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Country Reports

Nigeria Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

The majority of Western governments advise against travel to parts of the vast country of Nigeria (186 million inhabitants), particularly in the northeast and the Niger Delta region. Due to the country's precarious security environment, travelers should carefully prepare for their trip.

AREAS TO AVOID

Due to the ongoing jihadist insurgency led by Boko Haram in some parts of the northeast and the Lake Chad Basin region, travels to Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states should be avoided.

There is a serious threat of kidnapping in the Niger Delta region (including Bayelsa, Delta, and River states) due to high crime rates as well as the presence of many armed groups.

Nonessential travel to the remote areas of Akwa Ibom, Abia, Rivers, Benue, Kogi, Niger, Delta, Ebonyi, and Cross River states is advised against due to risk of communal clashes stemming from land disputes or other sociocultural conflicts.

Finally, there is a high risk of piracy throughout the Nigerian maritime domain in the Gulf of Guinea.

TERRORISM

Since 2009, an insurgency led by the jihadist group Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March 2015 and adopted the name of Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), has impacted the northeastern region of the country. Terrorist attacks are common in northern cities and towns, particularly in Borno state and the areas of Madagali (Adamawa state) and Gujba (Yobe state). Traditional and suicide bomb attacks typically target group venues (e.g. markets, places of worship, schools) as well as security forces and government buildings. Indiscriminate suicide bombings are also common.

Boko Haram's offensive to conquer northern cities and their surroundings - including areas in neighboring countries of the Lake Chad region - continues to challenge the Nigerian-led regional military coalition (Multinational Joint Task Force; MNJTF) that has sought to destroy the terrorist group since January 2015. The coalition, which includes soldiers from Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria, and to some extent Benin, had, by the end of 2016, achieved some positive advances against Boko Haram. These advances are now coming under threat as Boko Haram shows some signs of regrouping. A spike in suicide attacks in Borno state has led to the relocation of Nigerian military chiefs to the area as they attempt to shore up their position and stop Boko Haram from rolling back their successes. The group will remain a threat in the area for the foreseeable future.

The Niger Delta region faced renewed violence throughout 2016 following the creation of various groups calling for the equal sharing of oil dividends and environmental protections in the region. Of these groups, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which was unknown until its first communiqué in March 2016, was particularly active. Although they did not target individuals, the militant groups attacked oil installations belonging to local and international oil companies, leading to a drastic decline in the country's oil production from 2.2 million barrels per day to about 1 million bpd. Recognizing that military action alone will not suffice in finding a lasting solution to the Niger Delta crisis, the Federal Government is currently attempting to resolve the issue through dialogue, with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visiting states in the region for meetings with local leaders and other stakeholders. A ceasefire is being observed by the militants to allow for better negotiations.

Various groups have threatened the ceasefire in a bid to place pressure on the negotiations. The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) threatened to resume attacks but lost a vote of confidence by other militant groups including the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and the Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators (CNDA). The CNDA has now demanded that all foreign nationals who own oil blocs in the region vacate before October 1, when it has stated it will declare a "Niger Delta Republic." The coalition has also stated it will resume attacks in September.

SECURITY

In addition to the terrorist threat, travelers to Nigeria should consider the precarious security situation prevailing throughout the country.

Intercommunal clashes are frequent in Nigeria, especially between nomadic and agrarian communities including in Benue, Delta, Kaduna, Niger, Taraba, and Kogi states. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reported that fatalities linked to ethnic violence were more common than those linked to terrorism.

A curfew is in effect in Borno state. Travelers are recommended to respect the curfew when traveling to these areas to avoid threats or confrontations.

KIDNAPPING

Foreign nationals face a high threat of kidnapping throughout the country, mainly from criminal gangs with financial motives. Expatriates face a particular risk of kidnapping due to their perceived affluence. The targeting of expatriates has increased in recent years, especially in the southern region.

Lagos, the economic capital of the country, is not exempt from these incidents. Recent tactics used by the criminal gangs include Illegal Vehicle Checkpoints (IVCPs) and the abduction of targets' family members.

CRIME

Violent crime is common throughout Nigeria's cities and rural areas. Large southern cities (Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Port Harcourt, and Onitsha as well as Abuja) experience the highest rates of violent crime.

Both violent crime (e.g. assault, carjacking, kidnapping, burglary, rape) and petty crime (e.g. purse snatching, pickpocketing) are prevalent throughout the country. There is a significant threat of burglary committed by armed robbers. In recent months there has been a significant increase in the number of carjacking incidents, especially in Lagos and Rivers states; individuals should remain vigilant.

Travelers should be cautious, avoid ostentatious behavior (do not wear visible jewelry, do not carry a camera or large sums of money, etc.), and choose well-established hotels, where the safety of foreigners is normally guaranteed. Be vigilant during cash withdrawals (use only machines located inside banks during business hours) and do not resist if assaulted, as criminals are often armed and do not hesitate to resort to violence.

It is advised to remain vigilant and have a known and trusted contact waiting for your arrival at the airport.

Travelers should apply best security practices when traveling, especially at night, and are advised to drive with doors locked and windows rolled up (with valuables out of sight). Additionally, it is highly recommended not to leave the hotel or residential areas at night. Attacks by criminal groups are common at night on the roads and in cities, including in homes.

It is strictly advised to avoid places with large crowds (such as markets) as well as traffic collisions on roadways, the latter of which could be a tactic used by petty criminals or organized gangs to rob or abduct those who stop their vehicles. Avoid places of worship, especially on symbolic dates.

Internet scams are common in the country, usually involving emails that promise quick financial returns but require the delivery of personal information (contact or bank information). Ignore these messages. In addition, foreign citizens, due to their perceived wealth, are often victims of dating scams. Lagos and southern Nigeria are particularly affected by these financial crimes, which target expatriates as well as Nigerians.

Travelers are advised to favor cashless transactions over bulk cash payments to reduce the risk of armed robbery.

PIRACY

There is a high risk of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea near Nigeria. In the first quarter of 2017, 63 percent of the 27 seafarers kidnapped for ransom worldwide were in the Gulf of Guinea.

To curb the crime rate, the Nigerian Navy has launched several operations targeting pirates. Although arrests have been made and attempted hijacks averted, the risk of piracy has not been fully mitigated.

SOCIAL RISKS

Despite fears of electoral violence, the presidential elections held in March 2015 took place in a relatively calm atmosphere. Former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to Muhammadu Buhari (a 72-year old Muslim from the north and a former soldier who led the country in the 1980s), who took office in late May 2015. On May 6, 2017, Buhari again traveled for an indefinite medical leave barely two months after his return from a 50-day medical leave in the UK. Uncertainties surround the details of the president's health, causing political tension and protests by social activists demanding clarification and his resignation. There are reports that the president continues to hold on to power despite his obvious illness due to pressures from northern leaders who do not want presidential powers handed over to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Christian Southerner. This resistance is said to be an attempt to prevent a repeat of 2009 when power has handed over to then Vice President Jonathan (a Christian Southerner) after the death of President Musa Yar'Adua (a Muslim Northerner).

As the largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, the drop in oil prices has had a major impact on Nigeria's economy, especially its currency, the naira, which has depreciated. In 2016, the Nigerian economy contracted by 1.5 percent (the first drop in 25 years) due to lower revenues and a shortage of hard currency. Inflation also reached its highest level since 2011. Electricity, transportation, and food prices have drastically increased. Social unrest is increasing, especially in Abuja and Lagos.

Protests are regularly held by pro-Biafra supporters in the South and by IMN members in the North over the release of their detained leaders, Nnamdi Kanu and Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, respectively. The leaders of the groups were arrested separately in 2015. Kanu was freed in late April 2017.

Travelers should strictly avoid all protests due to the high risk of clashes between protesters and security forces.

TRANSPORTATION

It is recommended to use air transportation when traveling around the country. For flights to major destinations within the country, Air Peace and Med View airlines are recommended. The schedule of the airline operators can be confirmed on their websites.

Except for main roads in the north and southwest (Lagos region), road infrastructure is typically poor: roads are usually poorly maintained and not well lit. Travel by car is often dangerous due to these conditions as well as the aggressive driving habits of many locals (speeding, erratic driving, aggressive passing, etc.). Driving at night should be avoided altogether due to the elevated risk of attacks. In case of an accident involving personal injury caused to locals, it is also strongly advised to go immediately to the nearest police station because of the risk of a hostile reaction. Finally, it is important to respect the many roadblocks erected by security forces, both in cities and the countryside.

Intercity travel that cannot be made by airplane should be made in convoys of several 4x4 vehicles with a sufficient supply of water, food, and fuel, and accompanied by armed guards. In some areas (Niger Delta and outside the secure areas of Abuja and Lagos in particular), an armed guards escort (MOPOL) is required. It may be advisable to inform a trusted individual about the planned route and schedule. When possible, it is recommended to vary travel routes and time in order to thwart the surveillance of potential criminals.

In cities, it is recommended to avoid using taxis due to the risk of being targeted by criminals. This recommendation also applies for moto-taxis in Lagos, which are known to be dangerous. It is advised to use taxis with drivers employed by a reputable company. Carjackings and thefts, sometimes committed by armed men, are frequent on urban and rural roads. It is recommended to keep valuables out of sight and to drive with doors locked and windows rolled up.

A rail network exists in the country but is in poor condition. However, in an effort to modernize the country, the president plans to rebuild 3505 km (2178 mi) of railway lines and on July 26, 2016, inaugurated the first high-speed train line linking Abuja to Kaduna.

HEALTH

Health conditions in the country are of particular concern especially outside Lagos and Abuja, where healthcare infrastructure is particularly precarious and not suitable for serious or urgent cases. Prior to departure, foreign nationals should purchase health insurance covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue.

Tap water is not safe to drink anywhere in the country and diarrheal diseases are common. It is recommended to only drink bottled water, make sure food is properly cooked, and wash hands several times a day. Cases of cholera are regularly reported, especially during the rainy season.

Various mosquito-borne diseases are present in the country, with the highest transmission rates reported during the rainy season (May to October). A certificate of immunization against yellow fever is required to enter the country for travelers over one year of age coming from endemic areas; vaccination is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for all other travelers. Malaria is also prevalent throughout the country.

Lassa hemorrhagic fever is endemic to the country. As of June 2017, an outbreak of Lassa fever was still active in nine states, namely Anambara, Bauchi, Cross River, Edo, Taraba, Nasarawa, Ondo, Plateau, and Kano states. 

To avoid the risk of parasitic infection, it is advised to avoid bathing or washing clothes in stagnant water. It is not advised to walk barefoot.

Moreover, it is necessary to take precautions against HIV/AIDS, which is highly prevalent throughout the country.

Vaccines against measles and meningitis are recommended as numerous cases of those diseases have been reported. The risk of meningitis is particularly high in Nigeria as the country is located in the "meningitis belt" of Africa. Cases are often reported during the dry season (November to March).

INFRASTRUCTURE

Access to electricity is not guaranteed throughout Nigeria; only 55.6 percent of the population has access.

In 2015, only 69 percent of the population had access to running water.

Access to information technology is widely available in Nigeria (mobile phones are owned by 78 percent of people and 43 percent have access to the internet). Increasing access to information technology has led to the development of e-commerce in the country. The Nigerian-based website Jumia is one of the foremost e-commerce websites on the continent.

NATURAL RISKS

The Harmattan (wind) affects the coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea, including Nigeria, every year from November to April. It carries large quantities of dust and sand, which can lead to significant disturbances in air traffic and breathing difficulties.

During the rainy season (May to October), localized flooding is also possible, which can cause traffic problems. The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) predicted that 27 out of the 36 states are likely to see flooding in 2017. The states include Abia, Kogi, Niger, Sokoto, Zamfara, Gombe, Lagos, Delta, Yobe, Kano, Imo, Bayelsa, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa, Borno, Ebonyi, Anambra, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, Cross River, Kaduna, Jigawa, and Benue.

Because of significant ocean currents on the Nigerian coast, individuals should exercise caution when swimming as cases of drowning are reported each year.

LEGAL

Sharia (Islamic law) is in effect in the twelve northern states (Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara). Islamic customs should be respected (wear loose clothing covering arms and legs, do not consume alcohol in public, etc.).

Homosexuality is punishable by law.

Significant restrictions are in place regarding photography, particularly around government buildings, airports, and bridges. If in doubt, it is best not to take photographs.

Smoking is prohibited in public spaces, and travelers are prohibited from bringing several types of food and beverages (e.g. beer, mineral water, soda, sparkling wine, eggs, fruit) into the country.

Finally, immigration authorities may require, upon arrival in Nigeria, all of the documents necessary to receive a visa. It is advised to keep a copy of these documents in carry-on luggage.

Climate

The north of the country is hot and dry with a long rainy season (April to September). The south is more humid with a rainy season from March to November. Generally speaking temperatures are lower in the south but very high humidity levels can make conditions much more unpleasant there. A respite from this humidity often comes in December and January as the Harmattan, a hot and dry trade wind from the Sahara, passes through the region.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +234 Police: 090 40 87 21 Ambulance: 199

Electricity

Voltage: 240 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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