The US Embassy in Nigeria issued an advisory on October 23, 2022, to warn US citizens in the country of anticipated terrorist strikes in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
With so many unanswered concerns, this alert sparked broad public concern.
The US Embassy issued a thorough warning, even depicting terror strikes as a high possibility.
It reads: "There is an elevated risk of terror attacks in Nigeria, specifically in Abuja.
"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.
"The U.S. Embassy will offer reduced services until further notice."
On October 24, 2022, the Department of State Security (DSS) issued a statement to reassure Nigerians.
Despite the call for calm, the DSS did not refute the intelligence and instead boasted of having issued such warnings in the past.
"The Department of State Services (DSS) has received several inquiries relating to the security advisory issued by the US Embassy in Abuja, today, 23/10/22.
"The public may recall that the Service had variously issued similar warnings in the past", the statement reads.
While urging the public to remain calm and vigilant, the DSS requested that security agencies be provided with helpful information about threats and suspicious criminal activity surrounding them.
The United States went a step further, authorizing the withdrawal of its federal officials and their families from Nigeria in the event of a terrorist attack.
The US government, in its update, said, “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 in 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."
Following this, the British High Commission in Abuja, which was formerly a hive of activity for individuals seeking travel visas, has been virtually deserted, while Australia, Ireland, and Canada have limited services and will only cater to critical needs.
In a document, Australia reportedly advised its people not to travel to Nigeria "because to the high dangers of terrorist attacks and kidnapping, the volatile security environment, possible violent civil upheaval, and high levels of violent crime."
"If you are in Abuja, avoid all travel, keep alert, and follow local news and security officials' instructions," the memo stated.
Another warning was apparently issued by the Irish government via its delegation.
"Government buildings, retail malls, hotels, bars, huge gatherings, international organizations, transportation facilities, schools, markets, places of worship, and law enforcement agencies, among other things, could be targets," the statement added.
The announcement of the evacuation of US citizens in Abuja heightened residents' fear, resulting in an extraordinary stillness, a sharp reduction in motor traffic, and the closing of various public locations.
The Nigerian administration did not dispute the terror threats, instead urging calm and contempt for the warnings.
In a fast response to these terror alerts, however, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said Nigeria will not be stampeded by whatever any government decides to tell its people living in Abuja and parts of the country.
According to reports, Mohammed delivered the disavowal at a ministerial session of the ongoing UNESCO Media and Information Literacy Week in Abuja, saying that such security alerts were unnecessary because they were "creating panic in the polity" and that "no one cared to find out about the authenticity of these alerts."
"They simply published, profited from tremendous clickbait, and damned the consequences.
“Well, I can assure all that our military and other security agencies have continued to do everything possible to secure and protect Nigerians and foreigners living in Nigeria.
"Terrorists have been hard hit and put on the run. Bandits have been decimated and scattered.
“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 reportedly said.
Meanwhile, after the alert was issued, Nigerian Security Forces apprehended terror suspects in Lugbe, Piwoyi, and Piakasa, all of which are part of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
In another development, contrary to rumours, the Department of State Services (DSS) denied executing a joint security operation with US embassy security officers at the Trademoore Estate in Abuja.
However, the agency admits to conducting one alongside the Nigerian Army, during which several arrests were made.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday urged Nigerians not to worry following the recent travel advisory issued by the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom, which advised their citizens to avoid Abuja due to the potential of a terrorist attack.
The President, who recently returned from a six-day official visit to South Korea, where he participated in the inaugural World Bio Summit 2022, stated that travel warnings issued by the US and UK governments should not be taken seriously.
“Nigeria is no exception in having terror threats listed in foreign government’s travel advice to their citizens. UK and US travel advisories also state there is a high likelihood of terror attacks in many Western European nations.
"Indeed, the UK and US advice to their respective citizens for travel to one another’s countries contain the same warning. Unfortunately, terror is a reality the world over.
“However, it does not mean an attack in Abuja is imminent. Since the July prison raid, security measures have been reinforced in and around the FCT.
"Heightened monitoring and interception of terrorist communications ensure potential threats are caught further upstream.
“Attacks are being foiled. Security agents are proactively rooting out threats to keep citizens safe.
"Much of their work is unseen and necessarily confidential. Nigerians’ safety remains the highest priority of the government.
"Security services are working around the clock to keep harm at bay.”
The President assured Nigerians that his administration is on top of the country's security situation.
Some Nigerians who have been left in terror of the unknown due to government denials and rumours in the media are denouncing the government's actions and inactions.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) chastised Lai Mohammed on Wednesday for describing the terror alert as unconfirmed and misleading.
HURIWA's National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko stated in a statement that the minister has been spreading false information regarding the country's security condition under President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the group, instead of devising superior anti-terrorist strategies to avert the imminent attacks by marauders on the nation's political capital, the Buhari regime took a defensive stance, criticizing the intelligence of the UK and US embassies in Nigeria and giving the false impression that all is well and the country as a whole is secure.
It is not the first time the Minister has misled Nigerians on security problems by claiming that the country is safer than ever before, despite the fact that statistics on terrorist attacks in the country show otherwise.
According to data from the Nigerian Security Tracker, an initiative of the Council on Foreign Relations of the United States of America, between May 29, 2015, and October 15, 2022, no fewer than 53,418 Nigerians were killed by terrorists and killer herdsmen under Buhari's administration.
On March 28, 2022, the Kaduna-Abuja train massacred dozens of passengers, kidnapped over 100, and kept them captive for over six months before their controversial release earlier in October.
On July 5, 2022, terrorists stormed the Kuje jail in Abuja, freeing over 600 detainees, including dangerous terrorists who are still at large.
The broad daylight attack in August, in which terrorists killed some Presidential Guards Brigade men in Abuja.
And June 5, 2022, Owo's murder of nearly 40 Catholics during a Sunday church in Ondo State is still fresh in the thoughts of their families and concerned citizens across the country.
The government could do better than issue public announcements urging disregard for the terror threat and calm without adequately addressing citizens.
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