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/Islamic State West Africa (ISWA)
Boko Haram or Jama’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihad (JASDJ) is an Islamist terrorist group operating in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The group aspires to establish a Sharia State in Nigeria and West Africa, 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. In August 2016, the group split into 2 factions: Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and JAS or Boko Haram. ISWA has an ambition to affiliate with ISIS core in Iraq and Syria and has expressed an intention to target Nigerian government, Christian and western interests.
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.