Visitors are advised to check with their foreign ministry for the latest travel advice on Nigeria. Please note that most reports relate to the situation in Lagos and are written to cover them for “worst case scenarios.”
Abuja is generally safe, but as with any city, caution and common sense should still be exercised. Visitors need to be aware that there are the risks of armed robbery and car jacking. Driving after dark. should be at the best of times avoided. Also, avoid any taxi that already has an occupant with the driver.
From time to time occasional social, religious and/or ethnic unrest can present a security threat. Political gatherings, street demonstrations and worker’s protests also have the potential to turn violent. Do avoid if possible.
If you are a victim of a crime in Abuja, report it to the local police.
In such events, visitors should also contact their local Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for assistance. They can also offer help finding medical care, contacting family members or friends and in remitting funds (if needed). They should also be able to explain how any investigations or prosecutions are likely to proceed. Unfortunately, the penal system moves very slowly in Nigeria and the Police lack the necessary training and equipment to investigate and prosecute most crimes.
Driving in Abuja
Abuja’s road conditions are fairly good.
Major streets are wide, well maintained and generally well sign posted. Unpaved side streets can however be difficult to manoeuvre. What makes driving in Abuja a challenge is the lack of skill of the other drivers; the condition of many of the vehicles and the loosely followed rules of the road. Also care needs to be taken with the plentiful motorcycle okadas who tend to follow no rules whatsoever creating a risk to themselves and everybody else. It is useful to note that the riding of Okada motorcycles has been outlawed in Abuja City.
Night driving should be minimised for several reasons:
There is a tendency for traffic lights to be off at night and for people to drive in an irresponsible manner.
non-functioning traffic lights and streetlights are extremely dangerous when
combined with vehicles without headlights.
Many cars have just one or no working headlights.
The risk of vehicle hijacking or robbery is greater
Police checkpoints set up on some roads at night are not easily seen as they are not well marked .The police uniforms are dark and their torches not very bright.
Minimal assistance in the event of a breakdown
To stay as safe as possible:
Ensure that the vehicle is in good working order.
carry a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and an emergency triangle (the latter two are required by law)
Wear seat belts (by law front passengers must also wear seat belts)
Avoid unnecessary driving after dark.
Leave a space between the vehicle in which you are travelling and the vehicle (or object) in front (e.g., your house gate) in case you need to move in a hurry to prevent being trapped.
drive defensively-constantly expecting sudden lane changes (without the use of an indicator_ and sudden stopping (without the forewarning of brake lights.
Use headlights to flash other drivers frequently to let them know you are coming through an intersection and use the horn as an additional warning device.
Avoid driving beyond the city limits at night or embarking on long road trips that will entail arriving after dark.
Avoid isolated or overly crowded areas, especially at night.
Always drive with doors locked and windows closed.
Because of the aforementioned issues, pedestrians and cyclists are particularly at risk and do not have “the right-of-way” in Abuja. Particular care should be taken when using pedestrian crossings. There is a tendency for motorists to ignore the green man sign allowing you to cross the road. Also to use the pedestrian crossing to make U turns.
If there is an accident, a large group of on lookers may gather. Sometimes these groups of people can turn onto a mob crowd. If it starts looking that way, drive (or take a taxi if the car is immobilised) immediately to the nearest police post and report the accident.
Driving Outside Abuja
Driving outside Abuja with non-CD plates can be quite a nerve-racking experience for visitors. There are numerous police and army checkpoints on the road, but also many other types of gauntlets to pass. One is Local Government Revenue-Exercise officials who surround the car, put nailed planks in front of you and demand to see your permit for advertising on the side of the car. This will cost around N5000 and is valid’ for one year. The permit can be shown anywhere in the country. Another is Road Safety teams that will flag you down and check your car for things such as lack of warning triangle or ‘wrong type of extinguisher’. It is best to provide copies of the car papers-not the originals-or may be expensive to have them returned. The best way round this is to carry an official letter from a government or international body saying who you are and who to contact in case of any query. This is usually sufficient.
While extortion of money at government authorised checkpoints continues to be a problem, they are more common after about 7.00pm. It would be advisable for foreign drivers to have a copy of their passport and visa in case it is needed to verify legal status and to avoid having to pay a “dash” when stopped.
When approached for dash, maintain a calm exterior and keep your voice even. Try not to lose your temper and avoid any unpleasant confrontation as this will only lengthen the amount of time the check will take.
Alex Newton in The Lonely Planet put it well, “Be aware that confrontations with Police are a game and you are a player”. If you are walking along minding your own business and a police officer queries. “What have you for me master?” You are not obligated to “dash”, i.e. give a bribe. A case in point: at the airport a customs officials asked me that same question. I replied, ‘A firm handshake and a smile. He broke into a grin and wished me a safe journey”.
Fraud and Scams - "419"
Unfortunately, one of the things for which Nigerians have made themselves famous is their involvement is scams. They are referred to as“419”, after the law passed to prosecute those engaged in this activity. There are many different types and variations but the most common are listed below.
1 A letter is faxed or emailed to a foreigner, telling him that he can make a large profit in exchange for the use of his bank account. That letter and/or a subsequent letter will explain that a prominent Nigeria official has, perhaps $30 million that he would like to remove from the country and needs a way to do so, In exchange for the use of the bank account, the investor might receive 10%. Obviously, what happens instead is that once bank account number is known, the fraudsters attempt to make withdrawals from the account.
2. Similarly, another scam involves sending Visitors emails saying they are from former politicians who are seeking donations to be able to conduct various types of transactions. They ask for the money to be wired and again, once the banking information is known, they try to make their own withdrawal from the account.
3. Yet another variation involves requests for small donations to assist with a project or social programme. If successful, they may ask for a larger donation in the future. The organisation used will most likely not exist.
4. One Nigeria- based scam (operating mostly out of Lagos) involves inviting business people to Nigeria and telling them they do not need a visa. They are met at the plane and do not proceed through immigration or customs. They are wined and dined and then asked to transfer a large sum of money toward the business venture. If they refuse, they soon find out that they are illegally on Nigerian soil.
5. Those seeking real estate whether to buy or let, need to be aware that another popular scam is for someone to present him/herself as the owner or agent of the property in question, perform a buying or letting transaction, then take off with the money. Since most real estate transactions occur in cash, it is extremely important to request official documentation of the property and ensure that when it comes to handing over the cash, you are dealing with the actual owner or authorised agent.
6. Warn family, friends and banks at home to beware. Your personal information may be used in scams. For example, if your family/friends receive notice that emergency medical treatment is needed for you, they should always verify before sending any funds (through yourself, embassy or workplace)
Some Stay Safe Rules in Nigeria
*Never provide banking information or credit card number to anyone. *No bank information should be sent by the post; couriers and even diplomatic pouches are not 100% reliable. Do not write out-of-country cheques or use credit cards.*Ensure your bank does not release any funds without special security clearance (a pin or security code) which could be agreed before leaving your country of origin.
*Do not send account details by fax or emails; and always assume someone is listening to the phone calls. Be careful not to give personal details to ‘wrong numbers’
*After their use, shred documents that include personal information-credit card numbers, banking information, addresses outside of Nigeria. National ID number (e.g. U.S. Social Security number). Remember that rubbish will be sifted through by the local ‘recyclers’
*Keep personal documents such as those listed above, tax information and real estate documents in a secure place. Do not assume that a locked cupboard is sufficient. These documents should be put in a safe place or inside several levels of security e.g. knocked inside a bag, inside of a suitcase, etc to make detection as difficult as possible.
*Unsolicited contact from Nigeria companies or business people should be thoroughly checked out with the U.S Commerce Department, the British Foreign Trade office, the Nigerian Embassy or Chamber of Commerce
*Advise friends and relatives at home to be careful as well, as your name and details may be used to initiate fraudulent contacts.
*If it is necessary to manage overseas accounts, internet banking is as secure here as anywhere in the world. It is not advised, however, to use internet cafes or hotels for this purpose as those details can be tracked through the computer.
*Otherwise, consider asking someone back home to handle monetary affairs. Keep all bank details and credit cards carefully locked away and ask other visitors to hand-carry confidential documents in and out of the country.
*Do not carry large sum of cash.
*When going to the market or other crowded places, men should put wallets in front pockets and women should hold bags tightly to their bodies or carry money in a different manner.
*Possessions are replaceable. Your life is not. If you are approached for your car, your possessions or your money, the safest course of action is to co-operate.
*At home you will likely have security guards attending the gate and razor wire fences are common.
*Security grilled or bullet-proof doors are recommended for the entrance and ‘keep’ or secure area (usually the master bedroom or the sleeping area might be separated from the rest of the house by a secure door)
*Many houses have panic buttons and every window should have security grills
*Also, consider a safe way to get out of your house in an emergency.
*have a phone and emergency light or torch in the bedroom.
In case of Emergency
As a visitor, contact your Embassy of High for advice on the situation. They should be able to assist.
There are two emergency medical services available in Abuja. Please note that in order for them to respond to a call, you first have to be registered with them.