Safety and Security:
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 following states because of 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 states. The Department of State also 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 a State of Emergency in those three states. The Department also warns against travel to the Gulf of Guinea because of the threat of maritime crime including piracy. (Please also see the Crime Section below.) Based on safety and security risk assessments, travel by U.S. officials to all northern Nigerian states (in addition to those listed above) must receive advance clearance from the U.S. Mission as mission-essential. In light of the continuing violence, extremists may expand their operations beyond northern Nigeria to other areas of the country.
The U.S. Mission advises all U.S. citizens to be particularly vigilant around churches, mosques, and other places of worship; locations where large crowds may gather; hotels; clubs; restaurants; markets; shopping malls; and other areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers. Security measures in Nigeria remain heightened due to threats posed by extremist groups, and U.S. citizens may encounter additional police and military checkpoints, additional security, and possible road blocks throughout the country.
In 2012, an extremist group based in northeast Nigeria known as Boko Haram (BH) claimed responsibility for many attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram members 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. In December 2011, the President of Nigeria declared a state of emergency in 15 local government areas in the states of Borno, Niger, Plateau, and Yobe. This State of Emergency remains in effect, although with modification in some areas. 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 are under various 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 they are in or plan to visit. This information is commonly announced via the news media, but at times it can change with very little notice. Please take the time to find out this information for your area.
In May 2013, when the State of Emergency was established in three northeastern states, cell phone service was cut off in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Service was temporarily restored in some of those areas but again cut off in July 2013, after attacks by BH resumed. Cell phone service has has been partially restored in Yobe and Adamawa states, particularly in the respective state capitals of Damaturu and Yola.
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. Land line telephone communications in Nigeria remain extremely limited. U.S. citizens should attempt to arrange for multiple means of communication in case of emergencies.
In addition to the threat posed by BH, an offshoot of BH, the Ansaru group, has carried out several kidnappings in Nigeria targeting foreigners. In February 2013, seven foreigners, of different nationalities were abducted while working on a construction site in Bauchi State; the seven hostages were executed after three weeks in captivity. In May 2012, a British citizen and an Italian citizen were kidnapped by the group in Kebbi State and subsequently executed. In December 2012, a French citizen was abducted in Katsina State and is believed to still be held by Ansaru.
The Ansaru Group has also claimed responsibility for other violent acts such as a prison break in Abuja in November 2012 and an attack on Nigerian troops who were to deploy to the conflict region in northern Mali in January 2013.
Kidnappings by other extremist groups and criminal elements remain a security concern. Extremists abducted another seven foreign nationals in northern Cameroon in February 2013 and reportedly moved them to northern Nigeria. In 2012, six foreign nationals, including three U.S. citizens, were kidnapped in Kwara, Imo, Enugu, Delta, Rivers, and Kano states. Criminals or militants have abducted foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, from offshore and land-based oil facilities, residential compounds, and public roadways. To date, sixteen foreign nationals have died in connection with these abductions, including three killed by their captors during military-led raids. Local authorities and expatriate businesses operating in Nigeria assert that the number of kidnapping incidents throughout Nigeria remains underreported.
Travel by foreigners to conflict areas without prior consultation and coordination with local security authorities is not recommended, as the Nigerian government may see this activity as inappropriate and potentially illegal, and may detain travelers. Journalists, film-makers, and other professionals involved in the creation of news or information products require special accreditation from the Nigerian Ministry of Information for all film and media activities in the Niger Delta prior to entering the area. This special accreditation is in addition to the general press accreditation and valid Nigerian visa required to conduct such activities elsewhere in Nigeria.
Foreign visitors may not take photographs or videotape any government buildings, airports, or bridges. Individuals may be questioned, detained, or arrested when near these sensitive sites without evidence of permission from the Nigerian government, or for carrying electronic equipment such as cameras, recorders, etc.
Periodically, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria restricts travel by U.S. officials and Mission personnel to certain parts of Nigeria based on changing security conditions, often due to terrorist attacks, crime, general strikes, security threats, demonstrations, or inter-religious or communal violence. Jos, the capital of Plateau State, and its environs have seen several outbreaks of violence in the past several years. The potential for future flare-ups remains. Nigeria held national elections in April 2011. Although the elections themselves remained largely peaceful, violence temporarily erupted in many northern states after the announcement of results in the presidential race.