‘How US security alert unsettles Abuja’
Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has not remained the same since the United States Embassy raised the alarm of an elevated risk of terror attacks in Nigeria, specifically in Abuja, on Sunday, October 23, 2022.
In an alert issued to its nationals, the Embassy said targets might include, but are not limited to, government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, athletic gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, and international organisations.
“The U.S. Embassy will offer reduced services until further notice,” the alert read.
The Embassy had, however, advised its nationals to avoid all non-essential travel or movements, stay alert, avoid crowds and review their personal security plans and keep their cell phone charged in case of emergency, including carrying proper identification.
Reacting, the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria’s secret police, swiftly told citizens there was no cause for alarm over US alert.
A statement by its spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya, said: “The Department of State Services (DSS) has received several enquiries relating to the security advisory issued by the US Embassy in Abuja, on Sunday, October 23, 2022. The public may recall that the Service had variously issued similar warnings in the past.
“While advising that necessary precautions be taken by all and sundry, the populace is enjoined to remain alert and assist security agencies with useful information regarding threats and suspicious criminal acts around them.
“Meanwhile, the Service calls for calm, as it works with other law enforcement agencies and stakeholders to maintain peace and order in and beyond Abuja.”
The US followed up the alarm raised by authorising the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their families from Nigeria, an action that could be likened to Afghanistan scenario and has triggered fierce fears among Nigerians.
A former member of Nigeria’s intelligence community, who confirmed the United States’ action, said it did not call for panic, as according to him, “the action is a standard crisis management procedure.”
He said: “The evacuation of non-essential workers and family members is the first step when violence is anticipated.
“The reason is to properly manage an evacuation plan, especially when the facilities for evacuation are limited.”
A former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Taiwo Lakanu, also urged Nigerians to be calm, as the Nigeria Police Force had released a comforting and timely action signal on steps being taken to ameliorate the outcry.
However, the alarm has continued to trigger apprehension and deep fear, thereby, unsettling the ever-bubbling seat of power and its government.
Meanwhile, schools run by foreigners, the popular Jabi Lake Mall housing Shoprite and other shops are shut.
The management of Jabi Lake Mall abruptly shut its operations on Thursday, October 27, 2022.
The management in a post on its Instagram page said the decision was taken for the overall safety of all its staffers and valued customers.
“Centre management is committed to minimising any disruptions; however, the safety of our staff and shoppers remains our highest priority. “Management is constantly reviewing the security situation in consultation with relevant security authorities and will inform you when the mall will be re-opened.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and hope to provide you with a quality shopping experience soon.”
In a related development, the FCT Police Command has received emergency 20, out of the 60 operational vehicles, donated to 16 security outfits within Abuja.
According to the Police spokesperson, DSP Josephine Adeh, the FCT Minister, Mohammed Musa Bello, in his goodwill message, just before the vehicles were test-driven and handed over to the FCT Commissioner of police CP Babaji Sunday, said the donation came with a three-year paid servicing schedule.
In addition, the Minister said six area councils would be supported N5m to commence a better community policing strategy, and other security-related gadgets to be controlled by the Central Command and Control Centre domiciled in the FCT Police Command.
He commended security operatives for their gallantry and selfless services, especially those who have paid the ultimate price.
The Minister reiterated his confidence in the FCT security apparatus and architecture and said the new vehicles would enhance optimal security delivery via prompt response and visibility policing.
He assured that the “FCT is absolutely safe and boasts of a watertight security architecture.
The CP said for every crime successfully committed, several others have been nipped in the board.
He urged all FCT residents to play their roles by reporting suspicious activities to relevant agencies.
“He corroborated the minister’s assertion that the FCT is safe and residents are urged to go about their lawful businesses without fear of harassment or molestation of any kind or from any quarters.
“The command’s emergency lines for distress calls are as follows: 08032003913, 08061581938, 07057337653, and 08028940883, while the Public Complaint Bureau (PCB) desk, could be reached at 0902 222 2352.”
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Usman Alkali Baba, reiterated the Force’s commitment to ensuring the safety of all citizens.
He emphasised this while charging all Strategic Police Managers in charge of commands and tactical formations within the country to beef up security in their respective jurisdictions, especially in the FCT.
Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, said: “The IGP similarly directed that all emergency numbers across the country should be activated to full capacity for a 24/7 prompt response with combatant officers and men on standby to respond in case of emergency situations and distress calls. Residents within the FCT are urged to remain vigilant and report any suspicious or abnormal occurrence and persons to the Police through the following emergency lines: 08032003913, 08061581938, 07057337653, and 08028940883.
“The IGP therefore allays the fear of residents in the FCT and admonishes them to go about their lawful businesses and normal social lives/engagements as all hands are on deck to nip any security threat in the bud and respond to distress calls promptly. The IGP similarly reiterates the commitment of the Nigeria Police to eliminating all threats, as well as protection of lives and property of all residents of the country.”
Meanwhile, the former Director of DSS, Mr. Dennis Amachree, also called for caution and calm, saying that intelligence reports were not meant to scare people, but to create awareness.
He said: “Intelligence reports and subsequent procedures are not meant to scare or cause fear. It is designed to raise the level of awareness and safety precautions that should be taken if the threat manifests.”
US had issued a similar security alert in September 2022 in the Armenian side of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, saying U.S. Embassy employees and their families are prohibited from any non-essential travel to Tavush Province, along the M4 highway north of Ijevan and all areas eastward, Gegharkunik region east of Lake Sevan and Gegharkunik region south of Lake Sevan and east of the M10 highway amongst others.