The question I get asked the most about living here in Nigeria is whether or not it is safe. For me, this is such a loaded question. Is Nigeria safe in comparison to where? What’s the scale being used to determine the level of safety? When living abroad there are numerous factors I have to consider to determine just how safe I am in my new environment. Access to good healthcare, police/military presence, terrorist activities and cost of flights out. I’ll discuss a bit about each of these factors in relation to Abuja, Nigeria.
Access to good healthcare is tricky here. However, just like in the states, the more money you have the more access you have to good healthcare, doctors and hospitals. They don’t really have a system of insurance here so fees have to be paid upfront at the time of service. Now, luckily I am insured through an international insurance provider and can get reimbursed most of what I pay out of pocket, but most locals do not have this benefit nor do they always have the money to pay the fees upfront. Infant mortality rates are high here, as are maternal mortality rates. The government does not invest in its healthcare system and many doctors are overworked and sadly, underpaid. Oh and there are no ambulances or fire trucks. However, prescription meds are very cheap here and most can be purchased without a prescription.
As with many developing countries, the police/military here have a huge presence. Unfortunately, most of what they do is traffic related. They direct traffic and perform traffic stops checking for invalid or illegal car registrations and driver’s licenses. It usually takes a long time for them to show up to traffic accidents and I wouldn’t even know how to call them if there was a commission of a crime. The system here simply isn’t structured in a way that actually enforces the law so people speed, drive on sidewalks, make illegal U-turns often, drive across medians and commit many other traffic offenses with no repercussions. If someone is unfortunate enough to hit a pedestrian, there is usually street justice. Street justice is also enacted when theft occurs as well. Theft is a serious offense. Unfortunately, murders often go unsolved and the law enforcement often use their power for evil not good.
Terrorist activities are rare. Kidnappings happen and there are threats, but the military actually has decent protocol to deal with the threats. Kidnappings are a different story. The current protocol seems to be pay the kidnappers as quickly as possible which is unfortunate because it does absolutely nothing to ward off the kidnappings. As for the terrorists, most are in the North, far from where I am.
After watching the movie No Escape, my family and I created an “extraction” or get-the- hell-outta-dodge plan just in case something goes down. I’ll talk about that in detail in another post, but one of the main steps is to know at least two routes to the airport if it hasn’t been compromised and ALWAYS have enough cash on hand for three one way tickets outta here. The situation determines the destination.
So, to answer the question, I think Nigeria is as safe as your behavior and lifestyle dictates. We don’t drive or dress flashy as to not attract unwanted attention. I drive cautiously (my beloved does not though). Our papers are in order and legal. And we only see the best doctors here when necessary. We simply do not do anything that would put our safety or health at risk (well I could lose weight, but that’s yet another post). As with most places, how safe it is, unless it’s Venezuela, is really up to you.