Travel Advice: Avoid non-essential travel
STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED IN ADAMAWA, BORNO AND YOBE STATES – AVOID ALL TRAVEL TO THESE STATES
On 14 May 2013, the Nigerian Government declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. You should avoid all travel to these states. Curfews are in place and additional troops have been dispatched. There are a very small number of Irish citizens resident in Adamawa state. They have been advised to continuously monitor local developments and be alert to announcements by the state government and local authorities. Please ensure that you have registered with the Embassy of Ireland in Abuja if you are resident in Nigeria.
Although there are growing trade links between Ireland and Nigeria and Irish people continue to live peacefully in all parts of the country, the Embassy of Ireland in Nigeria currently advises Irish citizens against all non-essential travel to Nigeria. This is because the security situation, particularly in northern Nigeria, is unpredictable and there is a very high risk of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime, inter-communal clashes and civil unrest. In addition, as Nigerian troops have been deployed to the military intervention in Mali, retaliatory attacks are now a risk in northern Nigeria.
Accordingly the Embassy of Ireland in Nigeria advises citizens against all travel to the following northern and middle belt states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano and Yobe.
We also advise against all travel to the riverine areas of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states and to Warri city (within the Niger Delta area).
We advise against all non-essential travel to the rest of Nigeria.
Citizens travelling for essential business, or who are currently resident in Nigeria, should register their details online here or directly with the Embassy of Ireland in Abuja. We urge Irish citizens in Nigeria, particularly those in the north and in the Niger Delta, to remain alert and vigilant at all times.
RISK OF TERRORIST ATTACKS AND KIDNAPPINGS
The threat of terrorist attacks in Nigeria remains very high. A number of domestic terrorist groups are known to operate in the country, of which the most prominent is Jama-atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (popularly known as Boko Haram). Boko Haram is a Salafist movement which has claimed responsibility for violent attacks in Abuja and northern Nigeria which is fighting the Nigerian Government and aims to create an Islamic state. Targets have included churches and mosques, shopping centres and markets, restaurants, bars and other areas frequented by expatriates, the United Nations’ building in Abuja and Nigerian government buildings (in particular police and army installations). Attacks are often mounted on significant political or religious dates, such as the 2011 Christmas Day attacks on churches in Abuja. Reports of ceasefires and negotiations should be treated with skepticism and citizens should remain vigilant at all times.
The socio-economic, political and religious factors driving the Boko Haram phenomenon, and the extent of the movement’s connections with international terrorist networks, are not yet fully understood and it is likely that some of the attacks attributed to ‘Boko Haram’ are of a criminal and not political nature. However, the group has developed its capacity to target, plan and carry-out attacks and has stated that UN and Nigerian Government installations are targets for future attacks. In addition, due to the involvement of Nigerian troops in the current military intervention in Mali, there is a risk of retaliatory attacks in Nigeria. For instance, on 19 January 2013, two Nigerian soldiers were killed and five others wounded in Kogi state. They were en route to be deployed to Mali.
Irish citizens should be aware that Boko Haram has issued an ultimatum to all Christians in Northern Nigeria to leave the area. While similar ultimata have been issued in the past, in the context of the recent upsurge in terrorist attacks by the group, we currently advise Irish citizens travelling in Northern Nigeria to exercise extreme caution, to pay attention to local media and to be prepared to change travel plans at short notice.
Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (Vanguard for the protection of Muslims in Africa – popularly known as Ansaru) is a terrorist group operating in northern Nigeria which is believed to be broadly aligned with al-Qaeda. They claimed responsibility for the December 2012 kidnapping of a French national in Katsina state.
We strongly advise against all travel to the Niger Delta at this time. Irish citizens should be aware that there is a high risk of serious crimes, including armed attacks, targeted against expatriates in the Niger Delta. In particular, the risk of abduction, whether politically or economically motivated, is very high. Militants have carried out attacks on oil and gas facilities in the Delta and may be planning further attacks. Despite Nigerian Government amnesty programmes, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) remains active and poses a threat to western business operations and employees in the area. It continues to engage in kidnappings and attacks on oil installations. In December 2012, Indian and South Korean workers were kidnapped and subsequently released. Irish citizens travelling to this area should note that the ability of the embassy to provide consular services in the Delta area is extremely limited due to ongoing security concerns.
Citizens should take into consideration potential terrorist targets when planning their activities and should always monitor local news before making travel arrangements. Citizens are advised to develop personal security plans (contact the Embassy for advice), avoid travel at night, refrain from travelling alone and alter routes when making regular trips.
Irish missionaries have been living peacefully in northern Nigeria and the Delta area for many years. More often than not, they are embedded in local communities and are engaged in work of a cross-community and interfaith nature. While you may not see yourself as a target for extremists, the Embassy asks that you remain in regular contact with us regarding the security situation in your area, that you remain vigilant and alert at all times and that you develop personal security plans.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL - GENERAL SAFETY & SECURITY ADVICE
Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Nigeria for entry requirements. Before finalising your travel plans, check whether you have been issued a multiple or single entry visa. Make sure to bring a number of copies of your passport and your visa. Carry a copy of your passport and visa at all times during your stay.
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which covers all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation and repatriation of remains, before travelling to Nigeria. You should check any policy exclusions and ensure that your policy covers all activities you wish to undertake. Be aware that the Irish Government and the Embassy of Ireland in Abuja do not fund emergency medical repatriation or the repatriation of remains.
CRIME & INTERNET SCAMS
Violent street crimes including armed robberies, muggings and car-jackings are especially prevalent in the south of the country including Lagos and Port Harcourt. The risk of crime is particularly high at night and travellers are advised to minimise their travel within urban areas after dark and to avoid travelling outside urban areas at night (see Road Safety below).
Citizens should be aware of the risks presented by fraudsters. A range of scams are used to encourage victims to part with money, known as 419 scams after the relevant section in the penal code. Some criminals operate through internet sites, building trust with victims over a period of time before announcing that they are in dire trouble and require funds urgently. Women are often the target of such scams. Information on advance fee fraud in West Africa is available from the website of the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
For security as well as commercial reasons, business people travelling to Nigeria to be hosted by a new local partner should verify the background of the partner before finalising arrangements. Contact the Embassy of Ireland in Abuja before committing any project funds or booking flights.
Consult your doctor well in advance of travelling to Nigeria about necessary inoculations, precautions, current travel health notices and anti-malarial measures. Due to the existence of counterfeit medications, citizens are advised to bring essential medicines with you.
Travellers should note that a Yellow Fever vaccination is an entry requirement for Nigeria and travellers may be asked to provide evidence of this vaccination to Nigerian Immigration Officials prior to entering the country. Travellers who are unable to provide evidence of this vaccination may be given the choice of having it administered at the airport or being refused entry to the country. The World Health Organization (WHO) website provides useful information for travellers.
In most parts of Nigeria, medical facilities are very basic and even in major population centres the level of available medical care is quite limited. Accordingly medical evacuation to London or Johannesburg is frequently required for anything more than a minor accident or illness. You should ensure that you have comprehensive travel and medical insurance which fully covers medical evacuations from Nigeria.
Malaria is extremely common and prophylaxis is recommended for all areas of the country. These should be purchased in advance. HIV/AIDS is prevalent although at a lower rate than on other parts of the continent. Travellers should exercise appropriate precautions. It is advised to bring condoms from Ireland.
Nigeria remains polio-endemic and there are regular outbreaks of cholera and measles throughout the country.
Following a number of fatal commercial airline disasters in recent years, Irish citizens should carefully evaluate implications for their security and safety before deciding to undertake domestic air travel. Travellers should note that domestic flights are frequently cancelled at short notice and travellers should consider direct international flights into Nigeria rather than transiting domestically.
LOCAL LAWS & CUSTOMS
By and large, Nigerians are deeply religious and atheists are likely to be met with bewilderment. The north is predominately Muslim and discretion in behaviour and dress is advised, especially when visiting religious sites. While the Sharia penal code is in force in 12 northern states, non-Muslims are not bound by Sharia law. Muslim and Christian worship ranges from mild to fundamentalist, and both are often infused with local animist beliefs. Marriage between Christians and Muslims is relatively common. Offices tend to observe Christian and Muslim holidays and often close early on Fridays for the jumu’ah, the Friday prayer.
Homosexual acts are illegal under Federal law throughout Nigeria and can attract a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. The Nigerian House of Representatives is currently debating a bill on same sex marriage which would see same-sex marriage couples face a 15-year prison sentence and individuals who witness the marriage face a ten-year prison term.
Possession, use of or trafficking in illegal drugs is a serious offence and can result in lengthy prison sentences and heavy fines.
Titles are common in Nigeria and it is important to address people with their correct title and with a full and warm greeting. Business meetings do not always start on time and may be interrupted by mobile phone calls.
Driving is erratic, with little attention to the rules of the road. Drive carefully at all times if you must drive. Do not drive during the night.
There are frequent reports of robberies and car-jackings, some involving armed gunmen, on Nigeria's road network. You should be vigilant when travelling on all major roads within Nigeria. You should avoid travel after dark outside cities. You should also take care after dark within cities, avoiding secondary roads and areas where other traffic is light. Be particularly vigilant when sitting in traffic jams or at traffic lights at night. Keep your car windows and doors locked and valuables out of sight.
There are authorised as well as unauthorised vehicle checkpoints throughout Nigeria. Some are for security checks, others to extort small payments of money. You should slow down at any type of checkpoint and use common sense at all times. The number of these checkpoints increases at night.
Public transport is dangerous. Taxis and long distance buses are poorly maintained and are often driven by fraudulent drivers. Travellers should in particular ensure that they have pre-arranged travel from their destination airport before travelling to Nigeria and should avoid using public transport from an airport.
Due to high instances of credit card fraud, you should avoid the use of credit cards. Nigeria is primarily a cash economy so bring adequate supplies of euros, sterling or dollars. 211₦ (Nigerian nairas) were approximately equal to €1 in February 2013. The largest denomination is a one thousand naira note (about €4.74).
Holders of Irish and Nigerian citizenships who are resident in Nigeria and who come into conflict with the laws of Nigeria will be treated firstly as a Nigerian citizen resident in your own state. This could mean that the Embassy of Ireland will be unable to assist you.
DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR MISSIONS IN NIGERIA