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Canada, US Issue Travel Warning To Nigeria

Source: thewillnigeria.com
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SAN FRANCISCO, October 18, (THEWILL) – The Governments of Canada and the United States have warned their nationals of the risk of travelling to Nigeria, saying it continues to recommend that citizens avoid all but essential travel to the Niger Delta states and some states in the north.

The warning lists Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Abia, Edo, Imo, Jos, Plateau, Bauchi and Borno States and the Gulf of Guinea as no-go- areas “because of the risks of kidnapping, robbery, and other armed attacks in these areas.

“Violent crime committed by individuals and gangs, as well as by persons wearing police and military uniforms, remains a problem throughout the country,” they said.

The travel warnings from both the US Department of State and Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs also listed the various terrorists attacks executed by members of the radical Islamic sect with ties to al Shabaab, the Islamic group operating in Somalia.

“The security situation in Nigeria is unpredictable and there is a significant risk of crime, inter-communal clashes, armed attacks, banditry, and kidnappings.

“There is a high threat of domestic terrorism in some states of Nigeria. The Islamist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for most attacks, which occur in bars, markets, hotels, shopping centres and places of worship. Since May 2011, several bombs have exploded in Borno State. The capital city of Abuja has also been targeted. On June 16, 2011, an explosion occurred at the national police headquarters, resulting in deaths and injuries, and on August 26, 2011, a large bomb exploded at the United Nations building, killing over 20 people and wounding dozens. The threat of terrorism often increases on days of national significance and in the period leading up to them. Independence Day is celebrated on October 1, 2011, and Canadians are advised to remain highly vigilant and avoid large crowds and public gatherings on this national holiday,” the Canadian Foreign Affairs advisory said.

The full text of the warning To Canadians Reads:
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Nigeria.

The security situation in Nigeria is unpredictable and there is a significant risk of crime, inter-communal clashes, armed attacks, banditry, and kidnappings.

There is a high threat of domestic terrorism in some states of Nigeria. The Islamist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for most attacks, which occur in bars, markets, hotels, shopping centres and places of worship. Since May 2011, several bombs have exploded in Borno State. The capital city of Abuja has also been targeted. On June 16, 2011, an explosion occurred at the national police headquarters, resulting in deaths and injuries, and on August 26, 2011, a large bomb exploded at the United Nations building, killing over 20 people and wounding dozens. The threat of terrorism often increases on days of national significance and in the period leading up to them. Independence Day is celebrated on October 1, 2011, and Canadians are advised to remain highly vigilant and avoid large crowds and public gatherings on this national holiday.

Curfews are currently in effect in some parts of Kaduna, Bauchi and Borno states. Canadians in affected areas are urged to limit their essential movements to daylight hours, avoid all public gatherings, keep a supply of basic foods on hand, monitor the security situation and closely follow the advice of local authorities, especially with respect to curfews.

Violent crimes occur in major urban centres such as Abuja and Lagos. Incidents include armed attacks against foreign nationals and assaults in areas frequented by foreigners. Travellers are advised to remain alert and extremely vigilant. After dark, all unnecessary travel should be avoided. Road accidents are a serious risk and Canadians should exercise great caution, especially highway travel and outside major urban areas.

Kidnappings are a particular threat in the Niger Delta region.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel the states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Plateau, Abia, Imo, and Anambra, as well as to the area bordering the Bakassi Peninsula, due to the unstable security situation.

Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers states, including the city of Port Harcourt

The security situation in the Niger River Delta region, particularly in the states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers, is fragile.

Foreign nationals are at a heightened risk of abduction and armed assault. Armed groups have carried out successful attacks on oil facilities and workers, resulting in injuries and deaths. Attacks, kidnappings, hostage takings, and ship hijackings are very common in this extremely volatile area.

Canadians are advised to remain extremely vigilant if in the city of Port Harcourt (Rivers state) and surrounding areas, as the potential for violent outbreaks, armed attacks, and kidnapping is very high. They should avoid the waterfront at all times.

Plateau state, including the city of Jos
The city of Jos has witnessed frequent episodes of inter-communal violence since 2001. Hundreds of people have died in violent clashes. Violence has also been reported in other areas of the state. The situation in Jos remains unstable and demonstrations, which have the potential to turn violent, may erupt without notice. On August 29, 2011, several people were killed in fighting and dozens of vehicles were set on fire. Canadians are advised to avoid demonstrations, monitor local media, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Abia, Imo, and Anambra states
Nigeria’s eastern region, particularly the states of Abia, Imo, and Anambra, have also seen an increase in kidnappings for ransom as well as violent acts. Recent events have demonstrated that attacks, often perpetrated by small groups of armed individuals, are indiscriminate. Residents and foreigners alike have been abducted and held captive, sometimes for days, until ransom was paid. Deaths have also been reported.

Area bordering the Bakassi Peninsula
Travel to the area in Cross River state bordering the Bakassi Peninsula in Cameroon should be avoided as tensions remain high and kidnappings have occurred.

The US warning To Americans reads:
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria, and continues to recommend U.S. citizens avoid all but essential travel to the Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers; the Southeastern states of Abia, Edo, Imo; the city of Jos in Plateau State, Bauchi and Borno States in the northeast; and the Gulf of Guinea because of the risks of kidnapping, robbery, and other armed attacks in these areas. Violent crime committed by individuals and gangs, as well as by persons wearing police and military uniforms, remains a problem throughout the country. This notice replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria dated October 19, 2010, to update information on recent violent activity and crime in Nigeria.

On August 26, 2011, a suicide bombing at the UN Headquarters in Abuja killed 23 people and wounded more than 80 other individuals. This attack was the first against an international organization and the fourth bombing in Abuja during the past year. It followed a similar bombing against the Nigerian Police Force Headquarters ten weeks earlier that killed five individuals on June 16. These bombings were in addition to bombings elsewhere in Maiduguri, Suleja, and Jos throughout the last year.

The risk of additional attacks against Western targets in Nigeria remains high. In December 2010, a bomb exploded near an Abuja “fish bar,” killing several people and injuring many others. Also in December 2010, several explosive devices detonated in Jos, Plateau State, and alleged members of an extremist group attacked police and others in Maiduguri, Borno State, leading to significant casualties. In October 2010, two car bombs detonated in downtown Abuja during Independence Day celebrations, killing ten and wounding many others. Since March 2010, five improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have detonated in the Niger Delta region, causing one to three reported casualties in each case.

In September 2010, over 150 members of the Boko Haram extremist religious sect escaped from prison in Northeast Bauchi, some of whom may be participating in Boko Haram attacks in other parts of the country. A loose alliance of militant groups in the Niger Delta region has conducted a number of attacks against oil installations and posts of the Nigerian military's Joint Task Force (JTF), which had attempted to close the militant camps. In June 2009, the Federal Government of Nigeria offered unconditional amnesty to any militants willing to surrender their arms and accept the government's amnesty program. While almost all major militant leaders accepted the offer and the amnesty remains in effect, the potential for violence and the risk of kidnapping remains, with violent incidents involving "ex-militants" continuing.

Kidnappings continue to be another security concern. In 2011, there were three reported kidnappings of U.S. citizens in Nigeria. The most recent occurred in September in Ikeja, Lagos State. Others have occurred in the Niger Delta and in Imo State. Also, a British national and an Italian national were kidnapped in Kebbi state in May 2011. Since January 2009, over 140 foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Nigeria, including five U.S. citizens since November 2010. Six foreign nationals were killed during these abductions, while two U.S. citizens were also killed 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 remains underreported.

Travel by foreigners to areas considered by the Nigerian government to be conflict areas without prior consultation and coordination with local security authorities is not recommended. The Nigerian government may view such travel as inappropriate and potentially illegal, and it may detain violators. Nigerian authorities detained six U.S. citizens, including journalists, on six occasions, in areas where militant groups had operated in 2008. The Nigerian government interrogated these U.S. citizens for lengthy periods of time without bringing any formal charges before ultimately deporting them. Journalists are required to obtain a special accreditation from the Ministry of Information prior to traveling to conflict areas in the Niger Delta region states. This special accreditation is in addition to the general press accreditation and a valid Nigerian visa which are required to conduct such activities elsewhere in Nigeria.

Many foreign oil companies operating in the Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers have implemented “essential travel only” policies for their personnel. The U.S. Mission currently requires advance permission for U.S. government travel to these states, as well as the states of Abia, Edo, and Imo, the city of Jos in Plateau State, and Bauchi and Borno States, given the safety and security risk assessments and the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General's limited ability to provide assistance to individuals detained by Nigerian authorities in these states. U.S. citizens who are resident in these states are advised to review their personal security in light of the information contained in this Travel Warning.

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society in which different ethnic and religious groups often coexist in the same geographic area. Travelers throughout the country should be aware that, in areas where such circumstances prevail, there is the potential for ethnic or religious-based disturbances. The States of Bauchi, Borno, and Plateau have experienced violence by fringe sects or inter-ethnic groups in the past year.

Violent crime committed by individuals and gangs, as well as by some persons wearing police and military uniforms, is an ongoing problem throughout the country, especially at night. U.S. citizen visitors and residents have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglary, carjacking, rape, kidnappings, and extortion - often involving violence. Home invasions remain a serious threat, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by scaling perimeter walls; following, or tailgating, residents or visitors arriving by car into the compound; and subduing guards and gaining entry into homes or apartments. Armed robbers in Lagos also access waterfront compounds by boat. U.S. citizens, as well as Nigerians and other expatriates, have been victims of armed robbery at banks and grocery stores and on airport roads during both daylight and evening hours. Law enforcement authorities usually respond slowly or not at all, and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens, Nigerians, and other expatriates have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian law enforcement officials. Traveling outside of major cities after dark is not recommended due to both crime and road safety concerns. There are regular reports of piracy off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea. Armed gangs have boarded both commercial and private vessels to rob travelers. The Nigerian Navy has limited capacity to respond to criminal acts at sea.

U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Nigeria are strongly advised to enroll through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program(STEP). U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By enrolling, you make it easier for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency.