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Nigeria 2010 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Nigeria; Africa

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

 

The U.S. Department of State considers the threat posed by criminal elements in Nigeria to be critical.  Indiscriminate violent crime is common throughout the country.  Kidnappings, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, residential burglaries, home invasions, and financial fraud all take place throughout the country.  Criminals will not hesitate to use violence if the victim offers resistance. To date, U.S. travelers have not been specifically targeted, but due to the widespread poverty and perception of western affluence, American citizen travelers should take extra precautions when traveling Nigeria.

 

Political Violence

 

Although Americans have generally not been the targets of political violence in Nigeria, indigenous terrorists and criminal groups have become more vocal in expressing their intent to kidnap westerners, to include Americans, throughout Nigeria. Anti-American rhetoric by Islamic clerics in the north has been reported in the media. There were incidents of sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians in Plateau State in November 2008 and January 2010, with each incident resulting in hundreds being killed and thousands being displaced.  In July 2009, a conflict between Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group and Nigerian security forces resulted in an estimated 700 deaths across four cities in northeastern Nigeria. 

 

Terrorism and Organized Crime

 

Efforts to combat regional terrorism and organized crime continue to be challenging for Nigeria. Corruption is rampant and regional terrorism remains a significant threat. Organized crime is generally related directly towards financial fraud, drug trafficking, and oil smuggling. The Nigerian government has been making positive steps towards prosecuting corrupt individuals within the government, but it remains an ongoing struggle.

 

Local media continues to report arrests made by the Nigeria State Security Service (SSS) of individuals suspected of having ties with international terrorist groups. In November 2007, a group of militants with suspected ties to al-Qa'ida in Northern Nigeria was arrested by the SSS.  International terrorism is a continuing threat in Nigeria. The Christmas Day airline suicide bomb attempt by a Nigerian citizen highlights Nigeria as a country of concern regarding terrorism activity and al-Qa'ida’s growing interest in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

 

Post-specific Concerns

 

Earthquakes and Floods

 

Earthquakes and floods do not pose threats to central and northern Nigeria. The southern coastal regions are prone to seasonal flooding during periods of heavy rain and high tides.

 

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

 

Driving in Nigeria is a major safety concern. Although traffic laws do exist, enforcement is almost non-existent and there are no required inspections of either private or commercial vehicles.There have been numerous automobile accidents involving passenger buses, taxis, and personally owned vehicles. Due to a lack of centralized traffic accident reporting, many accidents are not documented and thus there are no reliable estimates of traffic fatalities. Vehicular travel in Nigeria can be a hazardous undertaking and should be scheduled so that travel is only done during the daylight hours. The lack of traffic laws, poorly maintained roads, and unpredictable driving habit add to the risk of travel. Vehicular accidents are common and frequently draw a large and confrontational crowd. All of these elements work to criminals’ advantage.

 

Public transportation is dangerous and is not recommended. Of particular concern in Lagos are the motorcycle taxis, commonly known as okadas. These unlicensed taxis present a significant nuisance to other motorists as the result of their unpredictable driving habits and lack of compliance with the rules of the road. It is common for okada drivers, and even their passengers, to become confrontational and violent when involved in an accident with another vehicle. Okada drivers are commonly involved in many criminal incidents as either active participants (as lookouts) or as the means of escape for those actually conducting the crime. In addition to the criminal dangers of travel in the country, the lack of medical responses, or adequate trauma facilities is a concern for all motorists.

 

In recent years, there have been a number of plane crashes and near misses that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of airline travelers within Nigeria. However, airline safety has improved in response to measures taken by the Nigerian aviation authorities. Nevertheless, safety issues remain in the local airline industry.

 

Kidnappings

 

Expatriates and western-based companies have been the targets for kidnappings and facility takeovers in the Niger Delta region. These incidents usually involve disputes with the local communities and local groups attempting to ensure the oil industry companies negotiate with them regarding benefits for the local community. However, there has been an increase of kidnappings for ransom loosely veiled under the cloak of political activism. Wealthy Nigerians or those employed by international companies increasingly have become victims of kidnapping for ransom. While the kidnappers generally do not seek to harm hostages, their actions do involve violence and in some instances resulted in the injury or death of hostages in 2009. As a result, the U.S. government recommends only essential travel to the Niger Delta and neighboring states such as Imo and Abia. 

 

Police Response

 

Despite a visible police presence in Abuja and Lagos, police assistance can be extremely limited. The Nigerian Police Force (NPF) continues to be plagued by a serious lack of resources, to include: communication equipment and transportation assets.  Police response to criminal incidents, although well intentioned, is less than satisfactory as victims are often required to transport police officers to the incident. NPF patrols of residential neighborhoods do not exist. Approximately one quarter of NPF officers nationwide are assigned to private security details for either businesses or individuals and these officers routinely ignore any requests for assistance not directly associated with their assignment.

 

The local police in Nigeria are generally not respected by the average citizens as being an effective law enforcement body. The criminal element in and around Lagos does not fear capture or prosecution for their crimes. However, should criminals be captured by vigilantes, lynching or immolation are common punishments.

 

Victims of crime should report to the nearest police station. The NPF is well intentioned, but lacks the necessary training and resources to conduct successful investigations. Usually, victims must maintain close contact to move an investigation forward. Crime labs and facilities to process evidence do not exist in Lagos. Local police or neighborhood associations are generally ineffective in deterring or disrupting burglaries and other crimes, and seldom are able to apprehend or arrest suspects after the fact.

 

It is necessary to immediately state to the security service personnel that you are a U.S. citizen.  Under existing conventions that Nigeria has ratified, the government of Nigeria is required to notify U.S. Embassy Abuja or U.S. Consulate General Lagos of the detention of a U.S. citizen without delay, which has been interpreted to mean within 72 hours. If arrested, it is to the advantage of the detainee to respectfully cooperate and maintain his or her composure when interacting with local officials. Normally, a detainee is not fed by the police so an individual in custody must make arrangements with family members or friends for meals; if no one is available to assist, the detainee would contact the American Citizen Services Unit (ACS) at the embassy or consulate general, which would facilitate a loan for meals.

 

The American Citizen Services (ACS) at the embassy or consulate general should be the first point of contact for assistance. Contact numbers for the embassy and consulate general are provided in the Further Information section of this report.  At this time, there is no reliable nationwide national emergency number; however while in Lagos state travelers may obtain police assistance by calling 767. The NPF has instituted Rapid Response Squads (RRS) in marked red and white pick-up trucks. These RRS units sit in fixed positions and are available for response to crimes in progress. It is recommended that an individual locate the nearest police station and inquire as to the contact phone number for that particular station. Additional information can be found at the  U.S. Department of State Travel Information website.

 

Medical Emegencies

 

Emergency medical care is not readily available in Nigeria, including major cities.There are several hospitals and clinics located in Abuja and Lagos, but none are up to U.S. standards. Poor training, lack of equipment, and poor sterilization standards are issues for the majority of hospitals and clinics in Nigeria. All private hospitals and clinics require cash payment before receiving any care.

 

Local Clinics in Abuja and Lagos


National Hospital
Plot 132 Yakubu Pam Street
Central Business District
Abuja, Nigeria
(234)  9-627-2686; (234)  9-627-2687 or (234)  9-627-2688
www.nationalhospitalabuja.net

 
Abuja Clinics Limited
Number 22 Amazon Street
Maitama District
Abuja, Nigeria
(234)  9-413-7020 or (234)  9-413-7199
www.abujaclinics.com

 

International SOS Clinic

Dr. Raymond Ruthvin

23 A Temple

Ikoyi Island, Lagos

Phone: (234) 1-461-7710 or (234) 1-461-7711

 

Lagoon Hospital
Modupe Dada, Clinical Manager

8, Marine Road, Apapa, Lagos

Phone: (234) 7-130-1265; (234) 1-62-838-2124 or (234) 8-02-311-3522

 

Reddington Multi Specialist Hospital

Dr. Neil Davidson, Dr. Lawani and Dr. Owabowale

12 Idowu Martins Street

Victoria Island, Lagos

Near Mega Plaza

Phone: (234) 806-004-5651 or (234) 1-271-5340

 

AMC (Atlantic Medical Centre)

Dr. Ibrahim El-Harake

7, Oju Olobun Close

Victoria Island, Lagos

Phone: (234) 262-0316 or (234) 1-775-3838

 

Additional state by state medical information can be found via the following link:

http://nigeria.usembassy.gov/medical_information.html

 

Another challenge in Nigeria is the ability to purchase dependable and safe medications, both over the counter medication and prescription medications.  The above mentioned clinics import some of their medications.  Counterfeit products, including medications, have affected many Nigerians.  Ensuring the quality and safety of medication produced locally is very difficult. Therefore, it is recommended that individuals traveling to Nigeria bring a supply of common over the counter medications with them (Aspirin, acetaminophen, cold and cough medication) to last through their travel.  Individuals moving to Nigeria should bring at least a one year supply of any prescription medications. Medi-Plus is the most reputable local pharmacy which imports most medications.

 

Medi-Plus

Palms Shopping Center, Lekki Expressway (a branch is also at Mega Plaza)

Victoria Island, Lagos

(234) 1-271-1823

 

Air Ambulance Services

 

For the information pertaining to air ambulance services, please visit the following website:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1470.html#companies.

 

Travel Precautions

 

The following Nigeria specific security precautions are provided to raise your security consciousness and help deter and prevent both terrorist and criminal attacks:

 

·         Avoid disputes with local citizens.

·         Avoid large crowds of people.

·         Do not use personal checks, credit cards, or ATMs anywhere in Nigeria.

·         Due to the proliferation of identity and financial fraud throughout Nigeria, do not bring information about yourself and your finances to the country.

·         Be wary of business offers promising a large payoff for little or no investment.

·         Carry only the amount of cash you need and distribute it within several pockets.

·         Avoid displaying any items of value such as jewelry or expensive cell phones.

·         Avoid guides and other strangers who may approach you with offers of assistance.

·         Always be polite and respectful of policemen and soldiers.

·         Never photograph public buildings, monuments, or airports.

·         Some Nigerians may object to having their picture taken, always ask permission first.

·         If approached by an armed robber or carjacker, cooperate.

·         Never leave identifying materials or valuables in the vehicle.

·         Avoid trips to remote areas, especially after dark.

·         Keep vehicles well-maintained, including a usable spare tire, and a full tank of fuel.

·         Remain a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead to allow space for avoidance maneuvers.

·         Always slow down and acknowledge police and military at checkpoints. Police are authorized to shoot at suspected stolen vehicles, and will do so if you do not stop.

·         Be alert for suspicious persons when exiting or approaching your vehicle.

·         All businesses, both Nigerian and expatriate, employ guard services at work and at home. There are many companies with varying quality of service. As Nigerian law prohibits the arming of private security personnel, police often supplement guard forces. These arrangements can be made by your local guard company or with the local police station.

 

Further Information

 

U.S. Embassy Abuja Contact Information

Plot 1075 Diplomatic Drive
Central District Area, Abuja, Nigeria

 

Regional Security Office: (234) 9-461-4175

Embassy Operator: (234) 9-461-4000

Marine Post One: (234) 9-461-4200

Duty Officer: (234) 803-408-6000

 

U.S. Consulate General Lagos Contact Information

2 Walter Carrington Crescent

Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria

 

Regional Security Office: (234) 1-460-3514

Consulate Operator: (234) 1-460-3400

Marine Post One: (234) 1-460-3410

Duty Officer: (234) 807-550-0167

 

The Consular Information Sheet for Nigeria, located at the link below, provides additional information for any traveler to the country:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_987.html.

 

It is also recommended that any traveler register with the U.S. Department of State: https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.  

 

OSAC Country Council

 

Nigeria’s OSAC Country Council is located in Lagos. General membership meetings are held the last Tuesday of every month. For security purposes, access is restricted. If you are not currently an active Council member, ensure you contact the RSO Lagos prior to attending the meeting. The RSO can be contacted at (234) 1-460-3514 or at LagosRSOOffice@state.gov.