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Niger 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Niger; Africa > Niger > Niamey

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Niamey does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED NIAMEY AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Niger-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Niger’s location between west and north Africa and the vast open deserts make it a transit point for terrorists, criminals, weapons, migrants, contraband, and illegal drugs.

Crime Threats

Non-violent crimes (pickpocketing, purse snatching, backpack theft, cell phone theft) are present in major cities, notably in/around places where Westerners gather.

Vehicle thefts were prevalent in Niamey; however, since the arrest of a Nigerien/Nigerian theft ring, the number of incidents 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 often aggressive and usually display some form of weapon, commonly a knife (some Nigeriens carry knives/machetes as part of their normal dress) but increasingly handguns.

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

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

Cybersecurity Issues

Due to the lack of cyber infrastructure and the relatively low rate of Internet penetration in Niger, the prevalence of cybercrime is 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.

Other Areas of Concern

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

For travel outside of Niamey, U.S. Embassy personnel are required to be accompanied by armed security escorts and to use hotels with guards for overnight stays.

Authorities do reserve the right to restrict travel based on the security situation along any intended route. The security climate can change quickly, and the authorities may decide to take additional security measures to ensure your safety.

The government requires that NGOs are registered and that they inform the government of each trip they plan to undertake. To avoid detention and/or expulsion, the U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that NGO workers receive official recognition from the government. For details, 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 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 also 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 also be copied on this notice of mission. NGOs should request 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 would be wise 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 roads. On the paved roads, there are a number of roundabouts, and they are often sources of congestion; each circle has different rules of priority, contributing to traffic accidents. Drivers can be aggressive, and the rules of the road are often disregarded. The roads in Niamey 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 makes driving a challenge. Livestock (camels, cattle, goats) often wander in the streets as well.

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

The routes linking Niamey to neighboring countries are focal points for smuggling and other criminal activities. Most cross-border attacks occur at dusk, after dark, or in the very early morning hours, and they often involve firearms. Bandits are not afraid to use violence 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.

Foreigners who wish to travel beyond Niamey’s city limits must carry with them their car registration and personal identification documents (passport, Nigerien identification card). First-aid supplies, a local cellular or satellite phone, water, and if possible, a personal tracking locator that is monitored should be carried in all vehicles.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices” or “Road Safety in Africa.”

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 abruptly to pick up passengers.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

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

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED NIAMEY AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

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-Qa’ida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram (BH), ISIS affiliates in West Africa, and/or other terrorist groups. Terrorist groups are active across the Sahel region; over the years, they have conducted multiple kidnappings -- including an American citizen from Abalak in October 2016 -- 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-Qa’ida and changed its doctrine and name.

AQIM and allied groups took over northern Mali in 2012; 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.
  • An attempted prison break in October 2016 on the Koutoukale high-security prison illustrated the commitment and organization of terrorist groups operating within and outside of the country. The attack, launched by Malian-based jihadists linked to AQIM failed. One of the attackers was killed.


Belmokhtar’s al-Mulathamun Battalion and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) announced their merger in August 2013 under the name “al-Murabitun.” The State Department has designated it and its associated aliases as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) under SEC 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 or 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.

Since 2015, Boko Haram (BH) has had an increasing presence in Niger and has carried out several attacks, including improvised explosive devices and suicide bombings. The group is from northern Nigeria, where the population – mostly Hausa and Kanuri – is essentially identical to those on the Nigerien side of the border. Throughout the Chad River Basin, 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 (Diffa region), where BH members have been arrested and killed. In 2015, the government of Niger declared a state of emergency in the Diffa region, and attacks occur regularly. Between June and August 2016, BH launched dozens of attacks against armed forces and civilians in the Diffa region causing population displacements, often for the second or third time. Diffa currently hosts over 300,000 displaced persons, including Nigerian refugees and internally displaced Nigeriens. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were more than 45 attacks and security incidents from January-August 2016. On March 4, 2017, the government extended a state of emergency in Diffa and added provinces of Ouallam, Ayorou, Bankilare, Abala, and Banibangou (in Tillabery); and provinces of Tassara, and Tillia (in Tahoua). The decision followed a spate of deadly attacks in February that killed 16 soldiers in Ouallam and a March 6 attack that killed five gendarmes in Wanzarbe in Bankilare province. The state of emergency grants security forces special powers, including the right to search homes at any time. The government began to discuss demilitarization, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programming in late 2016 and continues to work on a viable reintegration plan for former BH combatants, as BH defectors have begun to turn themselves in to government authorities in Diffa. Approximately 1,500 suspected Boko Haram members are currently detained in Nigerien prisons.

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 that same day. This attack resulted in the death of several gendarmes and the theft of several gendarmerie weapons.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED NIAMEY AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

President Issoufou has stated that security and stability in the Sahel are necessary building blocks to providing social and economic progress for the region’s population.

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 involve rock throwing, tire burning, and car burning, especially at key intersections in Niamey. Rock-throwing demonstrators have targeted NGO and diplomatic vehicles.

Niamey frequently experiences student marches to protest education-related issues. Although demonstrations can occur spontaneously, large student demonstrations typically occur between 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

Nigeriens are generally tolerant of religious minorities. The vast majority (approximately 98%) of the country’s people are Muslim. The Christian community is a small but visible part of Niger’s socio-political landscape, and leading Catholic and Protestant clerics are generally given the same prominence as their Muslim counterparts in national ceremonies and state funerals.

An exception to this otherwise peaceful trend came in January 2015, when -- 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. However, since then, there have been no major instances of religious violence. Muslim leaders have encouraged the government to compensate many of those whose businesses, homes, and churches were lost in the course of the violence.

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. In 2012, Niamey experienced the worst flooding in over 75 years, with damage to villages, roads, and homes and many deaths.

Critical Infrastructure

While the country has uranium and oil resources, logistical challenges and low global prices mean these extractive industries are unlikely to grow to meet the expectations of the population.

Drug-related Crimes

Smuggling of narcotics and other items from Mali and Nigeria is prevalent, with smugglers passing through Niger in transit to Libya. Smuggling is often carried out in caravans of trucks through the desert.

Kidnapping Threat

Niger has become a target for kidnapping for ransom (KFR) operations. The threat to Westerners remains high, given the October 2016 kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Abalak. 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 speak with the American Citizen Services. Outside of 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 (dial 17) and then the U.S. Embassy. 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 for cities and villages, and it 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 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 has civilian arrest authority. The Gendarmes’ jurisdiction includes 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. Niger uses a cash society, and physicians/clinics do not take insurance or credit cards. Hospitalization is risky since nursing care 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 in local hospitals.

Emergency medical assistance (EMT, paramedics) exists only in Niamey (SAMU: dial 15) but is only staffed by appropriately trained responders during daylight hours.

Most ambulances are dilapidated, have no emergency equipment, and can take an hour or more to arrive.

Niger has a substantial trade in counterfeit medications that poses a significant hazard for those seeking a valid pharmaceutical remedy. Travelers should hand-carry prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

 

Medical Facilities

Contact

Address

Office Tel

Europ Assistance

Dr. Khaled

BP 11354 Tillaberi Road next to SoniBank, 3 doors down from Polyclinique d’Iran

94-57-56-06

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

Gamkalley Clinic

Dr. Gbaguidi

Corniche Gamkalley, near the Army Hospital

20-73-20-33

Clinique Jean Kaba

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 Lycée 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

 

Across the river- near SAHEL Academy BP 10146, street west side of the campus

20-31-68-78

Official Americans and many expatriates utilize Europ Assistance, Gamkalley Clinic, and Clinique Magori.

Available Air Ambulance Services

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

 

Global Rescue AIR AMBULANCE

Tel: 1-617-459-4200

www.globalrescue.com

 

Europ Assistance AIR AMBULANCE

Tel: 1877-710-4082, 1240-330-1523

 

Tamara Aviation Niger AIR AMBULANCE (cannot evacuate off continent)

Tel: +227-20-73-85-85, +227-99-99-07-77

 

Alpha Aviation Niger AIR AMBULANCE (cannot evacuate off continent)

Tel: +227-20-73-40-26, +227-96-96-44-78

Insurance Guidance

It is advisable to carry medevac insurance if you plan to travel to Niger.

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. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “I’m Drinking What in My Water?.”

Travelers are required to have documentation showing that they have a current yellow fever vaccination. Niger is located in the meningitis belt of West Africa and experiences epidemics of meningitis every few years, typically during December-June.

There is year-round transmission of malaria in Niamey. Discuss with your doctor the best ways to avoid contracting malaria. All of the following antimalarial drugs are acceptable options for preventing malaria in Niger: atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine. Chloroquine is not an effective antimalarial drug in Niger.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Niger.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Niamey. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Niamey or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

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. 4336

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/

Embassy Guidance

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.

Additional Resources

Niger Country Information Sheet