By Muideen Olaniyi & Idowu Isamotu
Following the approval of the United States Government for evacuation of its citizens, employees and their families from Nigeria over potential terrorist attacks, the Federal Government of Nigeria has questioned the safety of the US.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who spoke to State House reporters yesterday, said the security situation in the US too was unpredictable as many school shootings and senseless killings had happened there.
Before the Nigeria Travel Advisory which was released Tuesday evening by the US State Department, the American Embassy had, on Sunday, said there was an elevated risk of terrorist attacks in Abuja.
It had listed targets as including schools, government buildings, hotels, markets, shopping malls, bars, athletic gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, restaurants, places of worship and international organisations.
The US State Department, in the travel advisory issued Tuesday, stated: “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 advisory read.
“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.”
Fielding questions from reporters at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday, Lai Mohammed insisted there was no cause for alarm.
He had earlier on Tuesday dismissed the Sunday’s terror alert by the US Embassy, saying Nigeria “is safer today than any time in recent times, thanks to the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.”
Yesterday, the minister restated that the security agencies had, in the last few months, taken firm control of the situation despite the attempts by terrorists to embarrass government.
Mohammed, who said the government would not be stampeded by whatever any nation told its citizens to do, restated that citizens and non-citizens alike remained 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 do not need it. Our soldiers, our police are working round the clock to contain any terrorist attack. This is where we stand.
“Just like if Nigeria Mission in the US also sends a travel advisory and warning in Houston and says, look, don’t go, don’t take your children to school because there could be mass shootings tomorrow. I mean, it’s 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 his people.”
Asked if the government was worried that the advisory could scare investors away, he advised citizens to desist from spreading unverified news.
He said: “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 is 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’re facing them. Which side are you, American side?”
A security reform expert, Chukwuma Ume, in a chat with Daily Trust last night, urged the US not to create panic in Nigeria.
Ume also charged the Nigerian security forces to reach out to the international communities to douse the tension in the country.
He said, “When the US issues such an advisory, it could also be political because how many times have they issued such an advisory in their country?”
He, however, charged the Nigerian Government to protect lives and property.