Nigeria a can of worms

This item appears on page 22 of the January 2008 issue.

The Department of State continues to warn of the possible dangers of travel to Nigeria.

Violent crime committed by ordinary criminals as well as persons in police and military uniforms can occur throughout the country. Visitors and resident Americans have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglary, kidnappings and extortion, often involving violence. Carjackings, roadblock robberies and armed break-ins are common in many parts of Nigeria.

After armed clashes between heavily armed rival militias, the security situation in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, stabilized slightly in October due to the presence of a large military Joint Task Force. The potential for violent outbreaks still exists.

 In 2007, over 150 foreigners in the Niger Delta region were kidnapped, mainly in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states. Most hostages were released unharmed. Since an informal cease-fire in late July, kidnappings have declined.

Religious tension between some Muslim and Christian communities results in occasional acts of isolated communal violence. The states of Kano and Kaduna are particularly volatile. Rival ethnic groups have clashed violently in the Niger Delta region around Warri city and in Southeast Plateau State.

Domestic carriers operating within Nigeria present a safety risk. International carriers operating direct flights to Nigeria have experienced far fewer incidents. Those traveling to and from Nigeria should avoid transiting an additional Nigerian city.

Taxis pose risks because of the possibility of fraudulent or criminal operators, old and unsafe vehicles and poorly maintained roads. Road travel in Lagos is banned between 7 and 10 a.m. on the last Saturday of every month for municipal road cleanup; police vigilantly enforce the ban.

Some Nigeria-based criminals conduct advance-fee fraud and other scams that target foreigners worldwide. Recipients traveling to Nigeria to pursue such fraudulent offers have been subject to physical harm, and local police authorities often are unwilling to help in such cases. An invitation to enter Nigeria without a visa is normally indicative of illegal activity.