On October 23, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria issued what it tagged elevated risk of terror attacks in Abuja, the federal capital territory. In the advisory, the US government said there is an elevated risk of terror attacks in Nigeria, specifically in Abuja.
It said targets may 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 organizations.
Some Western nations including the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Bulgaria, Germany, Ireland and others swiftly issued similar advisories to their citizens.
The American embassy directed its non-essential staff and their family members to either leave the FCT or avoid public places. “Avoid all non-essential travel or movement. Stay alert. Avoid crowds. Review your personal security plans and keep your cell phone charged in case of emergency and carry proper identification.”
The UK issued similar directives to its nationals, stressing that terrorists “are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Nigeria…There is an increased threat of terrorist attack in Abuja.” Australia also told its citizens to reconsider travelling to Nigeria “due overall to high threats of terrorist attack and kidnapping, the volatile security situation, possible violent civil unrest, and high levels of violent crime.”
Also, a statement issued by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said, “The updated advice outlines that there is an increased threat of terrorists attack in Abuja. British nationals are advised to stay alert, avoid non-essential travel within the city and follow the local news and the advice of security authorities.
“Other states in Nigeria where we advise against all but essential travel include, Bauchi, Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Sokoto, Kogi, Abia, Plateau, Taraba, within 20km of the border with Niger in Kebbi State and non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States,” the statement added.
Long before these advisories by these nations, Nigerians especially those resident in Abuja, for sometime have been living in fear. While there has been palpable fear around and within the city and the people scared to venture out, the government and government officials have always dismissed these fears as unjustified and unwarranted.
Those who entertain those fears have more than enough reasons to be afraid. It is not without a precedent and the people know better. Targets on places of worship, government buildings, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, and international organizations are not strange to Abuja.
Recall that these terrorists have been so emboldened lately that they even attacked the president’s convoy, attacked Kuje correctional facilities within the precincts of the seat of power and the president’s office.
Therefore, you would think the federal government would take the advisories for what they are and do the needful, but trust me, we have our own ways of doing things.
The federal government outrightly dismissed the warnings as “false” and “irresponsible.” Top government officials including the national security adviser, defense chief, head of national intelligence, and foreign affairs minister held a joint session with journalists soon after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and advised Nigerians to go about their daily activities as measures have been adopted to ensure the safety of Nigerians.
The national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, said “We’re trying as much as possible within the domestic situation to work with our foreign partners without giving the impression that Nigeria is skating on thin ice and we’re about to implode. I’ll want to dispel any illusion about heightened sense of insecurity. It is false, it is irresponsible…”
While dismissing the terror alert, IGP Alkali Baba Usman, described it as unnecessary security alert that does not have meaning.
He said it was only proper if there were security threats, for the diplomats to inform the authorities rather than calling on their citizens to flee.
Lai Mohammed, Minister of information, also warned that the federal government will not be stampeded over the travel advisory by the United States (U.S.). He said “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 when you find a story which is not verified and you immediately share it, always causes panic. But I want to reassure both citizens, non-Nigerians, Nigerians living in this country, that security agencies are on top of this matter.
I will be surprised if these men believe they are sounding convincing enough for Nigerians and other residents to believe them. Truth is that nobody believes them and people are in panic mode and doing what they can to protect themselves. That which they cannot do they have left to God.
Meanwhile, the double speaking police chief, after saying in one breath that the alert does not have meaning, is unnecessary and false also said security agencies were however not taking the message lightly as investigation has commenced to nip any security threat in the bud. He assured residents of Abuja of their safety. He told the media to avoid being used as agents to spread fake news.
This contradictory and self-serving outburst is only consistent with the pattern of the Buhari administration of leaving the object and chasing shadows. In January, 2020, Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, reacting to reports of escalating security breaches, said the Buhari administration has handled the issue of security better than previous governments. He had argued that compared to the previous administration “where bombs were going off 10 times a day”, the situation has improved.
“If you hear Nigerian media, social media, and some international agencies, you will think it is all over in the North-east, it is not. The people living there will tell you that the difference between now and 2015 is the difference between heaven and hell.”
Talk about rhetoric that is hollow in logic. Poor Nigerian media; they are always the whipping boy.
The action of these countries only goes to underscore the premium value they place on the lives of their citizens. They would not be caught in the web of controversy and dilly-dallying over issues concerning the safety of their citizens.
Predictable knee-jerk reactions to issues as these are not unexpected. Is there really anything to be bothered about whether or not the threat is real or not? What should bother any proactive government is to work with such intelligence reports, whether they were given in private or made public because we all know that this government more often than not would be more interested in trivial and inconsequential issues as mode, method of transmission and diplomatese, when in real terms what is needed is swift proactive measures to forestall its occurrence.
On what basis is the government dismissing the terror alerts, is it on the basis that these things have not happened in the country before or that they are strange to us? How long ago was the Owo church massacre? How long ago was the Kuje prison break which led to the escape of several inmates? Was it not alleged that the federal government had prior warning of the planned attack on the Kuje prison? How many of these inmates have been re-arrested? Have we not made ourselves the laughing stock of the world with our spurious deradicalisation programme? Have we not been exchanging arrested terrorists with kidnap victims? Are we thinking that in this vicious circle we have found ourselves, especially under this government that the war against terror can be won anytime soon?