October 27, 2022

Terror alert: FG, US disagree on citizens’ evacuation

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Lai Mohammed

…US authorises evacuation of citizens, embassy staff

We won’t be stampeded by travel advisory —FG

Says despite terrorists efforts to embarrass, Nigeria still safe

Confusion as security forces raid Abuja estate

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Omeiza Ajayi

The United States government has authorised the evacuation of its employees and their families from Nigeria over potential terrorist attacks.

The US State Department announced the approval of the evacuation in its updated Nigeria travel advisory on Tuesday evening.

But the federal government in a swift response to this yesterday, said it would not be stampeded by whatever any government tells its citizens to do.

This came as confusion on Tuesday night assecurity forces reportedly raided Trademore Estate, Abuja, following a tipoff on the presence of a terrorist in the estate.

But the US government said the embassy in Abuja would have “limited ability” to provide emergency assistance to US citizens, while the consulate in Lagos was still providing routine and emergency services.

“On October 25, 2022, the Department authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members due to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks.

“The U.S. Embassy Abuja continues to have limited ability to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in Nigeria. The U.S. Consulate in Lagos is providing all routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Nigeria,” the update by the US government read.

The US Embassy’s advisory had indicated that Nigeria was rated Level 3, which meant citizens should reconsider travelling to the country.

Americans were advised to possibly shelve travel plans “due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and maritime crime”.

Although Nigeria is a Level 3 country, some states are said to have a higher risk of attacks, and as such, are Level 4 — which means Americans should not travel to such places.

Americans were warned of possible terrorist attacks and kidnapping in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, and Zamfara states.

Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers states — with the exception of Port Harcourt — were also listed as Level 4 “due to crime, kidnapping, and maritime crime”.

The US state department warned that terrorists might attack with little or no warning, and would target public places such as shopping centres, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, and transportation hubs.

We won’t be stampeded by travel advisory —FG

However, the Federal Government has said  it would not be stampeded by whatever any government tells its citizens to do.

Recall that the US and the United Kingdom had recently released travel advisory for their citizens over the alleged plot by the terrorists to attack some designated areas in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.

Fielding questions from State House correspondents on the issue at the Presidential Villa, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said despite attempts by terrorists to embarrass government, security agencies had in the last few months, taken firm control of the situation.

The minister, who spoke against the background of previous assurances he had given, said citizens and non-citizens alike were safe in Nigeria.

He said: “Now, of course, this so called travel advisory as far as we’re concerned, as a government we have in the last few months, taken a firm handle of security.

“What I said is that click baiting, which is, you find a story which is not verified and you immediately share it, always cause panic.

“But I want to reassure both citizens, non-Nigerians, Nigerians living in this country, that security agencies are on top of this matter.

“Of course, the terrorists would not stop to try to embarrass or intimidate government but what I’m saying is that this country is safe. And there’s no cause for alarm. No cause to panic.

“Unfortunately, because of that travel advisory on Sunday many schools were closed, shops were closed, travel plans were disrupted, we don’t need it. The security – our soldiers, our police are working round the clock to contain any terrorist attack.  This is where we stand.”

Reminded that the travel advisory specifically mentioned vulnerable states that Americans must not travel to, the government spokesman affirmed that it was not strange, saying  even Nigeria Mission in the US could advise Nigerians on their movement in the host country.

“I read it that it said that non-emergency staff should live Nigeria. You see, just like If Nigeria Mission in the US also sends a travel advisory and warning in Houston and say, look, don’t go, don’t take your children to school, because there could be mass shooting tomorrow. I mean, it is within their rights to say that their people should go home if they want to.

“But we as a country, have a responsibility to keep our country safe, and we’re not going to be, you know, stampeded at all, by whatever any government decides to tell its people.”

On whether government was worried by the impression the advisory could create on investors and steps that might be taken to prevent it, Mohammed advised citizens to desist from spreading unverified news.

He said:  “The concrete step is that people should stop spreading all verified news that is what saying. You see, look how many school shootings happen in the US? how many senseless killings happened in the US?

“So have they been able to predict what’s going to happen next which school is going to be a victim next? Do Nigerians in the US also feel safe?

“I think you should stop de-marketing your home country. Every country has its security challenges. We have ours and we are facing them. Which side are you, American side?”

Confusion as security forces raid Abuja estate

Meanwhile, there was confusion on Tuesday night among residents of Trademore Estate in Abuja as security forces reportedly raided the premises, following a tip off on the presence of a terrorist.

This came as the United States government  authorised the evacuation of its employees and their families from Nigeria over potential terrorist attacks..

The US State Department announced the approval of the evacuation in its updated Nigeria travel advisory on Tuesday evening.

This is even as the Federal Government said yesterday it would not be stampeded by whatever any government tells its citizens to do.

The sting operation in the Phase 4 section of the estate had led to a complete shutdown of the area as armed intelligence personnel and others suspected to be American Special Forces swooped on a building where a middleaged man was picked up.

A resident of the estate, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed the raid, saying “yes, there was a raid. Boxes of grenades and other explosives were recovered. Two pistols were also allegedly recovered, from what we heard.

“Although it was learned that the suspect had plans to attack three churches in the area – Living Faith, Redeemed and a Catholic church – I cannot immediately confirm that.”

Another resident of the estate told Vanguard that the suspect claimed to have been set up by his state governor.

He said: “The suspect is from one of the North Central states which recently witnessed high incidence of flooding. He claims he was set up by his state governor because he(suspect) refused working for the governor as a political thug, ahead of the 2023 general election.

”This is what we know for now but we await the security agencies to give clearer details. The point is that, there was, indeed, a raid by security forces”.

The development at Trademore came a day after men dressed in Nigerian Navy woodland camouflage trousers and “Special Forces” shirt picked up one Shafiu, a native of Kogi State in the Lugbe area of Abuja.

Shafiu, who was a death row inmate at the Suleja Custodial Centre was, however, released in controversial circumstances just weeks to the 2019 general elections.

He was picked up by a squad led by a certain Lt. Charles, just few days after declaring support for one of the opposition parties.

The police could not be reached last night for a reaction, as the force spokesman’s telephone could not be accessed.