This Travel Warning is being re-issued to note a further deterioration in the security situation in the Niger Delta region, due to recent car bombings in the city of Port Harcourt and continuing kidnappings of expatriates in that area. American citizens should depart from and defer non-essential travel to Delta, Bayesa, and Rivers states. This Warning also provides an update on aviation safety in Nigeria and addresses upcoming elections. It supersedes the Travel Warning for Nigeria issued August 24, 2006.
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Nigeria. The lack of law and order in Nigeria poses considerable risks to travelers. Violent crime committed by ordinary criminals, as well as by persons in police and military uniforms, can occur throughout the country and tends to peak between November and January, during the holiday period.
The security situation in the Niger Delta region has deteriorated significantly over the past year. Travel to the region remains dangerous and should be avoided. Throughout the year, a number of expatriate workers in the oil industry, including American citizens, have been held hostage for days or weeks. Hostages haven been taken from oil facilities, public roadways, and within the city of Port Harcourt. While most have been released unharmed, one militant group has threatened to kill oil workers and their families and, in November 2006, a British national was killed during an attempted kidnapping. In addition, U.S. citizens and other foreigners have been threatened and held hostage during labor disputes. Two car bomb explosions at oil company compounds in Port Harcourt on December 18, 2006, prompted a major oil company to withdraw employee dependents from the city. In light of these latest incidents, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers states, and Americans not involved in the performance of essential duties depart from those three states.
Crime in Lagos and Abuja is an ongoing problem. Some expatriates have been robbed in the outlying Lagos suburb of Lekki, and in Abuja, the Maitama area has seen a series of home invasions. In a working class section of mainland Lagos, an October 2005 clash between police and residents left several dead. Even Victoria and Ikoyi Islands, which are generally safer than other parts of Lagos, have experienced attempted bank robberies, and have seen an increase in smash-and-grab car robberies, including some involving expatriates.
Federal and State elections are scheduled for April 2007. Previous elections in Nigeria have sometimes resulted in civil disturbances and unrest leading up to and during the election. U.S. citizens in Nigeria should exercise particular caution during this period. Large public gatherings, political rallies, and demonstrations should be avoided. The U.S. government's ability to assist American citizens caught up in instances of civil disturbance or unrest may be limited.
Religious tension between some Muslim and Christian communities results in occasional acts of isolated communal violence that could erupt quickly and without warning. The states of Kano and Kaduna are particularly volatile. Rival ethnic groups have clashed violently in the Niger Delta region around Warri city and in Southeast Plateau State. Senior al-Qaida leadership has expressed interest publicly in overthrowing the government of Nigeria. Links also were uncovered connecting Nigerians to al-Qaida in 2004.
Road travel is dangerous. Robberies by armed gangs have been reported on rural roads and within major cities. Travelers should avoid driving at night. Because of poor vehicle maintenance and driving conditions, public transportation throughout Nigeria can be dangerous and should be avoided. Taxis pose risks because of the possibility of fraudulent or criminal operators, old and unsafe vehicles, and poorly maintained roads. Road travel in Lagos is banned between 7:00 and 10:00 AM on the last Saturday of every month for municipal road cleanup; police vigilantly enforce the ban.
Enforcement of aviation safety standards in Nigeria is uneven; civil aviation in Nigeria continues to experience air incidents and accidents, including four crashes with fatalities between October 22, 2005, and October 30, 2006. Incidents included fires on planes, collapsed landing gear, and planes veering off the runway. After each such occurence, aviation authorities may temporarily shut down the domestic airline involved, ground a number of planes, and close the affected airport. Flights in Nigeria, including international routes, are often delayed or cancelled. Travelers should be prepared for disruptions to air travel to, from, and within Nigeria.
In general, international airlines have paid close attention to conditions at airports in Nigeria and have taken appropriate action. As such, international carriers operating direct flights to Nigeria have experienced far fewer incidents. However, domestic carriers operating within Nigeria and the region are less responsive to local conditions and may present a greater safety risk to travelers. Where possible, international travelers to and from Nigeria should avoid transiting an additional Nigerian city.
Travel by any means within Nigeria is risky. For essential travel, official Americans in Nigeria balance the risk between domestic air and road travel by using direct flights on Virgin Nigeria Airlines or AERO Contractors to cities serviced by these carriers. Currently, however, neither Virgin Nigeria nor AERO appears in most travel agency software. Additional information on current flight schedules is available at http://www.VirginNigeria.com and http://www.acn.aero/cgi-bin/airkiosk.
Some Nigeria-based criminals conduct advance fee fraud and other scams that target foreigners worldwide. These fraudulent activities pose great risk of financial loss. Recipients traveling to Nigeria to pursue such fraudulent offers have been subject to physical harm, and local police authorities are often unwilling to help in such cases. No one should provide personal financial or account information to unknown parties. Under no circumstances should U.S. citizens travel to Nigeria without a valid visa -- an invitation to enter Nigeria without a visa is normally indicative of illegal activity. Furthermore, the ability of U.S. Embassy officers to extricate U.S. citizens from unlawful business deals and their consequences is limited. Persons contemplating business deals in Nigeria are strongly urged to check with the U.S. Department of Commerce or the U.S. Department of State before providing any information or making any financial commitments. See the Department of State's publications "Tips For Business Travelers To Nigeria" at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/brochures/brochures_2113.html, and "Nigerian Advanced Fee Fraud" at http://www.state.gov/www/regions/africa/naffpub.pdf.
Americans who travel to Nigeria should obtain the latest health information before departing the U.S., read the Department's Fact Sheet on Avian Influenza at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html, and consult with their personal physicians concerning avian influenza. The websites of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov and the World Health Organization at http://www.who.int have up-to-date information on outbreaks of contagious and tropical diseases.
U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Nigeria are strongly advised to register through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.