U.S. State Department Updates Travel Warning for Nigeria
The U.S. Department of State updated its travel warning for U.S. citizens going to Nigeria, and continues to recommend they avoid all but essential travel to the following Nigerian states because of the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks: Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Plateau, Gombe, Yobe, Bauchi, Borno, and Kano.
The department also warns against travel to the Gulf of Guinea because of the threat of piracy. Violent crime remains a problem throughout the country and is perpetrated by both individuals and gangs, as well as by persons wearing police and military uniforms. Based on safety and security risk assessments, travel by U.S. officials to all northern Nigerian states (in addition to those listed above) must receive advance clearance by the U.S. Mission as being mission-essential.
U.S. citizens should be aware that in light of the continuing violence, extremists may expand their operations beyond northern Nigeria to the country’s southern states. This travel warning replaces the travel warning for Nigeria dated Feb. 29, 2012, to update information on the continued violent activities in the country.
On Dec. 31, 2011, the president of Nigeria declared a state of emergency in 15 local government areas in the states of Borno, Niger, Plateau, and Yobe. This State of Emergency remains in effect, although with modification in some areas. According to the Government of Nigeria, the declaration of a State of Emergency responds to activities of extremist groups. The State of Emergency gives the government sweeping powers to search and arrest without warrants.
Retaliatory violence and protests continue in Kaduna State following a series of church bombings on June 17. In Damatura, Yobe State, Nigerian police and security forces have been fighting members of the extremist group Boko Haram since June 19. The government has imposed a 24 hour curfew for the city of Damaturu and the entire state of Kaduna.
The risk of continued attacks against Western targets in Nigeria remains high. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for many attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria, killing and wounding thousands of people. Multiple Suicide Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Devices (SBVIEDs) targeting churches exploded June 17, in the Kaduna State cities of Kaduna and Zaria, resulting in several deaths and injuries. Nigerian government forces and local extremists exchanged gunfire in Maiduguri, Borno State in an hours-long confrontation on June 7.
On June 10, a Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) exploded in Jos, Plateau State, and extremists shot at people at a church in Biu Town, Borno State, with casualties resulting from both attacks. On April 29, assailants attacked the Theatre Hall on the campus of Bayero University of Kano with improvised explosive devices (IED) and gun shots, killing at least eight people and wounding several others.
On April 26, a VBIED simultaneously detonated at “This Day” newspaper in Abuja and the same newspaper’s offices in Kaduna. On the evening of April 24, an IED went off at a Jos sports bar, injuring at least four people. On April 8, a VBIED exploded at a roundabout close to a church in Kaduna, killing at least 20. At least two people died and dozens sustained injuries when a VBIED exploded at a church in Jos on March 11.
On Feb. 7, the Boko Haram extremist sect claimed responsibility for three simultaneous attacks on Nigerian military targets across Kaduna that killed or injured dozens of people. In addition, 11 people died during a January 22, gun battle and bomb attacks in Bauchi, Bauchi State. On Jan. 20, elements of Boko Haram claimed responsibility for multiple explosive attacks and assaults against eight different government facilities in Kano. The attacks lasted several hours and claimed hundreds of lives in the most deadly attack yet by Boko Haram members in Nigeria. Boko Haram continued attacks in January and February, focusing on Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, and Kaduna states, and the group continues to publicly threaten attacks throughout northern Nigeria.
Kidnappings remain another security concern. In May 2012, criminals kidnapped an Italian national in Kwara State. In April 2012, criminals kidnapped a U.S. citizen in Imo State and a Spanish citizen in Enugu State in separate incidents. In January 2012, kidnappers abducted a U.S. citizen from his vehicle in Warri (Delta State) and killed his security guard. Assailants kidnapped a German citizen, also in January 2012, along a road in Kano. On May 31 the German citizen was killed by his captors during a military-led raid.
In 2011, five kidnappings of U.S. citizens reportedly occurred in Nigeria. The most recent took place in November when pirates abducted two U.S. citizens, along with a Mexican national, in international waters off the Nigerian coast and held them captive for over two weeks in the Niger Delta. Other kidnappings have occurred in Lagos and Imo States.
Also, elements of Boko Haram kidnapped a British national and an Italian national in Kebbi State in May 2011. Their captors shot and killed them on March 8, 2012, when Nigerian and British security forces attempted to rescue them. Since January 2009, criminals have abducted over 140 foreign nationals in Nigeria, including seven U.S. citizens since November 2010. Six foreign nationals died during these abductions, while two U.S. citizens died in separate kidnapping attempts in Port Harcourt in April 2010. Local authorities and expatriate businesses operating in Nigeria assert that the number of kidnapping incidents throughout Nigeria have remained underreported.
Travel by foreigners to areas considered by the Nigerian government to be conflict areas should not occur without prior consultation and coordination with local security authorities. The Nigerian government may view such travel as inappropriate and potentially illegal, and it may detain violators. Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444.