Nigeria country information and facts for travelers.

NIGERIA

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Nigeria, with limited facilities for tourism, poses considerable risks for travelers. Violent crime is acute (see paragraph on Crime and Criminal Violence). Business scams that target foreigners are a pervasive problem, and persons contemplating business deals are strongly urged to check with the U.S. Department of Commerce or the U.S. Embassy in Lagos before traveling to Nigeria or making financial commitments (see paragraph on Commercial Fraud).

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport and visa are required and must be obtained in advance. Promises of entry into Nigeria without a visa are credible indicators of a fraudulent commercial scheme in which the perpetrators seek to exploit the foreign traveler's illegal presence in Nigeria with 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 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) 715-7200. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Nigerian embassy or consulate.

Air Travel Safety: Due to a lack of effective security measures, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation has ordered that direct air services between the U.S. and the Murtala Muhammad Airport in Lagos be suspended. U.S. travelers may wish to check with their travel agents or the airlines for alternate routing. In addition, Nigerian airlines have aging fleets and limited technical capabilities and face serious financial difficulties. The U.S. Embassy is concerned their maintenance and operational procedures may be inadequate to ensure passenger safety. Some multinational corporations maintain contracts with private air charter companies as an alternative to having their employees use Nigerian airlines. There have also been reports of problems with the quality and availability of aviation fuel throughout the country despite assurances from airline officials that all precautions have been taken to guarantee fuel quality. U.S. citizens may wish to take this into account when considering travel through Lagos and within Nigeria.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present between the U.S. and Nigeria, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Nigeria's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Nigeria's air carrier operations. 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.htm. 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 Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

Information on Crime and Criminal Violence: Violent crime affecting foreigners is an extremely serious problem, especially in Lagos and the southern half of the country. Visitors, as well as resident Americans, report widespread armed muggings, assaults, burglary, carjackings and extortion, often involving violence. Carjackings, roadblock robberies and armed break-ins occur often, with victims sometimes shot by assailants for no apparent reason. Reports of armed robberies in broad daylight on rural roads in the northern half of the country appear to be increasing. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly, if at all, and provide little or no investigative support to victims. While tighter security measures have reduced the danger of pickpockets and con artists inside Murtala Muhammad Airport, such persons are still commonly found outside the terminal building.

In addition to harassment and shake-downs of U.S. citizens by officials at airports and throughout Nigeria, there have been isolated but troubling reports of violent attacks by purported government officials on U.S. citizens and other foreigners. The Nigerian government has not responded meaningfully to complaints by the U.S. Embassy in Lagos and the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. concerning these abuses and attacks, nor is there any indication that the officers involved have been disciplined. Upon arrival in Nigeria, U.S. citizens are urged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Lagos where they may obtain current 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 on protecting 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, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

Commercial Fraud: 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 support of a Nigerian government official. The apparent use in some scams of actual government stationery, seals, and offices is grounds for concern that some individual Nigerian officials may be involved in these activities.

The ability of U.S. Embassy officers to extricate Americans from unlawful business deals is extremely limited. Since the mid-1990s, several U.S. citizen "victims" of scams have been arrested by police officials and held for varying periods. Nigerian police do not always inform the U.S. Embassy of an 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 and the U.S. Embassy in Lagos can provide business travelers with further details.

Single copies of the Department of State's brochure, "Tips for Business Travelers to Nigeria" are available at no charge from the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818. Please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Nigeria experiences civil unrest, violence and strikes. The causes and locations vary. Locations where outbreaks of violence have occurred include the Lagos area, southwestern Nigeria, the oil-producing states in the southeast, and Kaduna State. The number of unauthorized automobile checkpoints has increased. These checkpoints are operated by armed bands of police, soldiers, or bandits posing as or operating with police or soldiers. Many incidents, including murder, illustrate the increasing risks of road travel in Nigeria. Reports of threats against firms and foreign workers in the petroleum sector recur from time to time. Chadian troop incursions have occurred at the border area in the far northeast, near Lake Chad. Incidents also occur in the southeast in the disputed Bakassi Peninsula at the border area between Nigeria and Cameroon.

U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted in such disturbances, however, they and their vehicles may inadvertently become caught in a demonstration or disturbance. Tensions resulting from fuel and electricity shortages, and the delayed process of transition from military rule to an elected government, heightened by death sentences announced in April 1998 for alleged coup plotters, may result in further unrest and disturbances. For example, the period around June 12 (the anniversary of the 1993 annulled presidential election), is a time to be especially mindful of security concerns, to exercise particular caution and to avoid public gatherings.

Ground Transportation: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which 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 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. 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 road blocks are more numerous at night. Streets are very poorly lit and many vehicles lack one or both headlights. From time to time, chronic fuel shortages lead to long lines at service stations, disrupting or even blocking traffic for extended periods.

Public transportation vehicles are both unsafe and overcrowded. Passengers in local taxis have been driven to secluded locations where they are attacked and robbed. Several of the victims have required hospitalization. The Embassy advises that public transportation throughout Nigeria is dangerous and should be avoided.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities are limited; not all medicines are available. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate or sometimes prior cash payment for health services. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Travelers have found supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, to be useful.

For further information, travelers may contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers' hotline at 1-888-232-3228, or their autofax service at 1-888-232-3299, or their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

Photography Restrictions: Permission is required to take photographs of government buildings, airports, bridges or official-looking buildings. Permission may be obtained from Nigerian security personnel.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Credit cards are rarely accepted in Nigeria. Due to the prevalence of credit card fraud in Nigeria and credit card fraud by Nigerians in the U.S., credit card use is generally ill-advised. It is usually necessary to bring sufficient travelers checks or currency to cover the period of a planned visit. Travelers checks are difficult to cash. Banks usually withhold payment for days until they can confirm the bonafides of the checks, and hotels usually only cash them for guests, if at all. American Express does not have offices in Nigeria, although Thomas Cook does. Interbank transfers are often difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. For further information, visitors may wish to contact the U.S. Embassy.

DRUG PENALTIES: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced. Those arrested routinely face prolonged detention before trial, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

Registration/Embassy Location: 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 Eleke Crescent, Victoria Island in Lagos. The telephone number is (234)(1)261-0050. The internet address for the Consular Section in Lagos is lagoscons@lagoswpoa.us-state.gov. The Embassy office in the new capital city of Abuja is located at 9 Mambilla, Maitama District. The telephone number is (234)(9)523-0916.

Need a Complete List of Nigeria Holidays
Observed and Celebrated?

Buy an
International Date Planner
for a complete international holiday list for all public holidays throughout the year.