Bomb warnings from foreign countries causing panic- FG

2012-04-19
THE PUNCH Newspaper

The Federal Government on Wednesday cautioned the US and other foreign countries with presence in the country against making statements that were capable of creating panic amongst Nigerians.

The Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, stated this in Abuja against the backdrop of a United States embassy security alert to its nationals on an imminent attack on Abuja by the terrorist Islamic sect, Boko Haram.

Maku, who spoke to journalists shortly after the Federal Executive Council meeting, said that such a warning was similar to earlier ones by the US embassy.

He said that while the Federal Government conceded to every country the duty to ensure the safety of their nationals, such much be done in a manner that it would not create mass hysteria in the country.

The minister said, “This is because some of these statements that are often issued create undue panic among the general public.

“So, I will continue to appeal to all the foreign agencies working in our country to align more with our security rather than often running to make statements that can create undue panic among the public and I am not sure that security comes from such measures.”

Although the minister said the warning issued by the US was not new, he appealed to foreign governments to always communicate with the Federal Government if they had any doubt about the preparedness of the country’s security agencies to tackle insecurity in the country.

He said, “Let me say that it (such a statement) is not new. You remember that about a year ago, a similar statement was made by some embassies and I think we discussed that in this Council, we tried to respond to it.

“Whereas we believe that every country has a duty to secure its citizens and take decision that will ensure the safety of their nationals, we have always appealed to such embassies and agencies not to create public panic in our country.

“I will still appeal that foreign embassies and organisations that are working within Nigeria if they have any doubt at all about the preparedness of our agencies to secure public places, I think it will be wise to communicate that to us.

“But, I must say that our security agencies have over the last one year increased their capacity to respond to some of the threats particularly within this city and several other cities.

“And I believe that a lot of work is being done. And we also know that when the issue came up last year our security agencies reassured the nation of our preparedness to safeguard all our public places, especially the hotels.

“Our security agencies have increased their capacity to respond to these threats here in the FCT and other parts of the country and other places of public interest.

“We will continue to appeal to all foreign agencies to align more with our security agencies. Security does not come from such measures (such statements).”

Maku also advised journalists to be more careful when reporting activities of those he described as “anti-state groups.”

“The media need some time off, it appears to me that we get a lot of panic from sensational reports. We have a responsibility in this country to have some discernment on the time and space we give to anti-state groups.”

The US advisory read, “The U.S. Embassy has received information that Boko Haram may be planning attacks in Abuja, Nigeria, including against hotels frequently visited by Westerners.

“The US government has no additional information regarding the timing of these possible attacks. The Nigerian government is aware of the threat and is actively implementing security measures.”

The embassy had in November last year given a similar warning and advised their citizens to avoid three top hotels in Abuja namely the Nicon Luxury, the Sheraton and Transcorp Hilton.

But the police in response to the Wednesday alarm said they had taken necessary measures to frustrate any planned attack on facilities and citizens.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Olusola Amore, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, said the police were ready to protect lives and property in the country.

Amore said, “The US knew why they issued the warning but the police are always ready to protect lives and property in the country.

“Journalists should ask them (US) why they issued the statement, but we are working tirelessly to protect Nigerians and foreigners from criminals and miscreants that want to cause trouble in the country.”

A security source who spoke with one of our correspondents said that security operatives did not really need any threat or warning to ensure the security of lives and property in Abuja.

The source said that security agents were always on the alert because of the harm already done by Boko Haram.

The source said that security screening on routes leading to the FCT was tight; however, the source warned people to be more careful in public places.

“But People must be very careful, if security is relaxed, they would strike, people should avoid gardens,” he said.

Meanwhile, tougher security measures have been adopted at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

A combined team of security operatives from the Nigeria Police and the Brigade of Guards of the Nigerian Army have blocked one of the two lanes of the very busy Herbert Macaulay Way, in front of the NNPC towers.

Bomb detecting dogs screened workers and visitors to the complex at the entrance; just as they were made to pass through four screening points before being allowed in.

However, the atmosphere at Transcorp Hilton, Sheraton and NICON luxury was calm, but security operatives at the gates were on full alert.

Human and vehicular traffic was light at the Transcorp hotel where a sophisticated explosive detector was in use at the entrance.

Transcorp’s Public Relations Manager, Mr. Sola Adeyemo, told The Punch that they were aware of the US warning and had put in place adequate security measures.

A security supervisor at NICON luxury, Chidi Onwuzuoma, said they were aware of the US security alert and had taken adequate measures.

“We have policemen, Anti-terrorist Squad, State Security Service operatives and others maintaining security round the clock; but we pray against any bomb attack,” he said.

The Sheraton Hotel management declined comments, but a senior official explained that the hotel had sufficient security equipment to face the challenge at hand.

Despite the US security alert, diplomatic activities went on smoothly at the American Embassy, the British High Commission and its Australian counterpart.

Our correspondent who went round some of the embassies on Wednesday, noticed that anti-riot policemen and in some cases complemented by police patrol vehicles were on guard at strategic locations near the foreign missions.

A police patrol truck with half a dozen armed policemen was stationed some metres away from the Chinese and Ghanaian embassy buildings located opposite the heavily fortified US Embassy. It was the same situation at the Canadian High Commission as well as the Japanese Embassy located on Bobo Street.

An Armoured Personnel Carrier of the Nigeria Police Force was also seen at the Bobo Street junction, just as huge concrete barriers were part of the security arrangements at the British High Commission compound.

 

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