Nigeria - Travel Warning (June 3, 2013)
June 3, 2013
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states because of the proclamation on May 14, 2013, by the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of States of Emergency in those three states. The ability of the Mission to provide assistance to U.S. citizens in those states remains severely limited. The Department also continues to recommend against all but essential travel to the following states due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara. The Department also warns against travel to the Gulf of Guinea because of the threat of piracy. Based on safety and security risk assessments, the Embassy maintains restrictions for travel by U.S. officials to all northern Nigerian states (in addition to those listed above); officials must receive advance clearance by the U.S. Mission for any travel deemed as mission-essential. U.S. citizens should be aware that extremists could expand their operations beyond northern Nigeria to the country's middle and southern states. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria dated December 21, 2012.
An extremist group based in northeast Nigeria known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for many attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria, which have killed or wounded thousands of people during the past three years. Multiple Suicide Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Devices (SVBIED) targeted churches, government installations, educational institutions, and entertainment venues in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, Taraba, and Yobe states.
Ansaru, an internationally-focused jihadist group considered an offshoot of Boko Haram, has operated in Nigeria since 2012. It has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and execution of seven foreign nationals in Bauchi in early 2013, the kidnapping of a French national in Katsina in December 2012, and a November 2012 prison break at the headquarters of the Nigerian Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja.
In 2013, extremists have also targeted both Nigerians and foreign nationals involved in polio eradication efforts in northern Nigeria. Several agencies that have partnered with the United States government in the field of public health development in northern Nigeria have curtailed their activities in response to these threats. Furthermore, U.S. citizen missionaries in northern Nigeria have received specific written threats to their safety and well-being, typically in the form of anonymously-distributed “night letters” (covertly-distributed anonymous threat letters intended to frighten intended victims).
On October 1, 2012, more than 50 students died in attacks in Adamawa State. Assailants attacked several drinking establishments in Bauchi, Taraba, and Kaduna in September and October 2012. Extremists targeted churches in Bauchi, Kaduna, and Kogi in July and August 2012. They also attacked police stations and markets in Sokoto in July 2012. From July 6 to 8, sectarian violence claimed over 100 lives in the Jos metropolitan area and villages in Plateau State. In July, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded in the parking lot of an Abuja shopping center, and in June, an IED exploded outside a nightclub in Abuja. The June 17, 2012, attacks on three churches in the state of Kaduna led to violence throughout the state. At least 10 people died and an additional 78 sustained injuries in the ensuing riots, as groups barricaded roads, burned mosques, and used machetes to maim and kill. In response to the violence, the Kaduna state government imposed a 24-hour curfew and deployed additional security forces to restore peace; however, violence between Christians and Muslims continued throughout the week. In April 2012, assailants attacked Theatre Hall at Bayero University, Kano, with IEDs and weapons. Also in April 2012, VBIEDs simultaneously exploded at the offices of "This Day" newspaper in Abuja and Kaduna.
In December 2011, the President of Nigeria declared states of emergency in 15 local government areas in the states of Borno, Niger, Plateau, and Yobe. On May 14, 2013, the President of Nigeria extended states of emergency throughout Borno and Yobe and added Adamawa state to the list in response to intensifying violence between extremists and government forces. According to the government of Nigeria, the declaration of a state of emergency gives the government sweeping powers to search and arrest without warrants. Several states in the north remain under curfews, which change frequently. All U.S. citizens should remain aware of current situations including curfews, travel restrictions, and states of emergency in the areas in which they live or plan to visit. The news media regularly disseminates this information, but the situation can change with very little notice. U.S. citizens in Nigeria should take the time to find out such information for their areas.
Boko Haram also claimed credit for the June 2011 bombing of the Nigerian Police Headquarters building and the August 2011 suicide bombing at the United Nations Headquarters Building, both in Abuja.
Kidnappings remain a security concern throughout the country. Since the beginning of 2013, several high-profile kidnappings have occurred. In March 2013, kidnappers abducted a foreign national in the upscale Victoria Island neighborhood of Lagos. As noted above, in February 2013, Ansaru extremists kidnapped and later executed seven foreign nationals in Bauchi state. Extremists also abducted a family of seven French nationals in northern Cameroon in February, moved them to northern Nigeria, and held them for over one month before releasing them. In 2012, criminals abducted six foreign nationals, including three U.S. citizens, in Kwara, Imo, Enugu, Delta, and Kano states. Kidnappings and violent attacks against foreign nationals and Nigerian police forces in Lagos State and the Niger Delta region continued to affect personal security for those traveling in these areas. Criminals or militants have abducted foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, from off-shore and land-based oil facilities, residential compounds, and public roadways. Nine foreign nationals have died in connection with these abductions, including three killed by their captors during military-led raids. Local authorities and international corporations operating in Nigeria assert that the number of kidnapping incidents throughout Nigeria remain under-reported.
Violent crimes occur throughout the country. In March 2013, armed gunmen attacked a money changing operation in the parking lot of Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, risking the lives of those at the nearby arrival/departure area of one of the busiest international airports in Africa. U.S. citizen visitors and residents have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglaries, car-jackings, rapes, kidnappings, and extortion. Home invasions also remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls, following residents or visitors, or subduing guards to gain entry to homes or apartments. Armed robbers in Lagos have also accessed waterfront compounds by boat. U.S. citizens, as well as Nigerians and other foreign nationals, have fallen victim to armed robberies 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 foreign nationals have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian law enforcement officials. The Department advises against traveling outside of major cities after dark because of crime and road safety concerns. Attacks by pirates off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea have increased substantially in recent years. 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.
Beginning in September 2012, extremists attacked cellular telephone towers in northern Nigeria, damaging over 50 towers and degrading cellular telephone and internet communications nationwide. Additional attacks could further weaken the ability of citizens to communicate through cellular telephones and the internet. Landline telephone communications in Nigeria remain extremely limited. U.S. citizens should attempt to arrange for multiple means of communication during potential emergencies.
Nigeria's erratic electricity grid does not meet the country's power needs, with frequent power outages that sometimes occur even in highly-sensitive locations. In March 2013, the international airport in Lagos suffered multiple nighttime power outages that lasted several minutes each, leaving the runways in total darkness and forcing at least one inbound flight to abort a landing attempt while on final approach.
The security situation in the country remains fluid and unpredictable. The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens in Nigeria to consider their own personal security and to keep personal safety in the forefront of their planning.
The Department strongly advises U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Nigeria to enroll in 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. The U.S. Embassy in Abuja is located at: Plot 1075 Diplomatic Drive, Central District Area. The Embassy 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 located at: 2 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island. The Consulate 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.
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 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.