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U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

Consular Information Sheet

 


Please click on this link to read important information you should see before you travel abroad

This information is current as of today,

Nigeria

January 13, 2006

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  Nigeria is a developing country in western Africa that has experienced periods of political instability.  Its internal infrastructure is neither fully functional nor well maintained.  In 1999, Nigeria returned to civilian rule after sixteen years of military rule.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Nigeria for additional information

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:  A passport and visa are required.  The visa must be obtained in advance.  Visas cannot be obtained aboard planes or at the airport.  Promises of entry into Nigeria without a visa are credible indicators of fraudulent commercial schemes in which the perpetrators seek to exploit the foreign traveler's illegal presence in Nigeria through 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 Federal Republic of Nigeria, 3519 International Court, NW, Washington, D.C., 20008, telephone (202) 822-1500, or at the Nigerian Consulate General in New York, telephone (212) 808-0301.  Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Nigerian embassy or consulate.  See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Nigeria and other countries. 

Find more information about Entry and Exit Requirements pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.  Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:  Parts of Nigeria regularly experience localized civil unrest and violence.  The causes and locations vary.  States where outbreaks of violence have occurred in the past year include Abuja, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, and Rivers.  While the Government of Nigeria has authorized vehicle checkpoints to mitigate crime, unauthorized checkpoints continue to be a problem throughout Nigeria.
 
In the oil-producing region of the Niger River Delta, resident U.S. citizens and other foreigners have frequently been threatened and held hostage during labor disputes.  While the U.S. Government will do everything possible to assist in the safe release of all hostages, it is vital that U.S. citizens resident in this area review their employer's security information and contingency plans.  Tourists risk being mistaken for residents and should exercise caution.  In April 2004, two Americans were killed while on an oil vessel conducting a fact-finding mission in the Niger River Delta Region.  In March/April 2005, Americans aboard oil service vessels in Delta and Rivers States were among those taken hostage during a month-long labor dispute.  In January 2006 expatriates were taken hostage when an oil service ship was boarded.

 

Inter-ethnic fighting continues to be a problem in and around Warri city, located in the Niger River Delta.  Due to fighting between ethnic groups in the region, the Consulate in Lagos recommends that American citizen travelers review their itineraries and avoid travel to Warri.  Official U.S. Government personnel travel in the region is limited to essential travel only. 

The national labor union frequently calls general strikes to protest government policies.  Strikers often try to hinder movement of vehicles on main thoroughfares, frequently using violence to discourage travel.  During such strikes, U.S. citizens should limit unnecessary travel.   

U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and the Consulate General in Lagos are required to notify their security officer if traveling outside the city of Abuja or outside of Victoria, Ikoyi or Lagos Island.  In addition, the Consulate advises its employees to take security precautions when visiting Lagos Island or mainland Lagos after dark.  Consulate employees travel in armored vehicles between the islands and Murtala Mohammed International Airport. 

There exists little anti-U.S. sentiment among Nigerians.  However, there have been several demonstrations against U.S. policy in the Middle East.  U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and maintain security awareness at all times.

See the Aviation Safety Oversight section below for information on airline safety. 

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet website where the current Travel Warnings, including the Nigeria Travel Warning, and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:  Visitors and resident Americans have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglary, kidnappings and extortion, often involving violence.  Carjackings, roadblock robberies, and armed break-ins are common in many parts of Nigeria.  Visitors to Nigeria, including a number of American citizens, have been victims of armed robbery on the road from Murtala Mohammed International Airport during both daylight and nighttime hours.  Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly and provide little or no investigative support to victims.  U.S. citizens have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian officials. 

Upon arrival in Nigeria, U.S. citizens are urged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos (see Registration/Embassy Location section below), where they may obtain current safety information and advice on minimizing risks. 

Nigerian-operated scams are infamous for their cleverness and ingenuity.  These scams target foreigners worldwide posing risks of both financial loss and personal danger to their victims.  Scams are often initiated by credit card use, through telephone calls, from use of Internet cafes in Nigeria, and from unsolicited faxes, letters, and e-mails.  No one should provide personal or financial information to unknown parties or via Nigerian telephone lines. 

Recently, many American citizens have become victims of Nigerian con-men/women offering companionship through Internet dating websites.  Americans should be very cautious about sending money or traveling to Nigeria to meet someone they have only known via the Internet.  Commercial scams or stings that targets foreigners, including many U.S. citizens continue to be a problem.  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 cite, by name, the involvement of a Nigerian government official.  In some scams, government stationery, seals, and offices are used. 

Expanding bilateral law enforcement cooperation, which has resulted in numerous raids on commercial fraud premises, has reduced the overall level of overt fraud activity, but new types of sophisticated scams are introduced daily.  The ability of U.S. consuls to extricate U.S. citizens from unlawful business deals and their consequences is extremely limited.  Since the mid-1990s, several U.S. citizens have been arrested by police officials and held for varying periods on charges of involvement in illegal business scams.  Nigerian police do not always inform the U.S. Embassy or Consulate of a U.S. citizen in distress.  The Department of Commerce has issued advisories to the U.S. business community on doing business in Nigeria. 
To check on a business’s legitimacy while in the U.S., contact the Nigeria Desk Officer at the International Trade Administration, Room 3317, Dept. of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230.  (Tel: 1-800-USA-TRADE or 202-482-5149, fax: 202-482-5198).  If you are abroad, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

For additional information, please consult the Department of State's publications “Tips for Business Travelers to Nigeria”, and “Nigerian Advanced Fee Fraud.”

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:  The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.  See our information on Victims of Crime .

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:  Medical facilities in Nigeria are poor.  Diagnostic and treatment equipment is most often poorly maintained and many medicines are unavailable.  Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a common problem and may be difficult to distinguish from genuine medications.  This is particularly true of generics purchased at local pharmacies or street markets.  While Nigeria has many well-trained doctors, hospital facilities are generally of poor quality with inadequately trained nursing staff.  Hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. 

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747).  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO).  Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:  The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas .

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:  While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that 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.

Roads are generally in poor condition, causing damage to vehicles and contributing to hazardous traffic conditions.  There are few traffic lights or stop signs.  Lagos, a city of over 10 million people, has only a few operating traffic lights.  The rainy season from May to October is especially dangerous because of flooded roads. 

Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, and the lack of basic maintenance and safety equipment on many vehicles are additional hazards.  Motorists seldom yield the right-of-way and give little consideration to pedestrians and cyclists.  Gridlock is common in urban areas.  Chronic fuel shortages have led to long lines at service stations, which disrupt or block traffic for extended periods. 

Public transportation vehicles are unsafe due to poor maintenance, high speeds and overcrowding.  Passengers in local taxis have been driven to secluded locations where they were attacked and robbed.  Several of the victims required hospitalization.  The U.S. Embassy advises that public transportation throughout Nigeria is dangerous and should be avoided.

Short-term visitors are urged not to drive.  A Nigerian driver's license can take months to obtain, and the international driving permit is not recognized.  Major hotels offer reliable car-hire services complete with drivers.  Reliable car-hire services can also be obtained at the customer service centers at the International Airports in Lagos, Abuja, and Kano.  Inter-city travelers must also consider that roadside assistance is extremely scarce, and lack of access to even modest health care facilities means that a traffic incident that might result in a minor injury in the United States could result in death or permanent disability in Nigeria. 

All drivers and passengers are reminded to wear seat belts, lock doors, and raise windows.  It is important to secure appropriate insurance.  It is also important to realize that drivers and passengers of vehicles involved in accidents resulting in injury or death have experienced extra-judicial actions, i.e., mob attacks, in addition to official consequences such as fines and incarceration.  Night driving should be avoided.  Bandits and police roadblocks are more numerous at night.  Streets are very poorly lit, and many vehicles are missing one or both headlights, taillights, and reflectors. 
The government of Nigeria charges the Federal Road Safety Commission with providing maps and public information on specific road conditions.  The Federal Road Safety Commission may be contacted by mail at: Ojodu-Isherri Road, PMB 21510, Ikeja, Lagos; telephone [243] (1) 492-2218 or 492-3369. 

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:  As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Nigeria, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. 

Most Nigerian airlines have aging fleets, and maintenance and operational procedures may be inadequate to ensure passenger safety.  The crashes of Bellview Air on October 22 and Sosoliso Air on December 10 resulted in numerous deaths.  On December 19, a Bellview flight made an emergency landing. 

Because international flights tend to meet higher safety standards than domestic Nigerian flights, travelers should attempt to get direct international flights to/from their Nigerian destination, rather than transiting another Nigerian city such as Lagos.  For domestic travel between Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, the U.S. Government encourages its employees to use Virgin Nigeria Airlines or Aero Contractors.  For destinations not served by these airlines, personnel may use other domestic airlines if such travel is deemed safer than travel by road.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:   Permission is required to take photographs of government buildings, airports, and bridges.  These sites are not always clearly marked, and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation.  Permission may be obtained from Nigerian security personnel.  Penalties may include confiscation or destruction of the camera, exposure of the film, a demand for payment of a fine or bribe, or physical assault. 
 
The Nigerian currency, the naira, is non-convertible.  U.S. dollars are widely accepted.  Nigeria is a cash economy, and it is usually necessary to carry sufficient currency to cover the expenses of a planned visit.  Credit cards are rarely accepted beyond a few upscale hotels.  Due to credit card fraud in Nigeria and by cohorts in the United States, credit card use is strongly discouraged.  While Citibank cashes some travelers checks, most other banks do not.  American Express does not have offices in Nigeria, but Thomas Cook does have offices in Nigeria.  Inter-bank transfers are often difficult to accomplish, though money transfer services are available.  For further information, visitors may contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:  While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Nigerian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nigeria are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. 

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:  For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website. 

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:   Americans living or traveling in Nigeria are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website.  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. 
The U.S. Embassy is located at 1075 Diplomatic Drive, Central Area, Abuja.  The telephone number is [234](9) 461-4000.  The U.S. Consulate General is located at 2 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos.  American citizens can call 011 [234](1) 261-1215 during office hours (7:30 a.m. to 4p.m.).  For after-hours emergencies, call 011 [234] (1) 261-1414, 261-0195, 261-0078, 261-0139, or 261-6477.  The e-mail address for the Consular Section in Lagos is Lagoscons2@state.gov

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 2, 2005, to update sections on Safety and Security, Crime, and Aviation Safety Oversight.