US warns citizens on traveling to Nigeria

Nigeria, as seen via satellite

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria, and continues to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid all but essential travel to the Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers; the Southeastern states of Abia, Edo, Imo; the city of Jos in Plateau State, Bauchi and Borno States in the northeast; and the Gulf of Guinea because of the risks of kidnapping, robbery, and other armed attacks in these areas. Violent crime committed by individuals and gangs, as well as by persons wearing police and military uniforms, remains a problem throughout the country. Based on safety and security risk assessments, the U.S. Mission requires advance permission and justification as mission-essential for U.S. official travel to all Northern Nigerian states, in addition to the locations listed above. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria dated January 12, 2012, to update information on recent violent activity, and to inform U.S. citizens that the U.S. Mission to Nigeria has placed restrictions on all travel by U.S. government personnel to Northern Nigeria.
On December 31, 2011, the President of Nigeria declared a state of emergency in 15 local government areas in the states of Borno, Niger, Plateau, and Yobe. According to the Government of Nigeria, the declaration of a State of Emergency was in response to recent activities of extremist groups. The State of Emergency gives the government sweeping powers to search and arrest without warrants.
On January 9, residents of Nigeria participated in a national strike in protest of the government’s elimination of a gasoline subsidy, causing the closure of businesses throughout the country. Several large protests took place across Nigeria and some clashes with security forces resulted in deaths. Authorities established curfews of varying lengths in the cities of Kaduna (Kaduna State), Kano (Kano State), Oyo (Oyo State), Potiskum (Yobe State), Yola (Adamawa State), and Gusau (Zamfara state). Both international and domestic air travel were disrupted during the strike which ended on January 13.
On February 7, the extremist group known as Boko Haram claimed responsibility for three simultaneous attacks on Nigerian military targets across Kaduna in which dozens were killed and injured. In addition, eleven people were killed during a January 22 gun battle and bomb attacks in Bauchi, Bauchi State. On January 20, elements of Boko Haram claimed responsibility for multiple explosive attacks and assaults against various Nigerian government facilities in Kano. The attacks lasted several hours and caused numerous casualties. Boko Haram has continued attacks in January and February, focusing on Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, and Kaduna states, and the group continues to publicly threaten attacks throughout northern Nigeria.
On January 6, gunmen reportedly killed 12 worshippers at a church in Jineta-Yoli, Adamawa State. Gunmen also attacked gatherings in Gombe, Gombe State and Mubi, Adamawa on January 5, reportedly killing 28 people. An explosive device was thrown into an Arabic-Koranic school in Sapele, Delta State on December 28, 2011 injuring seven people. Boko Haram also took credit for church attacks on December 25, in Niger, Plateau, and Yobe States that killed dozens. On August 26, a suicide bombing at the UN Headquarters in Abuja killed 25 people and wounded more than 80 other individuals. This attack was the first against an international organization and the fourth bombing in Abuja during the past year. It followed a similar bombing against the Nigerian Police Force Headquarters ten weeks earlier that killed five individuals on June 16. These bombings were in addition to bombings elsewhere in Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Adamawa, and Plateau States throughout the last year.
The risk of additional attacks against Western targets in Nigeria remains high. In December 2010, a bomb exploded near an Abuja “fish bar,” killing several people and injuring many others. Also in December, several explosive devices detonated in Jos, Plateau State, and alleged members of an extremist group attacked police and others in Maiduguri, Borno State, leading to significant casualties. In October 2010, two car bombs detonated in downtown Abuja during Independence Day celebrations, killing ten and wounding many others. Since March 2010, five improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have detonated in the Niger Delta region, causing one to three reported casualties in each case.
In September 2010, over 150 members of Boko Haram escaped from prison in Bauchi, some of whom now may be participating in attacks in other parts of the country. A loose alliance of militant groups in the Niger Delta region has conducted a number of attacks against oil installations and posts of the Nigerian military’s Joint Task Force (JTF), which had attempted to close the militant camps. In June 2009, the Federal Government of Nigeria offered unconditional amnesty to any militants willing to surrender their arms and accept the government’s amnesty program. While almost all major militant leaders accepted the offer and the amnesty remains in effect, the potential for violence and the risk of kidnapping remains, with violent incidents involving “ex-militants” continuing.
Kidnappings continue to be another security concern. In January 2012, a U.S. citizen was kidnapped from his vehicle in Warri, Delta State and his security guard was killed. Assailants kidnapped a German citizen, also in January 2012, along a road where he was reportedly working in Kano, Kano State. In 2011, there were five reported kidnappings of U.S. citizens in Nigeria. The most recent occurred in November when two U.S. citizens, along with a Mexican national, were taken hostage in international waters off the Nigerian coast and held captive for over two weeks in the Niger Delta. Others have occurred in Lagos and Imo States. Also, a British national and an Italian national were kidnapped in Kebbi state in May 2011. Since January 2009, over 140 foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Nigeria, including seven U.S. citizens since November 2010. Six foreign nationals were killed during these abductions, while two U.S. citizens were also killed in separate kidnapping attempts in Port Harcourt in April 2010. Local authorities and expatriate businesses operating in Nigeria assert that the number of kidnapping incidents throughout Nigeria remains underreported.
Travel by foreigners to areas considered by the Nigerian government to be conflict areas without prior consultation and coordination with local security authorities is not recommended. The Nigerian government may view such travel as inappropriate and potentially illegal, and it may detain violators. In 2008, Nigerian authorities detained six U.S. citizens, including journalists, on six occasions, in areas where militant groups had operated. The Nigerian government interrogated these U.S. citizens for lengthy periods of time without bringing any formal charges before ultimately deporting them. Journalists are required to obtain a special accreditation from the Ministry of Information prior to traveling to conflict areas in the Niger Delta region states. This special accreditation is in addition to the general press accreditation and a valid Nigerian visa which are required to conduct such activities elsewhere in Nigeria.
Many foreign oil companies operating in the Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers have implemented “essential travel only” policies for their personnel. The U.S. Mission requires advance permission for U.S. government travel to these states, as well as the states of Abia, Edo, and Imo, the city of Jos in Plateau State, and Bauchi and Borno States, given the safety and security risk assessments and the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General’s limited ability to provide assistance to individuals detained by Nigerian authorities in these states. Due to recent violent activity, the U.S. Mission has temporarily restricted all travel by U.S. government personnel to Northern Nigeria. All travel requires advance permission and justification as mission-essential for U.S. official travel to all Northern Nigerian states. U.S. citizens who are resident in these states are advised to review their personal security in light of the information contained in this Travel Warning.
Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society in which different ethnic and religious groups often live in the same area. The States of Bauchi, Borno, and Plateau have experienced violence in the past year exacerbating tensions along those lines.
Violent crime committed by individuals and gangs, as well as by some persons wearing police and military uniforms, is an ongoing problem throughout the country, especially at night. U.S. citizen visitors and residents have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglary, carjacking, rape, kidnappings, and extortion – often involving violence. Home invasions remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls; following, or tailgating, residents or visitors arriving by car into the compound; and subduing guards and gaining entry into homes or apartments. Armed robbers in Lagos also access waterfront compounds by boat. U.S. citizens, as well as Nigerians and other expatriates, have been victims of armed robbery at banks and grocery stores and on airport roads during both daylight and evening hours. Law enforcement authorities usually respond slowly or not at all, and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens, Nigerians, and other expatriates have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian law enforcement officials. Traveling outside of major cities after dark is not recommended due to both crime and road safety concerns. There are regular reports of piracy off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea. Armed gangs have boarded both commercial and private vessels to rob travelers. The Nigerian Navy has limited capacity to respond to criminal acts at sea.
U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Nigeria are strongly advised to enroll through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By enrolling, you make it easier for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to contact you 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 is open Monday – Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos is open Monday – Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Friday 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The U.S. Embassy in Abuja can be reached by telephone, including after-hours emergencies, at +234(9) 461-4000. The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos can be reached by telephone, including after-hours emergencies at +234(1) 460-3600 or +234 (1) 460-3400.
Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line at-1-202-501-4444 for callers from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). You can also stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.
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