cases. No one should provide personal financial or account information to unknown parties. Under no circumstances should U.S. citizens travel to Nigeria without a valid visa -- an invitation to enter Nigeria without a visa is normally indicative of illegal activity. Furthermore, the ability of U.S. Mission officers to extricate U.S. citizens from unlawful business deals and their consequences is extremely limited. Persons contemplating business deals in Nigeria are strongly urged to check with the U.S. Department of Commerce or the U.S. Department of State before providing any information or making any financial commitments. See the Department of State's publications, International Financial Scams, Tips for Business Travelers to Nigeria, and Advance Fee Business Scams.
Americans who travel to Nigeria should obtain the latest health information before departing the U.S., read the Department's Fact Sheet on Avian Influenza at http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html, and consult with their personal physicians concerning avian influenza. The websites of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov and the World Health Organization at http://www.who.int have up-to-date information on outbreaks of contagious and tropical diseases.
U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Nigeria are strongly advised to register through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos for up-to-date information on any restrictions. The U.S. Embassy in Abuja can be contacted by phone at (9) 461-4000. American citizens may contact the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos at 011 (1) 261-1215 during business hours. Please call  (1) 261-1414, 261-0195, 261-0078, 261-0139, or 261-6477 about emergencies after business hours. You may also visit the U.S. Mission's website at http://nigeria.usembassy.gov/.
U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's most recent Country Specific Information for Nigeria and the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, which are located on the Department's Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
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