Nigeria - Consular Information Sheet
January 19, 2001
TRAVEL WARNING (Issued April 7, 2000): The Department
of State warns U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Nigeria.
Nigeria has limited tourist facilities, and conditions pose 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. Kidnapping for ransom of persons associated with
the petroleum sector, including U.S. citizens, remains common
in the Niger Delta area.
Use of public transportation throughout Nigeria is dangerous
and should be avoided. Taxis pose risks because of the possibility
of fraudulent or criminal operators and poorly maintained vehicles.
Most Nigerian airlines have aging fleets, and there are valid
concerns that maintenance and operational procedures may be inadequate
to ensure passenger safety.
Nigerian-based business, charity and other scams target foreigners
worldwide and pose a danger of financial loss. Recipients pursuing
such fraudulent offers risk physical harm if they come to Nigeria.
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. No one should provide personal financial or account
information to unknown parties. An invitation to enter Nigeria
without a visa is normally indicative of illegal activity. Under
no circumstances should U.S. citizens travel to Nigeria without
a valid visa. Furthermore, the ability of U.S. consuls to extricate
U.S. citizens from unlawful business deals and their consequences
is extremely limited.
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Nigeria is a developing west African
country that has experienced periods of political instability.
Its internal infrastructure is neither fully functional nor well
maintained. The inauguration of President Olusegun Obasanjo on
May 29, 1999 marked the return of civilian rule after sixteen
years of military governments.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required.
The visa costs forty-five U.S. dollars and must be obtained in
advance. 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,
2201 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, telephone (202) 822-1500,
or at the Nigerian Consulate General in New York, telephone (212)
850-2200. Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest Nigerian
embassy or consulate.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Nigeria regularly experiences localized
civil unrest and violence. The causes and locations vary. Locations
where outbreaks of violence have occurred in the past year include
the Lagos area, southwestern Nigeria, the oil-producing states
in the Niger Delta region, and Anambra, Benue, Kaduna, and Kano
Several parts of Nigeria have recently suffered from ethnic-religious
conflicts between Christians and Muslims and between Hausa and
Yoruba. In February 2000, there were demonstrations and civil
unrest resulting in numerous casualties in and around the city
of Kaduna in north central Nigeria. Subsequent disturbances occurred
in the southeastern cities of Aba, Abia State, and Onitsha, Anambra
State. In October 2000, over 100 people were killed in Lagos as
a result of inter-ethnic conflict.
U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted in these disturbances
and incidents. Nonetheless, they and their vehicles may inadvertently
become caught up in a demonstration or disturbance.
While the federal government has authorized a few vehicle checkpoints,
unauthorized checkpoints continue to be a problem throughout Nigeria.
In the oil-producing region of the Niger River Delta, U.S. citizens
and other foreigners have frequently been threatened and held
hostage for ransom. As a matter of policy, the U.S. Government
will not pay ransom nor make other concessions to kidnappers;
therefore, the ability of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to assist
U.S. citizens taken hostage may be limited. U.S. citizens who
are resident in this area should review their employer's security
information and contingency plans. Between May and December of
1999, there were four attacks and occupations of U.S. oil company
Due to security concerns, employees of the U.S. Consulate General
in Lagos are advised to notify the Consulate in advance before
leaving Victoria, Ikoyi, and Lagos Islands on the city's coast,
where the Consulate residences are located. In addition, the Consulate
advises its employees against visiting Lagos Island or mainland
Lagos after dark. Consulate employees travel in armored vehicles
between the islands and Murtala Mohammed International Airport.
When traveling to the airport at night, Consulate employees are
accompanied by a second vehicle carrying a police officer.
Political gatherings and street demonstrations have been known
to occur. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and maintain
security awareness at all times.
CRIME AND CRIMINAL VIOLENCE: Violent crime affecting foreigners
is a serious problem, especially in Lagos and the southern regions
of the country. 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. Many Americans have been victims of
armed robbery on the road from Murtala Muhammed International
Airport. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes
slowly, if at all, 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 where they may obtain current safety information and advice
on minimizing risks.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate. The pamphlets, A
Safe Trip Abroad and Tips
for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa, provide useful information
regarding personal security while traveling abroad and on travel
in the region in general. Both are available from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
COMMERCIAL FRAUD: A major and continuing problem is the
commercial scam or sting that targets foreigners, including many
U.S. citizens. 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
Expanding bilateral law enforcement cooperation, which has resulted
in numerous raids on commercial fraud premises, does not yet appear
to have significantly reduced the overall level of fraud activity.
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 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. Both the Department of Commerce
in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos can
provide business travelers with further details.
For additional information, please consult the Department of
State's brochure, Tips
for Business Travelers to Nigeria, available via the Bureau
of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov or
send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Office of Overseas
Citizens Services, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington,
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Nigeria are
generally not up to U.S./European standards. 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 staffs. Hospitals often expect immediate cash
payment for health services.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program
does not provide for payment of medical services outside the United
States. Please check with your own insurance company to confirm
whether your policy applies overseas. A provision for medical
evacuation is strongly encouraged due to the near total lack of
trauma care or other sophisticated care for the critically ill
or injured in Nigeria. Please ascertain whether payment will be
made to an overseas hospital or doctor or if you will be reimbursed
later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also
include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition
of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international
traveler's hotline at telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747);
fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC's
Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.
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 it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
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, does not have a single operating traffic light. The rainy
season from May to October is especially dangerous because of
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 have disrupted or blocked traffic for
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. Inter-city travelers must also
consider that road-side 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 that wearing seat belts
saves lives, and, when in a vehicle, to lock the doors and raise
the 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, for instance, 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.
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  (1)
492-2218 or 492-3369.
For additional general information
about road safety, including links to foreign government sites,
please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
web site at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AIR TRAVEL SECURITY: On December 22, 1999, the U.S. Secretary
of Transportation announced that the United States was lifting
its ban on direct flights between the United States and Murtala
Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos. The decision followed
a detailed review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
security experts that determined that the airport's security system
had been extensively overhauled and conformed to international
The Nigerian government has announced its intention to privatize
Nigerian Airways. A number of Nigerian airlines serve the domestic
market and some foreign destinations. Most Nigerian airlines have
aging fleets, limited technical capabilities and face serious
financial problems. The U.S. Embassy is concerned that some of
their operational and maintenance standards may be inadequate
to ensure passenger safety.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers, nor economic authority to operate
such services between the United States and Nigeria, the FAA has
not yet formally assessed Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority for
compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further
information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation
within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit
Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S.
Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at telephone 618-229-4801.
PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: Permission is required to take
photographs of government buildings, airports, bridges or official-looking
buildings. 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 breaking of the camera, exposure of the
film, a demand for payment of a fine or bribe, or a roughing-up.
CURRENCY ISSUES: The Nigerian currency, the naira, is
non-convertible. U.S. Dollars are widely accepted. Nigeria is
a cash society, and it is usually necessary to bring sufficient
currency to cover the expenses of a planned visit. Credit cards
are rarely accepted beyond a few hotels. Due to the prevalence
of credit card fraud in Nigeria and by cohorts in the United States,
credit card use is not advised. While Citibank cashes travelers
checks, most other banks do not. American Express does not have
offices in Nigeria, but Thomas Cook does have offices there. Inter-bank
transfers are often difficult to accomplish, though money transfer
services are widespread. 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 law, even unknowingly, may be arrested, imprisoned, and/or
expelled. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal
drugs in Nigeria are strictly enforced. Those arrested routinely
face prolonged detention before trial, and convicted offenders
can expect jail sentences and fines.
For information on international adoption of children and international
parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site
at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION: U.S. citizens
are strongly encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja
or the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos, and to obtain updated
information on travel and security in Nigeria. Currently, the
U.S. Embassy in Abuja only provides emergency consular services.
Non-emergency, as well as emergency, consular services can be
obtained at the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 9 Mambilla, Maitama District,
Abuja. The telephone number is (9) 523-0916. The U.S. Consulate
General is located at 2 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island,
Lagos. The telephone number is (1) 261-0050. The
e-mail address for the Consular Section in Lagos is: Lagoscons2@state.gov.