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Niger 2016 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Niger; Africa > Niger > Niamey

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Niger’s location between west and central Africa and the vast open deserts in the north make possible the transit of terrorists, criminals, weapons, migrants, contraband, and illegal drugs.

Post Crime Rating: High

Crime Threats

Crime occurs at all hours in Niamey and other major cities. Non-violent crimes (pickpocketing, purse snatching, backpack theft, cell phone theft) are present in major cities, notably in or around places where Westerners gather.

Vehicle thefts were prevalent; however, since the arrest of a Nigerien/Nigerian theft ring, the level has decreased. Most carjackings reported to police occur along the southern border.

Violent crimes (muggings, assaults) are more commonly committed after dark by multiple individuals. Assailants are aggressive and usually display some form of weapon during a robbery; the most common weapon employed is a knife (some Nigeriens carry knives or machetes as part of their normal dress). There has been an increase in the use of handguns during muggings and robberies.

There has been an overall decrease in residential robberies in Niamey. Home invasions and residential robberies occur primarily after dark and can be violent. There have been several incidents in which assailants attacked the residential guard or the occupants of the residence. While thieves typically choose to rob homes that have no residential guard and/or visible residential security measures, this has not stopped some assailants, including at some diplomatic and NGO residences. In addition, there have been numerous cases of commercial and NGO office robberies.

There is a loosely organized criminal element. With its lengthy and porous borders, Niger has long been a transit route for smugglers. In northern Niger, in the Sahara Desert, the seminomadic, pastoral Tuareg people have long facilitated trade, including the smuggling of contraband (weapons, illegal drugs, fuel, vehicles, human beings, cigarettes). Since the 2011 war in Libya, Niger has seen a rise in smuggling activity, and there have been clashes between smugglers and security forces. Along the border with Nigeria, criminal elements smuggle everything from fuel to rice to automobiles.

Cyber

Due to the lack of cyber infrastructure and the relatively low rate of Internet penetration, the prevalence of cybercrime is thought to be low. The rates at which these crimes are reported may be low because of the developing nature of security and law enforcement organizations’ abilities to investigate and prevent cybercrime.

Areas of Concerns

The Night Market should be avoided after dark, as criminals loiter in the area looking for potential victims. The area is notorious for pickpocketing, purse snatching, mugging, and assaults. Other markets, the area around the Gaweye and Grand Hotels, National Museum, and Kennedy Bridge are also high-risk areas, day or night.

Embassy Travel Policy (applicable to all U.S. government executive branch travelers under Chief of Mission authority) requires that all travel outside of Niamey be accompanied by an armed security escort, along with guards at hotels for overnight stays.

Authorities will not restrict travel based on nationality, but they do reserve the right to restrict travel based on the security situation along any intended route. If you wish to travel in Niger, please remember the security climate can change quickly, and authorities may decide to take additional security measures to ensure your safety.

Following the murder of a French tourist in Agadez in 2005, the government began requiring that NGOs be registered and that they inform the government of each trip they plan to undertake. To avoid detention and/or expulsion by authorities, the U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that NGO workers abide by the following standard operating procedures:
Make sure that your NGO has received official recognition from the government. For details on how to do this, visit the Managing Office of Decentralized Cooperation and Non-Governmental Organizations (Direction de la Coopération Décentralisée et des Organisations Non Governementales) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (Ministère des Affaires Etrangères et de la Coopération). Carry a copy of the official recognition (Arrêté) of the right of your NGO to operate in Niger.
If your international NGO sponsor is without a permanent presence in Niger, you should verify that your NGO group has informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation at least two weeks prior to the start of a mission. This notice should be in writing and should include the purpose of the mission, the dates of the mission, where the mission will take place, and the types and license plate numbers of the vehicles involved in the mission. The Ministry of the Interior should be copied on this notice. 
If your NGO is headquartered in Niger, you should verify that your group has informed the Ministry of Planning, Land Management, and Community Development (Ministère du Plan, de l’Aménagement du Territoire et du Développement Communautaire) at least two weeks prior to the start of a mission. This notice should be in writing and should include the purpose of the mission, the names of the individuals who will be working for the NGO on the mission, the dates of the mission, where the mission will take place, and the types and license plate numbers of the vehicles involved in the mission. The Ministry of the Interior should be copied on this notice of mission.  
NGOs should ask for a receipt of any notification provided to a Ministry.
The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that prior to beginning a mission in Niger, NGO workers present themselves at the regional governor’s office in addition to these requirements. NGO workers should ask for a receipt of the documents they present to the governor (or highest-ranking official available). It is prudent to provide the governor with the same written notification that was provided to the required ministries.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions in major cities are hazardous. While there are some paved roads in Niamey, most residential streets are dirt or sand. On the paved roads, there are a number of roundabouts, and they are often sources of congestion; different traffic circles have different rules of priority, which contributes to the incidence of traffic accidents. Drivers can be aggressive, and the rules of the road are often disregarded. Roads are inundated with motorcycles; motorcycle accidents occur frequently, and many result in fatalities. The large number of motorcycles, bicycles, vendor carts, broken-down vehicles, beggars, and pedestrians on the streets makes driving a challenge. Livestock (camels, cattle, goats) also wander in the streets.

Traffic police are present at large intersections and conduct enforcement checks at numerous points throughout the city. Despite their presence, traffic police are largely ineffective in preventing accidents and ensuring motorists’ safety. Police can be effective, but some traffic officers attempt to extort money from drivers. All Péages (toll points) at city limits on major roads are official and should be respected. A driver will receive a receipt of toll payment, which s/he should maintain for the return trip on the same road. 

The routes to neighboring countries are focal points for smuggling and other criminal activities. Most attacks occur at dusk, after dark, or in the very early morning hours, and they involve the use of firearms. Bandits are not afraid to use violence and may commit murder when victims show signs of resistance. Daytime highway robberies have occurred but are much less frequent. There have been incidents of carjacking on the main East-West road (Nigerien Highway N1) along the Nigerian border.

Due to the changing security situation since 2013, foreigners who wish to travel beyond Niamey’s city limits (péage) must carry their car registration and personal identification documents (passport or Nigerien identification card). First-aid supplies, a local cellular/satellite phone, water and, if possible, a personal tracking locator that is monitored should be carried in all vehicles.

Public Transportation Conditions

Use of taxis should be avoided and is prohibited for all Embassy personnel. Taxis pose multiple hazards: taxi drivers are notorious for driving erratically; they could target a Westerner for criminal activity; their under-maintained vehicles could break down; and they often stop quickly to pick up fares.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Domestic and international air travel is possible through several international and regional carriers. Several NGOs operate private aircraft that travel throughout Niger. Security at the international airport is carried out by the National Police and Gendarmerie who use x-rays and metal detectors. Travelers are required to have a valid Nigerien visa.

Terrorism Threat

Post Terrorism Rating: High

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Niger has experienced terrorism, mainly in the form of kidnapping-for-ransom (KFR) operations and clashes between the military and al-Qai’da in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram (BH), and/or other terrorist groups. AQIM and similar terrorist groups are active across the Sahel region. Over the years, they have conducted multiple kidnappings and killings. AQIM has conducted operations in the Sahel since 2006, when the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) became affiliated with al-Qai’da and changed its doctrine and name. In 2012, AQIM and allied groups took over northern Mali. These groups include some Nigeriens and are a threat to Niger.

The January 2013 French military intervention in Mali against AQIM and its allies has caused terrorist elements to threaten reprisals against participating countries, including Niger. The French-led military intervention drove AQIM out of power but not out of existence. In May 2013, AQIM-related forces led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar executed simultaneous suicide attacks with vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) and dismounted gunmen on a military camp in Agadez and a French-owned uranium mine in Arlit. 

In August 2013, Belmokhtar’s al-Mulathamun Battalion and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) announced their merger under the name “al-Murabitun.” The State Department has designated it and its associated aliases as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) under section 213 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.

In October 2014, tribal elements suspected of being aligned with terror groups operating in northern Mali attacked Nigerien government security services, targeting a mixed agency border patrol, a gendarme post near a refugee camp, and a prison. These attacks resulted in the death/injury of multiple law enforcement personnel and the escape of a number of prisoners. The tribal elements that carried out the attack have expressed a desire to continue to target government, security services, and law enforcement personnel.

In 2015 and 2016, Boko Haram (BH) has increased its presence in Niger and has carried out several attacks, including improvised explosive devices and suicide bombings, in Niger’s Diffa region. The group is from northern Nigeria, where the population – mostly Hausa and Kanuri – is essentially identical to those in Niger. Throughout the Chad River Basin -- Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria -- BH has attacked government forces and targeted/killed civilians. BH has kidnapped and killed foreigners and publicly threatens to continue to do so. Niger, whose population is majority Hausa, has experienced open conflict with BH in the south (specifically Diffa region), where BH members have been arrested and killed. In 2015, the government of Niger declared a state of emergency in Diffa, and attacks continue to occur regularly.

In February 2016, bandits attacked a Gendarmerie outpost in Dourbel near the Burkina Faso border in retaliation for the seizure of their vehicles and weapons earlier the same day. This attack resulted in the death several Gendarmes and the recovery of the vehicles and weapons.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

In September 2013, two French citizens were beaten and briefly taken hostage by residents of the Goudel neighborhood (approximately one kilometer from the Embassy). This incident occurred after Goudel residents had warned that foreigners were not welcome in the neighborhood in the context of protests against road barriers emplaced by the government in response to heightened terrorist threats.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

On February 18, 2010, members of the military conducted a coup d’état and removed President Tandja from power. In April 2011, a democratically-elected government was installed, and the U.S. restored full bilateral cooperation. In March 2016, President Issoufou was re-elected to a second five-year term.

Post Political Violence Rating: High

Civil Unrest

Niger experiences violent demonstrations. Large and small street demonstrations occur regularly, often near government buildings, university campuses, or other gathering places (public parks). Many demonstrations have involved rock throwing, tire burning, and setting cars on fire, especially at key intersections in Niamey. Rock-throwing demonstrators have targeted NGO and diplomatic vehicles bearing “IT” or “CD” plates. Niamey frequently has student marches/protests due to the lack of a quality education. Although demonstrations can occur spontaneously, large student demonstrations typically occur January-May. Additionally, trade and service unions and other associations often protest for better wages and working conditions. The protests can result in road closures, rock throwing, and trash burning.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

In January 2015, in response to the publication of cartoons deemed offensive to Islam appearing in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, a series of violent protests occurred in many places, notably Zinder and Niamey. Protestors attacked law enforcement personnel and set fire to offices of the President’s political party, bars, restaurants, and multiple Christian churches. Several people were killed, multiple people were injured, and numerous buildings were looted and burned.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Extreme heat is a serious environmental hazard. Temperatures can surpass 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the hot season (March-June). 

During the rainy season (July-September), flash flooding can occur without warning. In 2012, flooding, the worst in over 75 years, in Niamey damaged villages, roads, and homes and resulted in loss of life.

Drug-related Crimes

Smuggling of narcotics and other items is prevalent from Mali through Niger to Libya and from Nigeria. Smuggling is often done in caravans of trucks through the desert.

Kidnapping Threat

Niger has become a target for kidnapping for ransom (KFR) operations. Between December 2008-March 2014, AQIM conducted seven kidnappings in Niger, four of them successfully. While no U.S. citizens have been victims, the threat to all Westerners remains. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to kidnappers. Consequently, the type of assistance that the U.S. government can provide to kidnap victims is limited, as is host nation capacity to support a rescue operation.

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. citizens who experience police harassment or detention should immediately notify the U.S. Embassy Consular section and ask to speak with the American Citizen Services; outside working hours, call the Duty Officer at (+227) 94-49-90-66.

Crime Victim Assistance

U.S. citizens who have been victims of crime should immediately contact the local police and then the U.S. Embassy. Local police can be reached by dialing 17. The police sometimes lack the resources (vehicles, gasoline) to respond immediately to calls for assistance. If the police are unable to respond, U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy, or if after hours, call Marine Post One at 99-49-90-33.

Police/Security Agencies

The Police Nationale is the main law enforcement force for cities and villages and falls under the Ministry of the Interior (MOI); they typically wear black berets.

The Garde Nationale also falls under the MOI and guards prisons and government buildings. While dressed like soldiers, typically with red berets, Garde members have civilian arrest authority, can conduct checkpoints, and can be called on to quell civil disturbances.

The Gendarmerie falls under the Ministry of Defense and also has civilian arrest authority. The Gendarmes typically cover the rural areas and roadways; they typically wear green berets.

Medical Emergencies

Medical care does not meet U.S. standards and is especially limited/non-existent in rural areas. This is a cash society, and physicians/clinics do not take insurance or credit cards. Hospitalization, even at CURE, is risky since nursing care is essentially non-existent and is substandard when available. Infections following minor procedures are common even at the "good" medical facilities. Drugs, bandages, IV fluids, and other supplies are often in short supply/unavailable in local hospitals. Emergency medical assistance (EMT, paramedics) are non-existent. Most ambulances are dilapidated, have no emergency equipment, and can take an hour or more to arrive.

Niger has a substantial trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals that poses a significant hazard for those seeking a valid medicinal remedy.

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

Medical Facilities

Contact

Address

Office Phone Number

Clinique Magori

Dr. Ali Ada

BP 10394, east of Army’s DCMAT near the north side of the Army’s roundabout towards Ecobank headquarters

20-74-33-47

96-96-18-54

CURE Hospital

(Pediatrics)

Dr. Negrini

Lazaret Area, opposite Algabit Gas Station

20-35-15-94

Kaba Clinic

Dr. Cisse Kaba

BP 232, Terminus area, opposite the Moroccan Embassy and the Tourism Bureau near Grand Hotel roundabout

20-73-21-08

Polyclinique Rayua

Dr. Diatta

Kouara Kano, near the former Malian Embassy

20-74-35-35

Polyclinique Lahya

Dr. Abdoulaye

BP 10842, east of the Art Village and south of Wadata Market on Route Filingue

20-74-09-68

Pasteur Clinic

Dr. Tchiani

Opposite French Cours La Fontaine

20-72-50-16

National Hospital

 

BP 238, street opposite the burnt out Ministry of Justice on the south side of the Calabash roundabout

20-72-23-26

University Hospital

 

BP 10146, street west side of the campus

20-31-68-78



Official Americans and many expatriates utilize Clinique Magori and the American-financed CURE Hospital, which specializes in pediatric orthopedics but will also see other minor surgery cases.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Alafia Jet –Cotonou/Benin
Contact: Pierre Vialaret
Tel: +241-21-20-88-75
alafiajet@yahoo.fr

International SOS Paris
Tel: +33-1-55-63-31-55
www.internationalsos.com

SOS London
Tel: +44-20-87-62-80-08
www.internationalsos.com

Tamara Aviation Niger AIR AMBULANCE
Tel: +227-20-73-85-85, +227-99-99-07-77

Alpha Aviation Niger AIR AMBULANCE
Tel: +227-20-73-40-26, +227-96-96-44-78

Global Rescue AIR AMBULANCE
Tel: 1617-459-4200

Europ Assistance AIR AMBULANCE
Tel: 1877-710-4082, 1240-330-1523

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Many Nigeriens chronically suffer from high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. Water for drinking and cooking should only be consumed from a distiller or sanitized prior to consumption; all other water sources should be assumed to be non-potable.

The CDC recommends hepatitis A and B, typhoid, polio, yellow fever, meningococcal, and rabies for anyone traveling to Niger. Travelers are required to have documentation showing that they have a current yellow fever vaccination.

You should discuss with your doctor the best ways to avoid getting malaria. All of the following antimalarial drugs are equal options for preventing malaria in Niger: Atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine. Chloroquine is NOT effective in Niger and should not be taken to prevent malaria in this region.

For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/niger?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-double-001.

OSAC Country Council Information

Niger’s OSAC Country Council was launched in January 2012. The RSO is available to meet with American private sector representatives to provide security information. Please contact the RSO by phone or DominguezMH@state.gov for any information regarding OSAC. To reach OSAC’s Africa team, please email OSACAF@state.gov.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Ambassade des Etas Unis, Rue des Ambassades, Niamey, Niger.
Embassy Hours: Mon-Thurs: 0800-1730, Fri 0800-1300.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Switchboard: (country code 227) 20-72-26-61/62/63/64
Regional Security Office: ext. 4335
Consular Affairs: ext. 4045
Marine Post One: Land line +227-20-72-31-41 (after hours) or +227-99-49-90-33
American Citizen Services (after-hours number): +227-94-49-90-66
Website: http://niamey.usembassy.gov/

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Situational Awareness Best Practices

U.S. citizens are urged to use common sense and vigilance. To minimize their chance of becoming a victim, they should maintain a low profile in public, avoid high-risk and poorly illuminated areas, and always be alert to their surroundings. Additionally, U.S. citizens are advised to avoid known locations where large groups of Westerners routinely congregate (bars, restaurants). Follow standard security practices; do not display large sums of cash/jewelry; do not travel/walk alone, especially at night; drive with your doors locked and windows rolled up; do not use credit cards; and lock all doors and windows in your residence or hotel room.