Top events in Nigeria

July
01

Celebrated every August in a sacred forest in Osun state, this larger than life festival begins with the lighting of a sacred flame torch and...

September
01

Held in a different Nigerian city each year, Africa International Film Festival was founded in 2010 to bring West African film to the global arena...

September
01

Nigeria's emerging fashion scene is taking the rest of the world by storm, and there's no better place to check out new collections from...

Lekki Market, Nigeria
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Lekki Market, Nigeria

© Creative Commnos / shawn-i-am

Nigeria Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

923,768 sq km (356,669 sq miles).

Population

166.2 million (2012).

Population density

174 per sq km.

Capital

Abuja.

Government

Republic. Gained independence from the UK in 1960.

Head of state

President Goodluck Jonathan since 2010.

Head of government

President Goodluck Jonathan since 2010.

Electricity

240 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are most commonly used.

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 166 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, and yet fast food and imported dishes too.

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. Apart from the dire economic situation, there was growing religious conflict. A particular problem was the decision of several local and regional governments in the mainly Muslim north to introduce a version of Islamic Shari'a law, very unpopular amongst non-Muslim minorities. Hundreds were killed in inter-communal clashes in 2000 and again in 2002. The government may be more stable than it once was, but tensions between the Muslim north and the more Christian south boil over often, and sadly security is now an issue when travelling to the north.

Yet, for all its domestic difficulties, Nigeria remains the major regional power and its troops intervened in a number of conflicts throughout West Africa during the 1990s. Regional stability of the West African region has become a major international issue in recent years since the discovery of new oil and gas deposits in West African waters, and Nigeria is now the continent's biggest oil producer. Its economy, too, is booming and in 2014 it overtook South Africa with the biggest GDP - at US $509bn - on the continent.

If you're looking for a quiet, easy travel destination, Nigeria isn't it, but if you want to feel the excitement of an emerging country, this land will blow you away. Dance the night away at a Nigerian wedding party, sip champagne with up and coming supermodels, buy art in the hipster Lagos district of Yabi, and then head into the mountains for some down time beneath cascading waterfalls. Nigeria is loud and brash, but 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 single country, and the only way to experience it is to go.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 04 March 2015

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 markets, government buildings, security and educational institutions (schools, further education colleges and universities are all regular targets), and international organisations. Attacks could also 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. Further attacks are likely. A heavy security presence often indicates areas of particularly high risk.

You should avoid public places where crowds gather and areas where there are political or other large public gatherings. Be vigilant, remain alert and pay attention to your surroundings at all times. In recent years, many attacks have taken place around religious and public holidays in public or crowded places, including places of worship. You should be particularly vigilant during these periods. 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, 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, Boko Haram launched an attack against the United Nations building in Abuja killing 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.

The main terrorist threat in Nigeria comes from Islamist extremist groups Boko Haram and Ansaru:

Boko Haram

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, to destabilise the Nigerian government and to remove western influence from the country. The group has been linked with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Boko Haram regularly mounts attacks in northern Nigeria. Most attacks occur in the north east, particularly in Borno and Yobe states where Boko Haram has its operating base. In May 2013, the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Though the Nigerian government no longer classifies these as states of emergency, military operations against Boko Haram are ongoing in these states. Retaliatory attacks following these operations have occurred and more are likely.

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

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.

Kidnapping

There is a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria. Kidnaps can be for financial or political gain, or can be motivated by criminality

Terrorist kidnaps

Ansaru have carried out a number of kidnap attacks in Nigeria. Boko Haram have taken hostages from neighbouring Cameroon. Recent attacks have occurred in the north, but could occur anywhere in Nigeria:

  • an expatriate was reportedly kidnapped in Adamawa State in July 2014. Boko Haram have subsequently claimed to be holding this individual
  • a British construction worker, held hostage in Nigeria, is believed to have been killed, together with 6 other foreign nationals 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 2012 a Lebanese national was kidnapped in Kaduna State. His Lebanese colleague was killed during the abduction
  • 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.

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