Nigeria travel guide
From the loud laughter of traffic-choked Lagos to the green-fringed villages that line rivers and streams, Nigeria is one of the most exciting places to visit in Africa.
Once known only for oil and chaos, the country is changing rapidly. It has a rising middle class, a dynamic arts scene and more miles of golden sand than you can shake a bucket and spade at. Its national parks are home to some of the last remaining endangered species in West Africa, while its mountains offer a cooler climate and spectacular views of the most populous country in Africa.
Those 177 million people are as diverse as the nation itself; in the north, you’ll see men in colourful Muslim dress lining prayer mats on Fridays, while their southern counterparts play checkers before church. The cuisine too is varied; there are hot and spicy dishes, fresh fish and meat, fast food and imported fare.
But Nigeria’s greatest asset – its wealth of native races and religions, its vibrant population – have also proven its downfall on countless explosive occasions, and military overthrows, coups and assassinations have been numerous. The situation is particularly fraught in northern Nigeria, which is home to the jihadist group, Boko Haram (meaning “Western education is forbidden”).
For all its domestic difficulties, Nigeria remains a major regional power and lays claim to the biggest economy in Africa – if you want to feel the excitement of an emerging country, this land will blow you away.
It’s full of surprises, too. Visitors can find themselves dancing the night away at a Nigerian wedding party, sipping champagne with supermodels, haggling for art in Lagos’ hipster district, Yabi, and swimming beneath cascading waterfalls in the mountains.
Though Nigeria is a loud and brash destination, it also has a quieter, more reflective side that deserves to be seen. In fact it has so many faces that at times it feels more like a continent than a country.
923,768 sq km (356,669 sq miles).
186,987,563 (UN estimate 2016).
196.5 per sq km.
President Muhammadu Buhari since 2015.
President Muhammadu Buhari since 2015.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are most commonly used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could target public places where crowds gather, including places of worship, markets, displacement camps, transport terminals, government buildings, security and educational institutions (schools, further education colleges and universities are all regular targets), and international organisations. Attacks can be indiscriminate including in places frequented by foreigners like restaurants, bars, markets, hotels, shopping centres and places of worship.
There have been regular attacks on churches and mosques in Nigeria at times of worship and at football viewing centres. Many attacks have taken place around religious and public holidays in public or crowded places, including places of worship. Further attacks are likely. A heavy security presence often indicates areas of particularly high risk. Since October 2016, there has been an increase in suicide attacks in central Maiduguri, Borno State.
You should avoid public places and where there are political or other large public gatherings. Be vigilant, remain alert and pay attention to your surroundings at all times. You should avoid affected areas in the immediate aftermath of an attack.
Terrorist attacks occur on a regular basis in northern and north east Nigeria, however, there have been a significant number of attacks elsewhere and further attacks could occur anywhere. On 25 June 2014, an explosion occurred in the Apapa area of Lagos killing five people. Media reports attribute this to a terrorist attack. The Nigerian authorities have not confirmed this.
In August 2011, a Boko Haram attack against the United Nations building in Abuja killed 23 people. Further attacks against western interests are possible. Boko Haram issued a video on 19 February 2014 threatening to attack oil installations and oil workers in the Niger Delta region of south-east Nigeria.
There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
The main terrorist threat in Nigeria comes from Islamist extremist groups Boko Haram and Ansaru:
Boko Haram is an Islamist extremist group in Nigeria that has been proscribed by the UK as a terrorist organisation. The group aspires to establish Islamic law in Nigeria, destabilise the Nigerian government and remove western influence from the country. The group has been linked with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. On 12 March 2015, Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) accepted a pledge of allegiance by Boko Haram.
Boko Haram regularly mounts attacks in northern Nigeria. Most attacks occur in the north east, particularly in Borno (including Maiduguri), Yobe and Adamawa states where Boko Haram has its operating base. Military operations against Boko Haram are ongoing in these states. Retaliatory attacks following these operations have occurred and more are likely. There has been a recent increase in suicide bombings targeting crowded gatherings like markets and places of worship. Since September 2015, there have been a small number of actual and attempted suicide attacks against IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) facilities in Borno and Adamawa.
Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (Vanguard for the protection of Muslims in Black Africa) (Ansaru)
Ansaru is an Islamist terrorist organisation based in northern Nigeria, and is proscribed by the UK. It emerged in 2012 and is motivated by an anti-Nigerian Government and anti-Western agenda.
Ansaru is broadly aligned with Al Qaeda; the group have released statements publicly highlighting British and western interests as a priority target for attacks. Since 2012, the group has kidnapped at least 8 hostages, mainly Europeans. They are believed to have killed a number of hostages, including 2 British nationals.
MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) is a militant group seeking to assume control of Nigeria’s energy resources in the Niger Delta region. MEND periodically issue threats to conduct attacks within Nigeria and they have shown a capacity to operate outside their southern base.
There is a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria, especially in Kogi State. Kidnaps can be for financial or political gain, or can be motivated by criminality
Ansaru and Boko Haram have carried out a number of kidnap attacks in Nigeria. Boko Haram have also taken hostages from neighbouring Cameroon. Recent attacks have occurred in the north, but could occur anywhere in Nigeria:
- a German national was kidnapped in Adamawa State in July 2014 by Boko Haram; he was subsequently released
- a British construction worker was kidnapped and murdered along with 6 colleagues in Bauchi State; Ansaru claimed responsibility on 16 February 2013
- in December 2012 a French national was kidnapped in Katsina State, reportedly from a residential compound; Ansaru claimed responsibility for the attack: he subsequently escaped on 17 November 2013
- in January 2012 a German national was kidnapped in Kano and killed in the city on 31 May 2012
- in May 2011 a British national and an Italian national were kidnapped together in Kebbi State. Both hostages were killed in Sokoto on 8 March 2012. Ansaru are believed to have been responsible for their deaths
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking.
For information on criminal kidnaps see Safety and Security.