The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, FCO, has just issued one of its periodic recommendations for those who wish to travel to Nigeria…which it regards as a hotbed of violent criminal activity.
These documents are produced for UK citizens but read by prospective visitors of several nationalities, and the latest advice cautions against all trips to the following parts of Nigeria:
Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and the Gombe States; the riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and the Cross River States; and within 20km of the border with the Niger Republic in Zamfara State.
The FCO further advises against all but essential travel to Bauchi, Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Kogi and Abia states, plus within 20km of the border with Niger in Sokoto and Kebbi states and non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states.
Terrorism and bombings
Terrorism and bombings are said to be rife in the North East…where even humanitarian aid workers who are helping underprivileged and internally displaced persons are said to be facing enormous risks.
Meanwhile, if indigenes of locations that haven’t been singled out for special mentions – Edo, Lagos, the Yoruba hinterland and most Igbo and Middle Belt states, for example – are understandably tempted to take pride in the fact that their home zones have not been explicitly declared unsafe by the Brits, they should please note that kidnappings are said to be a major threat throughout Nigeria.
Even Abuja – which enjoys the advantage of being more efficiently protected than everywhere else because of the presidential presence and its capital city status – is not spared in the FCO report and is listed as having attracted “significant attacks”.
There’s a warning that Western interests may be targeted. Foreigners are urged to avoid places where crowds gather, including places of worship, markets, hotels, bars, shops, malls, restaurants, transport hubs, refugee camps and political meetings.
“If you travel to areas to which the FCO advise against travel,” the report concludes, “…you will need a high level of security. If you’re working in Northern Nigeria, you should make sure your employers provide an adequate level of security where you live and work…”.
The FCO admits that the majority of the 117,000 British nationals who visit Nigeria annually have trouble-free sojourns. But the overall message is one of doom and gloom. And some Nigerians are accusing Her Majesty’s Queen Elizabeth II’s government of scaremongering.
When Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, was sworn in for his second term on May 29, distinguished guests of honour from the “outside world” – such as John Bray, the American Consul-General, and the Ooni of Ife – attended the inauguration ceremonies and made speeches that contained positive comments about the numerous pleasant experiences they’d had in Port Harcourt.
Wike himself not only lamented, at the celebration banquet, his state’s bad reputation as a chronically dangerous destination but chided those who are “de-marketing” Rivers State at a time when President Buhari has conceded that insecurity is a nationwide problem and murders also happen elsewhere.
After recalling that 50 people had been killed in a beer parlour shooting in Florida while he was vacationing in the United States, Wike pointed out that his government had increased its internally generated revenue and safely hosted several international events.
Wike then turned to Mr Osagie Okunbor, the Managing Director of Shell Petroleum – who was at the banquet – and gently berated Shell for being too Logos-centric.
Shell, we were told, has moved personnel and functions out of Rivers State. And Wike didn’t mince words about the company’s contradictory – hypocritical even?! – semi-detached attitude.
Wike made it clear that he was not impressed by the fact that Shell regards Rivers as safe enough to drill for oil in but not safe enough to stay in properly and fully commit to!
Quite a few Riverians wholeheartedly agree with Wike and describe reports about terrible occurrences in Rivers State as exaggerated in general – and motivated by political malice within certain contexts.
I personally have mixed feelings about these protestations because I find all these profoundly unflattering verdicts about Rivers State humiliating and want my state to be a highly respected and safe haven for serious folks who can deliver growth and prosperity.
But I was dragged out of my bedroom in the family residence in Port Harcourt in 2015 by kidnappers who held me hostage for two weeks. So nobody should blame me if I am overtaken by trembling terror and constantly looking over my shoulder whenever I go home!
Furthermore, the brutality of miscreants – whether they be evil thugs who are sponsored by ruthless politicians, savage cultists who bizarrely believe that they can get rich quickly if they steal human body parts or common criminals who have long lost the ability to display mercy towards their victims – has escalated alarmingly.
There was a time when outlaws in Rivers State didn’t set out to assassinate those they robbed at gunpoint or snatched and hid in various lairs in creeks or wherever until ransoms were paid. But things have changed pretty drastically in the past few years.
Nowadays, bloodied corpses that have been decapitated and/or deprived of genitals and other organs are regularly abandoned at roadsides, in the bush, etc. And it’s not as if we, the bewildered law-abiding majority, just hear stories about these appalling incidents.
Thanks to social media platforms, gory photographs and videos are often shared and viewed by millions of indigenes and non-natives.
So is it any wonder that the UK authorities – and their counterparts in other relatively civilized countries – aren’t describing Rivers – and the many other Nigerian locations where myriad outrages occur – as business-friendly oases of tranquillity, joy and productivity?!
President Buhari has an uphill task on his hands. The toxic crime wave from which we are currently suffering did not start during his tenure, but it is getting much worse under his watch, and he urgently needs to appoint the right people to sensitive positions.
Buhari must also if he wants to extricate himself from this security scandal and achieve good results and a decent legacy, ensure that the inspector-general of police, chief of army staff and other key law enforcement and anti-insurgency officials jetisson corruption…
…And elevate our collective welfare above their financial interests and firmly tackle menaces like marauding herdsmen and fake Niger Delta militants who are only interested in their pockets.
Are Buhari and his lieutenants up to the challenge? If their performances to date is anything to go by, the answer is a sad “no”.
But it is never too late to rise and shine, so fingers crossed that Mr President rises and shines at the earliest opportunity!!!
But it is never too late.