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The Federal Government has dispelled the fear caused by the recent United States (U.S) security alert about Nigeria, especially Abuja,
It advised Nigerians not to panic because the alert was not meant for them, but for U.S. citizens.
“As far as we are concerned, our own citizens are not in peril,” the government said, admitting however, that the alert, which it described as “unnecessary distraction” had created panic among Nigerians, especially those in Abuja.
To prove that security agencies were up to the task of securing the country, the government said some terrorists that attempted to attack Wawa Cantonment in Niger State, on Friday were neutralised while five others were arrested.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno and Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Lucky Irabor stated these at the end of yesterday’s National Security Council meeting in Abuja.
They spoke amid security beef-up at the National Assembly Complex and advice by the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN) to the government not to ignore the security alert.
The U.S. had, shortly after the alert/ travel advisory, asked non-emergency Embassy staff members and their families to exit Nigeria. The UK and some European countries followed suit by advising their citizens in Nigeria to avoid certain places and those desirous of visiting Nigeria to rethink.
In spite of the apprehension created by the US alerts, Monguno, said: “The country(Nigeria) is safe; Abuja is safe as the security elements are doing their best. . That is the most important thing. It (U.S.alert) is false.
“It is irresponsible for anybody to give that signal. As far as we are concerned, our own citizens are not in peril..
“I will like to assure all the citizens of this country that any exaggerated sense of insecurity, any hype about the disintegration of our security forces, and intelligence agencies, is unfounded. I want to assure Nigerians that so far, the situation has been under control, and the intelligence and security agencies have made a lot of arrests.
“They’re evaluating and they’re exploiting all the materials in their possession. We’re not in the habit of disclosing whatever has been done, but the most important thing is that from the time this story started emerging, until now, about a week to 10 days, you can see that so far the situation has been brought under control.
“The issue of Nigerians being made to panic is unnecessary. The situation in various areas of the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) has been brought under control and we’re trying as much as possible to work with our neighbors and, within the domestic situation, to work with our foreign partners in a responsible way, without giving the impression that Nigeria is skating on thin ice and we’re about to implode.
“We’re working with our foreign partners in a responsible way and Nigerians should go about their normal daily undertakings without being put in a situation of fear.”
Explaining the circumstance under which the security alert by the U.S. was issued and how it has negatively affected the public psyche, he said: “The alert was targeted at the citizens of the United States residing in Nigeria; in Abuja, not at the larger Nigerian society. Now, if that thing has cascaded to give a different impression or coloration, there’s nothing anybody can do.
“The damage, whether it is intended or unintended, has been done. People’s minds have been tuned to a state of insecurity, which is quite bad, there’s nothing we can do if the US Embassy has gone out to give an advisor to its citizens and it has also affected other people.
“But what I want you to know is that the advisory was issued to their citizens.
“We have been sharing intelligence with not just the US, but with other partners and we’ve been acting on the intelligence we have been working. Has anything happened so far? No. Nothing has happened, but they went ahead to issue this advisory to their people and of course, the connotations are there, they could have various reasons for doing that. This is the first time it is happening.
“I don’t have that crystal ball to know the workings of their minds, but the truth is that the alert was for their own citizens. Probably the way in which it was released became complicated at the end of the day. “These are conjectures. There’s nothing that is specific. You are right, there will be a lot of interpretations of this alert. It is an unnecessary distraction. As far as we are concerned, the safety, the security of Nigerians is paramount and as far as we know, there’s nothing untoward so far.
“Nigerians should be allowed go about their legitimate undertakings without being put in a tight spot.”
On the successes recorded by the military in the last ten days, CDS Irabor, said: “ I’m sure some of you may have heard that on the night of 29th, October 2002, Wawa Cantonment in Niger State was attacked. “The alertness of the troops led to the neutralisation of the attackers and their vehicles that were laden with IEDs( Improvised Explosive Devices) and other items were impounded. Five of those attackers were equally arrested.”
Like Monguno, Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyema Onyema, acknowledged the negative impact of the U.S. terror alert.
He said: “We engaged the U.S. on this and their response was that they are obliged to put out those kinds of statements, normally travel advisories, but in this case, it was an alert, but they said that they are obliged to, for their citizens and that the alert was really for their citizens, that they do it around the world, as you know they did it also in South Africa in this particular case.”
“So, you have to look at the purpose of this kind of an announcement and then you also have to look at intelligence sharing and the best use you can make of shared intelligence and strike a balance.”
In Lafia, Nasarawa State Governor Abdullahi Sule urged the security agencies to work together and defeat the terrorists
Sule advised Nigerians not to be scared or cowed in the face of the alarm raised by the US and some European countries.
He spoke during the ground-breaking of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) Cooperative House in the state capital.
The governor said:” We are all aware of the terror alert raised by the US, then the UK and Australia followed. In Nasarawa, we had a security meeting. We cannot be cowed by the alert. And we should not surrender our country to criminals. Security agencies, the military, police, NSCDC, and others should work together to defeat terror.
“Nobody can scare us from coming to Abuja. Nigeria is our country, we must stand up and defend it together. We should not allow any criminal to scare us or cow us. Nigeria is safe and it will continue to be safe.”
*Don’t ignore U.S. warning, CAN advises Fed. Govt.
Meanwhile, CAN chapter in Gombe State has advised the government to study the terror alerts and work with their positive aspects.
CAN’s Executive Secretary in the state, Reverend Yakubu Pam, added that the association was worried by the alerts.
He said: “I am not a security expert, my job is to ensure peaceful coexistence. However one cannot do this without listening to security experts and the intelligence of different communities. Whatever they have said is subject to consideration by the Nigerian government and they should make sure that they take certain actions on what they have said.”
*Security tightened at NASS
Security was tightened at the National Assembly Complex yesterday as operatives and officials of the Sergeant-at-Arms Department searched every vehicle entering the premises.
Visitors and others without valid means of identification were turned back.
The NASS Security Management Committee had at the weekend announced new security measures.
A security personnel at the National Assembly, who spoke in confidence, said the exercise would continue until “security improves in the country.”
*FCT committee reassures residents
The FCT Executive Committee (EXCO) also reassured residents of the territory of their safety.
It insisted that adequate security arrangements have been made to sustain law and order in the nation’s capital.
The committee gave the assurance during its 12th Meeting at Gwarinpa I District yesterday.
It said: “Before the issuance of the advisory, the security agencies maintained and upscaled surveillance through their personnel within the Federal Capital City to ward off any security breach”.
The committee, however, urged residents to cooperate at all times with the security agencies by volunteering useful and timely information to them.
It also enjoined residents to install Close-Circuit Television (CCTV) in public places and buildings to complement ongoing efforts by the government in tackling the security challenges facing the country.
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