Against the backdrop of the terror alerts issued by both the United States and the United Kingdom last week, the Federal Government, on Monday, assured Nigerians to go about their lawful businesses as the country is safe and secure.
The government also came down hard on the United States Mission in Nigeria, the British High Commission and other foreign missions over the terror alerts they issued last week.
The Federal Government dismissed the security advisories, describing them as false, insisting that it was irresponsible to give signals of heightened insecurity in the country when there was no basis for it.
The National Security Adviser, Maj Gen Babagana Monguno (retd.) stated this after the emergency meeting of the National Security Council summoned by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Experts, however, advised the government to exercise caution in its outright dismissal of the security warning.
The US, UK, and later by Canada, Germany and Bulgaria had warned their nationals in Nigeria of an impending terrorist attack and asked them to avoid travel to Abuja.
They noted that suspected terrorists could target government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, sports gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, and international organizations.
The US subsequently permitted its non-essential staff and their family members to leave the country in updated travel advice.
The warnings triggered panic and tension across the country, especially in Abuja, the nation’s capital as many workers stayed away from the office while the roads were devoid of traffic.
In response to the apprehension created by the alert, the popular Jabi Mall and a construction company, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc shut down, citing security concerns.
To allay fears, the security forces launched a counter-intelligence operation which led to the arrest of several terror suspects, including two persons at the Trademore Estate, Lugbe, a satellite town in the Federal Capital.
The operatives also carried out patrols while the military and police mounted checkpoints at strategic parts of the capital city.
But briefing correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, Monguno reassured Nigerians that there was no cause for alarm and urged the citizens and other residents to go about their businesses without any sense of apprehension.
The NSA added that the armed forces, security and intelligence agencies were on alert to ensure that the country was safe.
“We just concluded a sitting, an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, which was held at the behest of Mr President. We have just concluded the meeting and the meeting basically, was to discuss recent happenings within the FCT and certain declarations and alerts coming from various quarters, insinuating growing insecurity and threat to security within the FCT and environments.
“In rounding off, I will like to first and foremost, 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 are evaluating and exploiting all the materials in their possession.’’
Speaking further, Monguno said, “We are 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, the situation has been brought under control and we’re trying as much as possible to work with our neighbours and within the domestic situation, to work with our foreign partners responsibly, without giving the impression that Nigeria is skating on thin ice and we are about to implode; that I will want to dispel any illusion about any heightened sense of insecurity.
‘’It is false, it is irresponsible for anybody to give that signal. We are 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.”
Also speaking, the Chief of Defense Staff, Gen Lucky Irabor assured that the nation’s armed forces are doing everything to keep the situation under control, saying that Nigerians should go about their normal business without fear.
Irabor stated “Just to also indicate that, as mentioned by the National Security Adviser, to use the opportunity to assure Nigerians that the armed forces, the police and other security agencies are working around the clock to ensure that lives and properties of Nigerians are protected and so far, there is no cause for alarm.
‘’Nigerians should go about their normal duties as the armed forces and other security agencies are well poised to protect them accordingly. Perhaps, to use this opportunity to mention that; I am sure some of you may have seen in the media, or amongst you, that on the night of 29th, October 2002, Wawa Cantonment in Niger State was attacked.
‘’Of course, the alertness of the troops led to the neutralization of the attackers and the vehicles, that were laden with IED and other items, were impounded and five of those attackers were equally arrested.’’
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in his remarks, said the Nigerian government is working with foreign missions to address insecurity.
He noted; “There is a foreign dimension to this issue as alerts are always issued by foreign countries, with missions here in Nigeria. Now, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, have been working very closely to fully get on top of the situation, and also to engage with our foreign partners, first of all, to mitigate and blunt any threat that there could be from outside the country. We are also working and engaging with the Foreign Missions within the country to ensure that whatever we do, whatever we say, is constructive and should not, in any way, cause unnecessary alarm, and in any way destabilize the country.
“So, just to reassure the country that we are in full engagement with foreign partners and that our security personnel and agencies are fully on top of the situation and that as they have said, there’s no cause for alarm. We want to push more for greater coordination and synergy with our foreign partners and make sure that that cooperation with them is a constructive one, not an alarmist one.”
Those who attended the meeting include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari; the Minister of defense, Maj Gen Bashir Magashi (retd.); Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi.
Also present were the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Farouk Yahaya; the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao, and the Chief of Defense Intelligence, Maj Gen Samuel Adebayo.
When asked for comments on the issue, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said Buhari’s assurance to Nigerians remained firm.
He stated, “We had a security council meeting today. The NIA and CDS Lucky Irabor addressed the media after the security meeting. Most importantly, the President has addressed the issue and assured Nigerians already.”
Despite the NSA’s assurances, the management of the highbrow Transcorp Hilton hotel has said it will henceforth halt operations at 9 pm following the security advisories.
Disclosing this in a memo dated October 28, 2022, addressed to the hotel’s staff and business partners, the hotel also said that its workers were now required to wear their identity badges at all times.
The memo signed by the General Manager, Bulent Tarlen, titled ‘security protocol,’ read in part, ‘’Thank you for your continuous patronage and collaboration with Transcorp Hilton, Abuja over the years.
“Given the recent security threat in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, new security protocols have been put in place to ensure the safety of all our guests and staff.
“We seek your support in ensuring that the following measures are observed: all staff should carry a visible means office ID card at all times and avoid accessing areas outside their designated workplace.
“All shops/offices must submit the names of employed staff to the Security Department. All Office operations should be put to a halt latest by 9 pm until further notice and staffing be reduced to critical only.”
Reacting to the hotel’s decision, the FCT police spokesperson, DSP Josephine Adeh said the Commissioner of Police, Babaji Sunday regularly meets with hotels, estates, gardens and parks, motor parks, and high-rise buildings owners in Abuja, before the alert, adding that, security has, however, been intensified following the alert.
She said, “There’s no cause for alarm. Residents should go about their lawful businesses without fear. The FCT is secured, and we’re doing our best to keep everyone safe. Our duty is to secure the FCT and the people and their properties, and we have been doing that even before now.’’
“The CP usually meets with stakeholders, including hotels, estates, gardens and parks, motor parks, and high-rise buildings owners in the FCT, as a routine, and our efforts have been intensified.’’
Commenting on the government’s stance, a retired security personnel, Hassan Stan-Labo said “As far as I am concerned, the Americans and other countries would have discussed the security alert with the Nigerian government which I call Inter-Governmental diplomatic exchange and then our government will know how to bring it to us in a way that it will not create a panic situation which we have today in FCT.
‘’But the fact remains that even if our government itself had issued us the security alert, we will not take them seriously because there is an already trust deficit between the government and the governed in Nigeria.
“It is not surprising that Nigerians believe the words from developed countries than Nigeria itself. The security agencies keep saying that they are on top of the situation all the time.’’