Embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Canada on Wednesday issued fresh warnings to their citizens, advising them not to travel to Nigeria.
The embassies hinged their warnings on the deployment of troops in northern Mali, fearing attacks on Nigeria by Islamic terrorists with sympathy for the Malian rebels, especially on Thursday (today) that has already been declared a public holiday to mark the birth of Prophet Mohammed.
Nigerian 1,200 troops arrived in Bamako, Malian capital, on Sunday as part of an international military intervention to end the crisis in the northern part of Mali.
Canadian embassy, for example, on its website advised its citizens against non-essential travel to Nigeria, with exception of Abuja; Calabar, Cross River State; and Lagos.
It also described the security situation throughout the country as unpredictable, adding that there was a significant risk of terrorism, crime, inter-communal clashes, armed attacks and kidnappings.
The warning read in part: “Increased threat of attacks and kidnappings Military clashes are occurring in Mali between armed rebels and government forces. Since January 11, 2013, the French military has been assisting the Malian government in efforts to repel these rebels.
“Terrorist groups in the region have declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings, targeting Westerners. Citizens of countries supporting the military intervention are at particular risk, but all travellers should exercise increased vigilance in the region.
“There is a high threat of domestic terrorism in the northern states of Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Kano and Kaduna, where the extremist group, Boko Haram, which often claims responsibility for terrorist attacks, is based.
“Boko Haram-related attacks have resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries. A state of emergency is in effect in some areas of Borno and Yobe states.
“There is a risk of foreign nationals being kidnapped in some northern states of Nigeria.”
The UK, on its website which was updated on January 13, 2013, and marked, “Still current” on 23 January, 2013, said, “We advise against all travel to: Borno State, Yobe State, Riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. Warri city, Kano city.
“We advise against ALL BUT ESSENTIAL travel to: Bauchi State, Jos city, Riyom and Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas in Plateau State, Gombe State, Mubi Town in Adamawa State and the area north of Mubi Town that borders Borno State.
“Non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states; Abia State, Kaduna City and Zaria City.
“There is a high threat from terrorism in Nigeria. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including government, security and educational institutions, international organisations as well as public venues and areas such as restaurants, bars, markets, hotels, shopping centres, places of worship and other areas frequented by expatriates, foreign tourists and business travellers.
“A number of attacks have taken place around religious and public holidays. There have been regular attacks on churches in northern Nigeria at times of worship. We cannot therefore rule out further attacks taking place. You should be particularly vigilant at these times and in these locations.
You should avoid affected areas in the immediate aftermath of an attack.
“Following French military intervention in Mali, there is a possibility of retaliatory attacks targeting Western interests in the region. We advise vigilance.”
On its part, the US Mission in Nigeria said on its website, “The U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria encourages US citizens in Nigeria to remain vigilant in light of recent events in Mali and the potential for retaliatory actions towards westerners in the region.”
It, however, noted, “There is currently no specific information on threats against US citizens in Nigeria. It is prudent to be aware of events occurring in other countries of the region.
“As a precaution, US citizens in Nigeria should exercise caution when in public areas, particularly areas frequented by westerners such as: hotels, nightclubs, and various forms of public transportation including ferries.”
It also advised citizens to “stay tuned to media reports, be aware of your surroundings, and report suspicious activity or unattended packages to the police. As always, avoid demonstrations should you come upon them.”
Germany said, “Due to the military operation in Mali, also Germans in Nigeria have to act on the assumption of an increasing endangerment. Please take note of the updated travel advice of the German Foreign Office.”
When one of our correspondents contacted the Director, Army Public Relations, Maj-Gen. Bola Koleosho, he said that the tone of the Canadian alert to its citizens was not out of place.
He said that it was a note of warning to their citizens so they would be careful.
He said that there was nothing wrong in the advice they gave to their citizens.
The Army spokesman said that the warning did not mean that the Nigerian security agencies did not know what they were doing or lacked the competence to secure the society.
He said that it was rather encouraging that the statement urged the foreign citizens to report any unusual movement to security agencies.
He said, “They are free to warn their citizens, that doesn’t mean there is Armageddon.
“The decision to go to Mali is a joint decision of all ECOWAS countries, which has the support of the international community.
“What they are doing is to warn their citizens. It doesn’t mean we are not capable; it is just a word of caution.”