How Safe Is Nigeria?

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Nigeria is a great country but sometimes, Nigerians can embarrass you. Right now, the Nigerian president, and politicians in my country have successfully put me, and I guess several other Nigerians in and outside the Nigerian shores on the spot. For those of us outside the country, the embarrassment is especially excruciating, as we struggle to give a logical explanation to foreigners who ask us questions about how the hope we expressed May 29, 1999 has so soon be replaced by disillusionment.

As a Nigerian Journalist based in the United States, I have on several occasions been put on the spot as I attempt without success to deny the growing general belief that the architects of Nigeria’s present state of disillusionment are the same persons, who three years ago seem to be the tool for restoring hope. In the Washington foreign press center, I have tried without success to defend the alleged ineptitude of President Obasanjo’s administration.

The recent U.S State departments travel advisory to American citizens not to go to Nigeria brought the matter to the fore again. Almost everybody, and by this I mean well educated and seasoned international journalists at the foreign press center agreed that Nigeria is a huge bureaucracy bogged down by political infighting, ethnic violence and corruption. Not a few of them also argued that President Obasanjo has proved to be either ill prepared or unsuitable for the job he took on.

The line of argument that is most embarrassing is that the president of my country, Olusegun Obasanjo, is himself a kettle calling the pot black as far as fighting corruption and correcting ethnic mistrust goes. Some say the Nigerian president behaves like a kid in a candy bar when it comes to foreign trips. They add that although he may be angry with the US State Department’s warning to Americans not to go to Nigeria, the fact that he hardly stays in Nigeria is the greatest confirmation of the security risk alarm raised by the American authorities.

The State Department’s travel advisory on Nigeria is a classical example of one of those occasions when you search for the right words and they just will not come. Do you repeat that your president’s numerous trips abroad are to attract foreign investors to Nigeria or that they are in his capacity as chairman of G-77’s NEPAD implementation committee, when you know that the man could jet off to Brazil, like a mere ambassador, to participate in a cultural ceremony the following week?

How do you argue that Nigeria is indeed safe for foreigners, especially Americans, when you know that incidents of armed robbery attack on foreigners are as numerous as sand on Lagos Bar Beach in Nigeria. How do you begin to compare the slow or non-existent investigative support from the poorly paid and ill-equipped Nigerian police to the law enforcement these foreigners are used to?

The average American who is used to travelling with credit cards and Travelers checks, would be forced to carry cash in Nigeria where credit cards are rarely accepted beyond a few hotels. In Nigeria where American Express does not even have an office and where only Citibank cashes Travelers checks, the foreigner is doomed to doing business in cash.

Okay, one may argue that like every country, some places are relatively “hot” while others are safer. I tried this argument too but it didn’t hold for too long when it got to the question of transportation safety in Nigeria. How was I to explain that it is safe to travel by air when a majority of the commercial aircraft designated for domestic operation are the over-aged BAC 1-II aircraft type that crashed in Kano earlier this year?

The look I got when I mentioned travelling by road was enough to shut my trap. These well traveled media practitioners know that roads in Nigeria are generally in poor condition. They are aware that these roads lack basic maintenance. They know that the vehicles lack safety equipment and that the drivers speed like racetrack drivers.

How do I convince an American who is concerned about road safety in Nigeria to drive himself when I know that to obtain a Nigerian drivers license may take months since international driving permit is not recognized? When I know that chronic fuel shortage may get him stranded on the road, vulnerable to armed robbery attack?

Will I not be sending somebody on a suicide mission by asking them to travel by road in my “democratic Nigeria’ when I know that should there be an accident, there are no immediate access to health care facilities. How was I to explain that should there be any car breakdown, the road-side mechanic who emerges from nowhere may later be the armed robber who will surely deprive you of your hard-earned money and may kindly spare your life?

How?! Tell me how to argue that the State department is wrong and that President Obasanjo is right? How do I go about even beginning to explain these things to an American who is used to law enforcement, traffic assistance, insurance and social security plans, when I know that the people wearing the police and army uniforms at the check-points in Nigeria could be armed robbers?

When I know that there are no Medicare insurance in Nigeria and the United States’ Medicare/ Medicaid programs may not provide payment for medical services outside America. When I know that even if this foreigner is ready to pay, diagnostic equipment and medicines may not be available and although our medical personnel are among the best in the world, this man who has chosen to believe the Nigerian president rather than the state department may just die.

Yes! In Nigeria life is cheap and death comes easy. Nigerian roadways are the easiest way to a hospital morgue. Flying is not any better. To somewhat find one’s way out of Lagos for fear of armed robbers is no guarantee of safety from the violence from deservedly angry Niger Delta youths and “naked” women in Port Harcourt.

Staying in Jos, Kano or Kaduna may be asking for death by a dagger, especially if our foreigner is an American Christian and thus anti – Osama or anti-Islam. In the Eastern part of the country some overzealous “Bakassi Boys” may waste lives faster than drug dealers on the streets of Southeast Washington D.C. As for staying in Abuja, our foreigner may be caught up in the middle of a military coup. In Nigeria life is indeed cheap! Cheaper if you are poor.

The mention of military coup brought back horrors, especially as I was a victim of military persecution during the General Sani Abacha days. So let me quickly say that I don’t believe in military coups. But how am I sure that what has made the U.S. State Department update their travel advisory and warn Americans against going to Nigeria is not some kind of intelligence report about rumblings in the army barracks?

How do I convince an American that throws this question at me that the deteriorating state of the Nigerian polity and the power struggle between president Obasanjo and the Nigerian lawmakers is not a good reason for those that rule by decree to once again suspend the Nigerian constitution, which the president and the lawmakers always find ways to circumvent?

How do you convince this person that there is no cause for alarm when more Nigerians are hungry, and unable to eat regularly not to talk of buying units into their GSM mobile phones? I should say no cause for alarm when Ibrahim Ogohi, Nigeria’s Chief of Defense says the army boys are restless?

Nigeria is indeed a great country but events therein can sometimes embarrass you. The most annoying part of this is that the man Nigerians and the International community thought was going to reverse the decade of military misrule, despite being a former military man himself, has oftentimes behaved like a bull in a china shop.

So I should still find ways to argue against the logic and findings of the U.S. State Department that Nigeria is safe. How? Should I have mentioned how smooth the transition process for the on-coming 2003 election is going, or by listing how credible the body that will conduct the election is? Perhaps I should have told my audience about how the sale of the Nigerian mint and the Nigerian National Theatre was going to give president Obasanjo enough money to end poverty and violence in the Niger Delta area.

Maybe I am not getting it right. I know Nigeria is a great country and I make bold to repeat that but as for safety of life and property, there is a big question mark. I was home just this May and to me there doesn’t seem to be much difference in terms of lack of safety from the period of the military. Maybe it has to do with the fact that out president is a former soldier trying harder to be a politician rather than a democrat.

Perhaps it is something I am missing. Do tell me, how do I convince a foreigner, who wants to go experience our natural beaches, exotic food and unique culture, that Nigeria is safe and the State Department is just cracking- up? How do I do this when every day, like every other Nigerian abroad, I am afraid for the life of my family and loved ones who are resident in our country Nigeria?





Previously published in The Monitor

About Tokunbo Awoshakin
Tokunbo is a widely traveled journalist and public affairs commentator. The pioneer Washington, D.C. bureau Chief of Thisday and The Anchor Newspapers, Awoshakin uses his cross-sectional experience in media, education and communication to address the issues of community participation in policy making and the political and civil empowerment of minorities and minority organizations. He holds a combined degree in English and Education from the University of Lagos. He also holds an MA in Security, Conflict resolution and International Development and post-graduate certifications in journalism , organizational communication and computer applications. He is a Katherine W.Fanning Fellow in International Journalism and Democracy and a research contractor with the Kettering Foundation. Tokunbo is a journalist trainer, and trained mediator.

Posted in: Nigeria Matters

45 Comments

  1. olateju1 says:

    C’mon people! this article was written almost ten years ago. Nigeria has changed for the better. Yes, alot of what was written was true and some aspects still linger on today, but people LIVE there all their lives without incident. Is there any major country/city in the world without crime, corruption and danger? Go to Nigeria with someone who knows the country and do the same things you would do if you went to any foreign country – be safe; don’t go out alone; don’t flash your cash around; stay in the main city centres, and keep your wits about you.

    Nigeria is not the back of beyond, it is a wonderful country just waiting to be explored and appreciated.

    The writer of this article would do well to write a follow-up piece and base his musings on what is happening now!

  2. Olateju1 says:

    C’mon people! this article was written almost ten years ago. Nigeria has changed for the better. Yes, alot of what was written was true and some aspects still linger on today, but people LIVE there all their lives without incident. Is there any major country/city in the world without crime, corruption and danger? Go to Nigeria with someone who knows the country and do the same things you would do if you went to any foreign country – be safe; don’t go out alone; don’t flash your cash around; stay in the main city centres, and keep your wits about you.

    Nigeria is not the back of beyond, it is a wonderful country just waiting to be explored and appreciated.

    The writer of this article would do well to write a follow-up piece and base his musings on what is happening now!

  3. baresi says:

    pls dont go, nigerians need the job more than u

  4. agirl says:

    Up to now 2011, i know from my boyfriend who is visiting Nigeria every year that some of the things said in the article still exist. He lands always in Lagos and from there he is not willing to take car to travel to his village, particular by night, because even him fears they might be armed thieves on the road. As for air travel some companies are better some not, as everywhere. Not sure which planes they use now. So he chooses to travel by plane to his village.

  5. Calvin Ellis says:

    I have a loved that’s trying to get to states and she’s been there over three years all she’s needs to get back home to united states please god help us

  6. Jenny says:

    Nigeria is a great Nation, if a nigerian man loves u then he will surely protect u.

    there r so many foreingner in Nigeria, even in d so -called unrestive Niger-Delta region…

    I don’t see any reason to be scared if u r sure of the person u r goin with to Nigeria.

    I love Nigeria it has one of the undiscovered tourist destinations in the world…..

    I’m currrently studying in India and they corrupt and unjust and racists but they cover up like good people….If u r black u r nothin and they laugh at u like u hv shit on ur face its horrible but people think India is great.

    Nigeria doesn’t cover its lapses like other counhtries..what u c is wat u get…….

    I’m inviting everyone to Nigeria…….Good people.Great Natio.

    Peace!

    Feel free to email me anytime: naijajenny@gmail.com

  7. Katrina Stewart says:

    I was recently propositioned via facebook by a sweet handsome Nigerian man and i was about to make the biggest mistake of my life by going over there to meet him. I was enchanted and i saw that he would add ten american white women (like myself) to his friends list and he would assure me they were nothing. I am a very smart woman but I deleted him from my Im, facebook and most importantly my life. i am so missing the dream he sold me for a cheap thrill and so badly want to meet a genuine sincere Nigerian wth the same dream of foriegn love i seek. i know its a longshot but my heart, dream and trust has been broken.

  8. lewis says:

    i reside in abuja, are you still in abuja? got you from a site. call 08036239424. thanks

  9. Kelechi says:

    NIGERIA is a beautiful country with good people and a serene environment.If you wish to visit Nigeria you can come,my country is the best in Africa,the present administration of His Excellency DR GOODLUCK JONATHAN,is doing marvelously well.If you are a foreigner and you wish to visit the giant of Africa(NIGERIA) you are highly welcomed because a lot of foreigners reside in Nigeria for years,and nothing bad happened to them…so why should your own be different?…Nigerià,amor de mi corazòn!.Please if you have any question,email me:kellyflex28@yahoo.com

  10. ASheek says:

    No its was written in 2002. come on people!!!!!

  11. ASheek says:

    I am a Jamaican but my heart and love is in Nigeria. I want to visit him soon so we can get married. Somebody please tell me that the facts in this article which was written from sometime in 2005 does not still stands. Yes i am little scared now but i dont think i am going let this article stop me from going where my love is and further more i am in love with the country and it culture. Its now 2010 some changes must have taken place.

  12. harish says:

    very very well said sir !

    i would like to have a chat with you !

    im planning to travel to lagos !

    if you dont mind pls add me on skype !

    harishmohan05 is my skype id !

  13. mayor says:

    i just read a few lines of your poorly articulated article and boredom overtook my interest in this piece.much as i disagree with some of your warped illustrations of my country, i beg to pose this question and hope you come up with a respoonse: WHAT HAVE U REMOTELY DONE TO BETTER THINGS? however infinitesimal?

  14. halima says:

    hey im going to Nigeria (Kano) in July with my husband (who is Nigerian) and 8 month old son but after reading articles like this its making me re-think, i really wanna go as everything is payed for etc and i want my son to meet his family, I keep having nightmares about being robbed, murdered etc or worst of all my son being kidnapped, i know that everywhere on this planet has its bad points but is Nigeria death by a dagger? I will be in a family home but there is still always that doubt, can any1 give me truthful advise?

  15. sol says:

    im a nigerian and i learn about nationalism what can we do for our country is the question we that we are that talking also do this on a samll scale in secret abode

  16. michael says:

    thank you for your seemingly honest report. i would love to visit my wife’s family. They are unbelievably kind, fun, and always staying in touch. How fun it would be to be able to visit, and enjoy, and yes spend money and not have to worry if your car is gonna get pulled over and robbed. I often wonder just how safe it is if you know people and stay in certain areas, or if you are white do they really treat you like a mark? anyway, your report kind of sums up what i imagine after looking into it, which is go ahead, go to Nigeria AT YOUR OWN RISK

  17. Ralph says:

    Dear Christine: I read the article and was not clear when it was written. I may go to work for Chevron myself that is how I found this site. I am not afraid just curious, I’m from so-cal and now reside in no-cal both regions are vicious if you are caught in the wrong place. I guess you chalk it up to experience and where you want to be. E-mail me @ densonralph@gmail.com

  18. Claire says:

    there is nothing shameful about it. it’s only the truth. i’m Nigerian, and sometimes i’m even embarrassed to admit that it is my home country.

  19. cdog16 says:

    I completely agree with your statement, I am interested in moving to nigeria myself

  20. Wale says:

    spend less money* that is

  21. Wale says:

    Quite average I think. Too one sided. I am a nigerian american and I visit Nigeria frequently. There are some elements of truth in what’s written in this article (note that it was written 7 years ago), but I am not surprised that a journalist bends the truth and fails to see a bigger picture. Nigeria is not dangerous like the author makes it seem. Could the country be safer? YES! Should you be fearful? NO! should you be careful and mindful? yes just like you should be when you visit any foreign country even the UK. Tourists will return home alive, happy, and well after a trip to Nigeria.

    For example, the US is well known for school shootings, gang violence, mall shootings, serial killers, psycopaths, and murders. Does that mean the country is a mad house? NO! Infact if you focus on these problems only you will never realize other aspects of the country, and see what a rich and great nation the US is.

    Personally, I think a foreigner would have more fun and spend less in Nigeria if he/she actually knows someone in the country that can show him/her around.

  22. bbutterfly says:

    thanks for your honesty…it would be very sad if you had been dishonest and many travel there and experience the worse nightmare of their lives. I look forward to travel to Nigeria one day….I do…and I pray for my friends there…I admire your courage…

  23. bbutterfly says:

    you should be happy the man told the truth and not endanger others life…What kind of person are you?

  24. kingsley says:

    u na correct person

  25. Vishwa says:

    Hi Evryone, I m 25 male from India, I got a job offer from Lagos Nigeria SOSOLISO AIRLINE CORPORATION NIGERIA LIMITED, By reading the above article I m in a dillema to accepts this offer, eventhough it pays huge money I dont want to take the risk of life…I also heard that Logos is one of the worst place in Nigeria… there are lots of robbery especially on foreigners…Is that true? Is there any out there who had same problems? I have to finalize this offer this week? please do write your comments, opinions and prev experiences back to me on kvishwa_k@yahoo.com……I would appreaciate your time and patience..anyhw thanks

  26. josselynn says:

    wow. i am just plain scared now i live in the us and i have a nigerian

    boyfriend and we plan to marry and start a family and i am planning a

    trip there now i am not sure we really love each other and he assures me of safety but i an not so sure after the things i read of traveling to

    nigeria any suggestions anyone.?

  27. Linda says:

    This story is an exaggeration of the happenings in Nigeria. Yes Nigeria may have some problems agree, but so do other nations even in the USA where the writer resides they have their problems, there is nothing happening in Nigeria that is strange in America.

  28. nixon says:

    I have a job offer in Warri. I will be going with my wife and two kids (1 and 4.Do you think it will be safe to take them. What about the schools?

  29. nancy says:

    I love my nigerian boyfriend…if u are with a nigerian..man..im sure he wont let u get hurt..i know mine wont..we are planning on going to see his sick father and i will do anything for my boyfriend..and that includes visiting his home country and experience it first hand instead of listening to some journilist…i love you buchy

  30. yero dayyabu says:

    it ok by me and i need more of your update article pls send it to me through my email

  31. Anil says:

    Hi This is anil from India, I got a job offer to work in Nigeria (abuja), I was happy, but after reading this i may not accept the offer though there is lot of money, but to me safety matter first. Can any one tell me is abuja is safe place to work, please mail me soon – anil.shinde@hotmail.com

  32. Christine Perrin says:

    Thanks for the info. I have been offered a job in Abuja. I would be working for an employee of Chevron Oil and living within Chevron's residential community. I am a single women, 46 years old and a Canadian. How safe would it be for me to move there?

    I really hope to hear from you ASAP.

    Christine

  33. Crazy says:

    I have read all of this and now concern about this I have a boyfriend that lives in Ondo and he is wanting me to come there for a week so we can get married and then come back to the states to live which that is where I am from USA and I am a single mother and one child still at home to rasie so I have no Idea what to do . My Aunt tells me know coz it is so bad there buy my boyfriend says I will be safe and that he loves me and I do love him but I am scared I dont want to leave my child behind for a week and I dont return coz he has on one besides me so can someone help me . I was told that if I go their and me being pretty that they would use me in as being a slut and they would get my money in what I make , I would not return and now that scares me something awful . So anyone out there that can help me I would appericae it very much please and thank you

  34. et says:

    This was written in 2002. Is this information applicable to current events in 2007?

  35. treguier loveless says:

    hi thiss me again i am comment # 10 now my boyfriend is thinking of getting the tickets now. my boyfriend is nigerian and i love him so i would like to go but my mother does not support me on this trip please email me back british172001@yahoo.com thank you note: my time is running out

  36. TREGUIER LOVE says:

    i am playing on going to nigeria very soon, my boyfiend is nigeiran and he would like for me go to there. my boyfriend haqve not seen his mother in 5 or five years now but here is the big siduwation my mother does not like it she says that you are going to get raped or something bad is going to happen she says that you can go big i am not supporting it and i am 21 years old so i do not what to do my boy friend says that we will be visting abuja and ondo some body please help me some body

  37. Anonymous says:

    Even if this piece is as informative as it is descriptive, I have to show how utterly embarrased i am as it is the truth. There is no denying that all the points mentioned here are true but after only 3 years the country has improved a great deal. It is a country worth going to and please remove this provocative article of the web. Thanks.

  38. Tanya says:

    Hi! I have been speaking to a wonderful oner the compuet (msn) for about 2 years now and would love to go visit Nigeria…as I read allot about Nigeria, it seems to me like a white single women ging to Nigeria is not safe at all. But whne I speak with the luv of my life who live in Nigeria..we are dying to see each other..he tells me it's safe for me to go. I need to know if it really is safe for me to travel their?

  39. Anonymous says:

    its a shame that u have just this to say for your country.

  40. Anonymous says:

    I am currently plaining a trip to Nigeria to marry but I am afraid for my safety. Is Orlu State an area or trouble or is it just the Lagos area Either way it goes, I would really like to me with the man that I tend to marry but I just dont know what to do at this time. I would like a response sent to csmile73@yahoo.com. Thank you!

    Chey

  41. Anonymous says:

    I have just been in contact with a girl fom Nigeria and had wondered if things did progress between us what would it be like to visit her. The artical seems open and honest and while the author has to try his best to covince people to visit his country I can see he has a difficult job ahead of him.

  42. Anonymous says:

    I have a boyfriend from Nigeria. From him and the internet I got a lot about Nigeriaas well as what I got from him. He loves his country and I love him. But I DON'T like living in his country for a lot of reasons such as what the writer said in his article. I think another election for president will be better but not previous solider. And the government should do more only only for money in their private pocket. Why not think in this way there should be a revolution there both from people' s mind and life. That will be great to this country. Because I LOVE him. And I wish our children in future will enjoy good life both in moral and physical aspects in this country.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Excellent information. My wife lived in Nigeria untill she was 16. All of her family still lives there and I want to go visit but the idea of all the corruption there has kept me away. Hopefully one day soon I can go see my wifes home country!

  44. Anonymous says:

    Extremely informative. My friend was interested in going to Nigeria but as I used to work for Shell I knew there were a few problems with the country – crime and corruption. A brilliant piece

  45. Anonymous says:

    My American daughter is going to marry a Nigerian and move to Nigeria…..Yikes!

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