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UK’s scary travel advisory

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A LITTLE over a fortnight ago, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom High Commission in Nigeria issued a travel advisory to its nationals to desist from visiting 21 states of the Federation over security threats.

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This advisory may have gone without serious attention by the concerned Nigerian authorities. It was probably seen as one of those “routine” warnings foreign embassies issue. But coming from the country that created Nigeria and ran her affairs for 46 years and continues to exert enormous economic, political and cultural influences since our independence in 1960 as well as occupying a central position in the Western comity of nations, every major communication from the UK Foreign Office must be taken very seriously.

An advisory for British nationals to keep off 21 of our 36 states (about 65 per cent of the country) paints an ominous picture that flies in the face of repeated claims by President Muhammadu Buhari that his administration has recorded “solid achievements” against insecurity as he put it in his June 12, 2019 Democracy Day speech.

Way back on October 27, 2018 when trade associations from the 36 states visited him in Aso Villa, Buhari had boasted: “The best people to comment on the achievements of this administration are the people who come from the North-East where they used to share their local governments with Boko Haram, get ambushed and dispossessed”.

In a twist of irony, on January 8, 2019 (barely two months later) former Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State leading a delegation of Borno Elders arrived uninvited at Aso Villa and wept profusely before the President over the rapidly worsening insecurity in the state where Boko Haram were hitting military targets, reaping grim harvests.

Unlike the Federal Government’s tendency to paint glowing pictures of its supposed successes against Boko Haram as the main crux of its achievements, the UK travel advisory took into account not just the Boko Haram Islamic terror but also the “banditry” and kidnapping for ransom in the North-West, killings and kidnappings that hold sway and mainly anchored by armed herdsmen in almost all parts of the country and residual security threats against expatriates in the Niger Delta.

These foreign nationals which include tourists, visitors, prospective and active investors, take their countries’ travel advisories very serious. With deepening insecurity, corruption, policy instability, declining respect for the rule of law and rising impunity, many of our erstwhile top foreign trading partners such as the US and UK have steadily fallen down the ladder in dollar value.

The Federal Government must wake up and admit the scale of the security challenges facing us. That is the only way to even begin the search for sustainable solutions. Living in denial does not help.


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