Monday, 6 June 2016

British Government Updates Travel Advice Across Nigeria

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), about 117,000 British nationals visit Nigeria each year. Sequel to this, the FCO recently updated its travel advise across Nigeria. The latest information updated on June 2, 2016, is remains current as at 6 June, 2016.
Advice about elections in the Delta has been removed but four recent incidents of political violence in Onitsha, Anambra State, South-East Nigeria which resulted in fatalities was noted. Though the travel advise warns against ALL travels to riverine areas of Nigeria’s volatile Niger Delta comprising – Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, information was somewhat scanty on the relapse of militancy in the Niger Delta led by the Niger Delta Avengers, rather referring to erstwhile militant group MEND.

Though an average Nigerian will tell you the security situation in northern Nigeria has improved but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against ALL travel to:
  • Borno State
  • Yobe State
  • Adamawa State
  • Bauchi State
  • Gombe State
  • Kano city
  • within 20km of the border with Niger in Zamfara State
The FCO advise against ALL BUT essential travel to: 
  • Kano State
  • Kaduna State
  • Jigawa State
  • Katsina State
  • Kogi State
  • within 20km of the border with Niger in Sokoto and Kebbi States
  • Jos City in Plateau State
  • Riyom and Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State
  • Non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers State
  • Abia State
On Terrorism,

There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could target public places where crowds gather, including markets, transport terminals, government buildings, security and educational institutions (schools, further education colleges and universities are all regular targets), and international organisations. Attacks can be indiscriminate including in places frequented by foreigners like restaurants, bars, markets, hotels, shopping centres and places of worship.
There have been regular attacks on churches and mosques in Nigeria at times of worship and at football viewing centres. Many attacks have taken place around religious and public holidays in public or crowded places, including places of worship. Further attacks are likely. A heavy security presence often indicates areas of particularly high risk. 

You should avoid public places and where there are political or other large public gatherings. Be vigilant, remain alert and pay attention to your surroundings at all times. You should avoid affected areas in the immediate aftermath of an attack. 

Terrorist attacks occur on a regular basis in northern and north east Nigeria, however, there have been a significant number of attacks elsewhere and further attacks could occur anywhere. On 25 June 2014, an explosion occurred in the Apapa area of Lagos killing five people. Media reports attribute this to a terrorist attack. The Nigerian authorities have not confirmed this. 

The main terrorist threat in Nigeria comes from Islamist extremist groups Boko Haram and Ansaru.

You should avoid public places where crowds gather, including religious gatherings and insecure public spaces like markets and transport hubs. A heavy security presence often indicates areas of particularly high risk. Avoid affected areas in the immediate aftermath of any attack. 

On 12 December 2015 a clash in Zaria, Kaduna State between the Nigerian Security Forces and The Islamic Movement in Nigeria resulted in a number of deaths. Monitor local media for updates on the situation, be vigilant and take local advice on areas to avoid within the city.

On Kidnapping

There is a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria especially in the Kogi region. Recent terrorist kidnaps have occurred mostly in northern Nigeria, but could occur anywhere in Nigeria. Kidnaps can be for financial or political gain, and can be motivated by criminality or terrorism. See Kidnapping
You should be aware of your surroundings and avoid large crowds or public demonstrations as they can turn violent unexpectedly. Follow news reports and be alert to developments. If you become aware of any nearby unrest or disturbances, you should leave the area immediately.

Violent crime is common

Demonstrations and civil unrest can occur at short notice. Follow news reports and be alert to developments. If you become aware of any nearby protests you should leave the area immediately. 

Before considering any travel to areas to which the FCO advise against all or all but essential travel, take professional security advice. Be vigilant at all times, keep others informed of your travel plans and vary your routines. You should follow your employer’s security advice, make sure your accommodation is secure and review your security measures regularly. The level of consular assistance available to British nationals in areas to which the FCO advise against all or all but essential travel is limited.

Flash flooding can occur during the wet season (June to October). There is a greater risk from water-borne diseases during the rainy season.

Boko Haram

Boko Haram is an Islamist extremist group in Nigeria that has been proscribed by the UK as a terrorist organisation. The group aspires to establish Islamic law in Nigeria, destabilise the Nigerian government and remove western influence from the country. The group has been linked with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. On 12 March 2015, Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) accepted a pledge of allegiance by Boko Haram. 

Boko Haram regularly mounts attacks in northern Nigeria. Most attacks occur in the north east, particularly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states where Boko Haram has its operating base. Military operations against Boko Haram are ongoing in these states. Retaliatory attacks following these operations have occurred and more are likely. There has been a recent increase in suicide bombings targeting crowded gatherings like markets and places of worship. Since September 2015, there have been a small number of actual and attempted suicide attacks against IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) facilities in Borno and Adamawa.

Safety and security

Local travel

You should follow news reports and be alert to developments that might trigger civil unrest. Violence can erupt quickly and without warning. If you are working in Nigeria, you should follow your employer’s local security guidelines. You are strongly advised to take professional security advice, be vigilant at all times and review your security measures regularly. Keep others informed of your travel plans and vary your routines. Make sure your accommodation is secure and consider pre-deployment training on travelling under close protection.

Inter-communal violence can occur throughout Nigeria. Many incidents occur in the central belt states. You should be alert to local government announcements and media reporting, and seek advice before travelling to the affected areas. 

Swimming is dangerous off the coast of Nigeria due to rip tides and undertows, drownings occur each year. You should take care and seek local advice.

Take particular care if you’re visiting crowded public places or attending events which attract large crowds. Criminals often use these situations as cover for robbery and theft.

Northern Nigeria

The FCO advise against all travel to Borno State, Yobe State, Adamawa State, Gombe State and Bauchi State where there are frequent violent attacks. Recent attacks have increasingly focused on public places, including churches, mosques, bars and restaurants, resulting in a large number of injuries and deaths. The FCO advise against all travel to Kano City which sees frequent high levels of violence.

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to all areas of Kano State, Kaduna State, Jigawa State, Katsina State and the Okene region of Kogi State where there has been an increase in violent attacks, Jos City, and the Riyom and Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas in Plateau State where inter-communal tensions can lead to outbreaks of violence. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to Warri City.

Travelling anywhere in the north of Nigeria is potentially dangerous. You could get kidnapped or find yourself caught up in a terrorist or other violent incident. Taking the right precautions will help reduce the risks, but won’t eliminate them altogether. Make sure you are not the one who gets in trouble. Don’t have regular patterns of travel or movement.

If you live, or work, in the North in areas to which the FCO advise against travel, you’re particularly at risk and will need a high level of security. Are you confident that the security you have in place is adequate? The risks, particularly from terrorism, have grown in the past few years. Westerners have been kidnapped from protected compounds. Good security two years ago is unlikely to be adequate now. Make sure your employers provide an adequate level of security and ask them to regularly review their security arrangements.

Regular military operations are ongoing in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. If you live or work in Nigeria you should monitor developments in these states and announcements by the state governments as there is an increased threat of retaliatory attacks elsewhere in Nigeria as a result of these military operations.

Curfews

There are often curfews in parts of Maiduguri, Borno State and Adamawa State. Curfews, and restrictions on the movement of vehicles, can be imposed, amended and lifted at short notice throughout Nigeria.
Failure to comply with all curfews and movement restrictions could put you at significant risk. You should check with the local authorities or someone with local knowledge for up to date information on curfews and restrictions before you travel.

Criminal kidnaps

Since 2013 at least 6 British and dual British nationals, and many other foreign nationals have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta area. One British national has been killed. In 2015, several foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Kogi State.

There is a high threat of kidnapping and other armed attacks targeting oil and gas facilities and workers. This also applies to ships and oil rigs at sea off the coast of the Niger Delta. British nationals of Nigerian origin visiting friends and relatives are often perceived as being wealthier than locals and are at particular risk of kidnap for ransom.

When arranging meetings in Nigeria make sure those who attend are known to you and hold the meeting at a secure location. 

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking.
***For more information on kidnapping hotspots, dynamics in Nigeria, refer to this piece: Investigation: Nigeria’s Thriving Kidnapping Enterprise

Maritime security

There have been armed robberies against ships at anchor in Nigerian waters and at many of the rivers and harbours in the Niger Delta area. Mariners should seek professional security advice and take appropriate precautions.

Crime

There are high levels of violent street crime (muggings, kidnappings, car-jackings and armed robbery).
Criminals have targeted visiting British nationals as their perceived wealth makes them an attractive victim.

You should therefore limit road travel at night as far as possible. Be vigilant at all times, even if staying with friends and family, and follow the security guidance offered by employers or hosts. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and don’t wear valuable watches, jewellery or items of sentimental value. If you suspect danger, move to a safer area.

There have been a number of robberies and kidnappings in Abia, Edo and Anambra States, particularly along the Enugu-Awka-Onitsha expressway in Anambra State. 

Experience has shown that if you’re caught up in an armed robbery, you should immediately comply with the attackers’ demands. Those who have suffered injury or worse during such attacks have been perceived as not complying fully or quickly enough.

Scams

British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. The scams come in many forms (romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities) and can pose great financial risk to victims. You should be very cautious about any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face to face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa. 

If you or your relatives or friends are asked to transfer money to Nigeria you should make absolutely sure that it is not part of a scam and that you have properly checked with the person receiving the money that they are requesting it. If the caller claims to be in distress, you should ask whether they have reported the incident (by phone or e-mail) to the British Deputy High Commission in Lagos.

People have received scam e-mails claiming to be from a British High Commission office in Nigeria. If you receive an email that appears to be from any British High Commission office in Nigeria asking for bank details or money, you should immediately contact the Consular Section of the British Deputy High Commission in Lagos. 

You should be cautious if you’re considering fertility treatment in Nigeria. There have been a number of staged fake births (commonly called ‘miracle babies’) which result in visitors being falsely led to believe they have given birth. You should be aware of the risks associated with bringing a child who is not biologically related to you into the UK without following appropriate legal procedures.

Road travel

Traffic can be chaotic and slow moving. Take a mobile telephone with you when travelling by car so that you can stay in touch with others. Keep a supply of bottled water in your vehicle at all times.
Limit travel after dark outside city centres as far as possible; and take care if you do travel after dark. Avoid quieter and poorly lit roads. Be particularly vigilant when sitting in traffic jams or at traffic lights. Keep car windows up and doors locked, and make sure valuables are out of sight. If you feel your vehicle is being followed, drive to the nearest place of safety (eg the nearest police station). 

Take care when driving outside cities, consider travelling in convoy, and if possible avoid making journeys that involve travel after dark.
In Lagos, eating, smoking or using a mobile phone while driving and riding a motorcycle without a helmet are prohibited. Motorists face fines or imprisonment for violations. 

There are authorised and 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. 

There are frequent reports of robberies and car-jackings, some involving armed gunmen, on Nigeria’s urban and rural road network.
Public transport is dangerous. Taxis and long distance buses are often poorly maintained, uninsured and driven by unqualified drivers. Most major hotels offer cars for hire with drivers. You should use these where possible.
If you are expecting a greeter or driver to collect you at any of Nigeria’s international airports, make sure they have properly identified themselves before you set off. Bogus greeters are a problem.

Air travel

There are concerns about the safety and reliability of some airline companies operating domestic flights within Nigeria. You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
Airlines flying between Nigeria and London can occasionally become overbooked.

Political situation

Political rallies, protests and violent demonstrations can occur with little notice throughout the country. International news events can sometimes trigger anti-Western demonstrations. There is the potential for increased tension on Fridays. Keep yourself informed of developments and if you encounter a threatening or intimidating situation, don’t try to make your way through it. Turn round and go home.
Since December 2015, four incidents of political violence in Onitsha, Anambra state have resulted in fatalities. The most recent of these occurred on 30th May 2016.


For more information, refer to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website