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Safety and Crime in Nigeria

Due to the high birth rate and incentives for foreign workers, the number of people living in Nigeria is steadily growing, making it Africa’s most populous nation. This InterNations Guide informs you about people, transportation, safety, and how to get the best out of life in Nigeria.
Access to water is a big problem in Nigeria, and laundry is often done in the river.

Travel Warning

Recent activities by militant terrorist group Boko Haram in Northern and Central Nigeria have made these areas particularly unsafe, especially for foreigners. Most foreign governments have issued travel warnings advising against traveling to certain Nigerian states, such as: Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, and other areas. The Nigerian Government has declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe. Please consult your government’s foreign travel advice before considering traveling to Nigeria, or check the UK Government’s Travel Advice website or the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Warnings website.


As far as safety is concerned, Nigeria has some serious problems, especially when it comes to the security of foreigners. Kidnapping of expats is unfortunately very common, as the perpetrators can often expect large ransoms from international companies. Muggings and theft are widespread, and home invasion is a near-constant threat, even in guarded compounds.

Again, expats are a lucrative target for criminals, as they are likely to be wealthy. It would generally be wise not to wander around on your own, especially at night.  Some areas of the country should be steered clear of completely in order to avoid problems with criminals or the Nigerian authorities (see below). The notoriously bad road conditions are, of course, an additional cause for concern.

The dangers of traffic in Nigeria are not limited to those we mentioned under Transportation and Education in Nigeria. Carjacking is common, so please remember to keep your doors locked and your windows closed at all times. Because of the oppressive heat in Nigeria, it is, of course, imperative to have a vehicle with air conditioning.

Corruption and Crime 

Unfortunately, due to the rampant corruption prevalent in Nigeria, you cannot assume every uniformed officer intends to protect and serve. Some might be looking for some easy money, harassing expats and compatriots alike. If you are confronted with situations like these, please just calmly comply. This also applies to muggings!

Organized crime in Nigeria focuses heavily on drug trafficking and scams. While very few expats ever come in contact with aforementioned circles, “419 scams”, involving upfront payment or money transfer, are directly targeted at them; the 4-1-9 refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code forbidding the practice. Please be alert when receiving unsolicited emails, faxes, or letters asking for payment of any kind, or any offering large commissions for your assistance in transferring sums of money internationally.

Seafaring expats should be aware of the many pirates patrolling Nigeria’s coastline in search of oil freights. The danger of being commandeered should not be taken lightly: Pirate attacks off the coast of Nigeria are now more numerous than those off Somalia’s coast.

No-Go Areas for Expats

Many embassies have issued travel warnings for certain parts of the country. Apart from the obvious dangers for expats posed by criminals, local authorities might consider travels into specific conflict zones illegal and detain foreigners.

The Niger Delta is probably the most infamous of these conflict zones. We outline some of the dangers in our article on Moving to Nigeria. Things had slightly improved since 2009, when the government offered amnesty to militant groups willing to surrender their arms, but the area has now become a target of Boko Haram threats to attack oil installations and workers.

We realize that many expats work in the oil industry located in the Delta, so safety precautions should be thorough. Please see the warning at the top of this page and check the website of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office for new travel warnings.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Paul Zimmerer

"InterNations is a fantastic community for expats and a must for anyone preparing to move abroad. I recommend it to all my fellow Germans overseas."

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"This site is just what I was looking for when I moved to Lagos. Thanks for all the advice and support that helped us to settle in Nigeria."

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