It has been near-absolute bedlam in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory since the United States Mission in Nigeria issued a security notice of planned terrorist attacks on the city.
Abuja which is home to High Commissions, Embassies and several leading foreign organisations have been the target of terrorist attacks in the past.
Of note was the bombing of the United Nations building in the heavily guarded Diplomatic Zone in Abuja on August 26, 2011. Another notable bombing was the police headquarters which was bombed a month earlier that same 2011.
Since then, there have been such attacks but have remained largely unsuccessful since President Muhammadu Buhari took over office in 2015.
So, when the U.S issued its statement on October 23, 2022 of possible attacks on Abuja, there was general apprehension not just amongst ordinary Nigerians, but even in government circles. For those in government, it was anger and sadness that the Americans will seek to create panic.
“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.” The security alert by the embassy stated.
The Americans were followed by their traditional ally, the United Kingdom, which also urged its citizens to be cautious and travel when absolutely necessary.
The Nigerian government was miffed and its secret police, the Department of State Services, DSS, said it had issued such advisory in April, urging Nigerians to be alert and report any untoward incidents to any of the security agencies.
Smarting from the security alerts, some civil society groups in a statement alleged that, “In what has become a recurrent decimal, the US has continued to predict negative outcomes for Nigeria of which the most telling was the collapse – if you like, the failure of the Nigerian-State – ahead of the 2015 general elections. More than seven years after, their prognosis has fallen flat on its feeble feet. Similarly, aligned interests in America predicted that Africa, Nigeria inclusive, will be littered with corpses at the outbreak of Covid-19, but history and medical records show that the outcome has been the opposite with dire consequences for America and her allies.”
While security advisories are designed to pre-empt terrorists, they can also lead to complete breakdown of law and order and loss of faith in the powers of the State to protect.
It is for this reason that circumspection is key. The Abuja Inquirer imagines what motive, if any, did the US Government have not to have allowed the Nigerian security architecture to undertake the announcement as it has always done.
What the security alerts have cost the Nigerian state is better imagined as businesses have had to cut down on productive man-hours, businesses have been at a low while Nigerians are less confident of their government to protect them.
It is regrettable that the Americans seem not engaging with their Nigerian government on information sharing. Over the years, both countries have shared intel and we believe continue to share. It will be helpful if the Americans enough to inform them of possible attacks and see they react.
Any information that could lead to outcomes that are not civil and promote cohesion should be eschewed even when the intentions are. It is our hope at The Abuja Inquirer that the Nigerian government will rise above its denials and act even as it continues to go after the cells of terrorist groups.