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Terror alert: FG dismisses threat as U.S. evacuates workers, families from FCT

By Odita Sunday, Terhemba Daka and Ernest Nzor (Abuja)
27 October 2022   |   4:16 am
Barely 48 hours after it issued travel advisory to its citizens of possible terror attacks in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the United States government, yesterday...

Lai Mohammed. Photo/facebook/FMICNigeria

• We won’t be stampeded by travel advisory – FG
• U.S. issues alert on terror attack in South Africa
• Don’t trivialise terror alert, political parties warn
• No cause for alarm, intelligence community allay fears
• Nigeria not safer than before, HURIWA replies Mohammed

Barely 48 hours after it issued travel advisory to its citizens of possible terror attacks in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the United States government, yesterday, granted authorised departure status to U.S. citizens in Abuja, permitting voluntary departure of family members and certain employees of its embassy in Abuja due to heightened risk of terrorist attacks.  

This latest security notice by the U.S. Consulate came amid assurances by government and security agencies of no cause for alarm. The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had, on Tuesday, labeled the terror threat as unverified and misleading.

In its updated travel advisory, U.S. warned its citizens to avoid travelling to 14 states in Nigeria due to insecurity, mentioning states to be avoided as Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe in Northeast; Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Zamfara in Northwest; Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Rivers in South-South. No state was mentioned in North-Central, Southwest and Southeast.

Reacting to the fresh notice, the Federal Government, yesterday, said it cannot be stampeded by whatever any government tells its citizens to do.

Fielding questions from State House correspondents on the issue at the Presidential Villa, Mohammed said despite attempts by terrorists to embarrass government, security agencies have 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 are safe in Nigeria. He said: “On 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. But I want to reassure all citizens and non-Nigerians living in the 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.”

Reminded that the travel advisory specifically mentioned vulnerable states that Americans must not travel to, the government spokesman affirmed that it is not strange as even Nigeria Mission in the U.S. can advise Nigerians on their movement in the country.

He said: “It’s just like if Nigeria Mission in U.S. also sends a travel advisory and warning in Houston and say, look, 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.”

Just like in Nigeria, U.S. government has also issued a security alert warning its citizens about the possibility of terror attacks in South Africa. In the alert posted on its embassy website yesterday, U.S. said it received information that terrorists may be planning to attack large gatherings of people in Sandton, Johannesburg, on Saturday. U.S. advised its citizens to avoid large gatherings in the named area.

AGAINST the backdrop of a terror alert, political parties have advised the Federal Government to act decisively and secure the country and her citizens. They said rather than trivialise the security warning, effort should be made to treat it with seriousness.

National Publicity Secretary of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Rufus Aiyenigba, said: “We are all living in despair. Across the length and breadth of the country, nowhere is safe. This alert should not be politicised because the U.S. Embassy is not known to issue statements for the fun of it. This should be a wake up call by the government and security agencies to be on top of their game.
“Let us not forget that US intelligence is second to none. We will be doing a lot of disservice to ourselves if we choose to ignore this warning.”
Also speaking, spokesperson of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Egbeola Wale-Martins, noted that the security situation in the country called for action, not rhetoric.

“There is nothing political about the terror alert because the security reality in Nigeria is public knowledge and the lackadaisical attitude of President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has hitherto been legendary until the recent aggressive onslaught on terrorists when the seat of power became threatened.”
However, presidential candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Yabagi Sani, dismissed the security alert, saying: “Nigeria is bigger than this. If truly they had an intelligence report, what stopped them from giving it to our security agencies? We won’t succumb to this.”

A former member of Nigeria’s intelligence community, speaking on the development, said it does not call for panic.
According to the source, who preferred anonymity, the action of the U.S. State Department is what obtains in standard crisis management procedure, which is evacuation of non-essential workers and family members as a first step, when violence is anticipated.

“The reason is to properly manage an evacuation plan, especially when the facilities for evacuation are limited,” he said.

A former Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), Taiwo Lakanu, has urged Nigerians to be calm as the lead agency in security, Nigeria Police Force (NPF), has released a comforting and timely action through a signal on steps being taken to ameliorate the alert.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), yesterday, berated the Minister of Information and Culture for labeling as unverified and misleading, the terror alerts by the United States and United Kingdom.

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, said the Minister has been churning out untrue propaganda about the security situation in the country under the current administration.

The group said instead of coming up with superior, anti-terrorist strategies to forestall the imminent attacks by marauders on the nation’s political capital, the administration took a defensive position, faulting the intelligence of UK and U.S. embassies here in Nigeria, and giving false impression that all is well and that the country as a whole is well-secured.

“Our country is safer today than at any time in recent times, thanks to the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform,” the Minister had said.

Onwubiko said: “It is of note that even the Department of State Services (DSS) and NPF did not disregard the terror alerts but rather urged residents of Abuja metropolis and Nigerians in general to remain calm.

“However, Minister Mohammed came up with his usual misleading defence that Nigeria is safer than before, which is a blatant lie.

The statistics of terrorist attacks this year alone showed that all the claims by the Minister are false. “Minister Mohammed in his characteristic manner misled Nigerians for seven years that terrorists are defeated, but terrorists went ahead to attack a Kaduna-Abuja train on March 28, 2022, killed a dozen, kidnapped over 100 passengers and held them hostages for over six months before their controversial release earlier in October.

“The same terrorists invaded the Kuje prison in Abuja on July 5, 2022 and freed over 600 inmates, including hardened terrorists who are still at large. In August, in broad daylight, terrorists ambushed and killed some personnel of the Presidential Guards Brigade in Abuja. The Owo massacre of over 40 Catholics during a Sunday service in Ondo State on June 5, 2022 is still fresh in the minds of their families and conscientious individuals.

“Under this government, in the last seven years, no fewer than 53,418 Nigerians lost their lives to terrorists and killer herdsmen, according to a data by the Nigerian Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations of the United States of America.

“Yet, Minister Mohammed could tell Nigerians that terrorists are technically defeated. The lies have failed and the Federal Government and its propaganda machineries should quit the lies and the façade.

“President Buhari should cut short his South Korea trip and head to Abuja to coordinate Nigeria’s response to the terror alerts. The disregard and the downplaying of intelligence by the present government is at the core of our woes as a people. A responsible government should be preparing effective response and how to forestall terror attacks and not defending the indefensible.”

SOME military and intelligence sources have expressed misgivings over the terror alerts on suspected plots by terrorists to attack the FCT and other targets, particularly foreign diplomatic missions, noting that the actions were aimed at embarrassing security agencies who have achieved so much in flushing out criminal elements across the country.

A top source, while describing the U.S. actions as hostility towards Nigeria, noted, “this unethical stance has political, psychological, educational and economic implications with negative consequences towards Nigeria’s collective security.
“U.S. has incrementally become hostile to Nigeria’s effort towards addressing our intertwined security challenges. Their unethical stance has political, psychological, educational and economic implications with negative consequences towards Nigeria’s collective security.”