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Terrorist threat: US shuts Lagos consulate

Posted by Yusuf Alli, Yomi Odunuga, Adeniyi Adesina and Femi Makinde on 2005/06/17 | Views: 2744 |

Terrorist threat: US shuts Lagos consulate


Following alleged security threat, the United States on Thursday closed its Consulate in Lagos.

Following alleged security threat, the United States on Thursday closed its Consulate in Lagos.

Britain also renewed its travel advice and warned its citizens against travelling to certain parts of Nigeria.

The US Embassy in Nigeria announced the closure of the consulate in a terse and unsigned statement, which was released in Abuja.

The statement reads, “The US consulate in Lagos will close, beginning 3.00pm June 16, because of a security issue of mutual concern to the United States Mission in Nigeria and the government of Nigeria. This security issue is being addressed with the help and close collaboration of relevant Nigerian authorities.”

Officials of the embassy declined further details on the closure.

The Director of Public Affairs of the US Consulate General, Ms. Atim Enaida-George, in a telephone interview, said, “Right now, I can’t give you details. We are just reviewing our security situation and we are getting full cooperation from the Nigerian authorities.”

She denied that the closure suggested deterioration in the diplomatic relationship between Nigeria and the US.

“The relationship is still strong, it is going on well,” she said.

She declined comments on how long the closure would last or whether it also affected diplomatic quarters in Lagos.

“At this point, we will be closed tomorrow (Friday) and we will continue to review the security situation,” she added.

She explained that the US visa would “still be available” and advised those intending to procure visas to “go to the US Embassy website for specific guidance.”

The closure of the consulate was the climax of a series of events on security issue between the US and Nigeria in the last one month.

A recent report by some US experts, brought together by the National Intelligence Council, which predicted a possible break-up of Nigeria in 2020, generated some furore.

The report was neither the position of the US government nor that of the NIC.

The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell, had also given a hint of a possible terrorist strike in Nigeria.

Addressing a news conference in Lagos, on May 10, he said the US 9/11 Commission recommended in 2004 that terrorist attacks were possible in Nigeria because Osama bin Laden had called for a violent resistance to the Federal Government.

Findings by our correspondents, however, revealed that the US Embassy opted for the closure of the consulate after a stocktaking in the last one week revealed a probable attack.

Based on its investigations, it was learnt that the Embassy compiled an assessment report, which indicated that the consulate was in “danger.”

In a veiled reference to a likely terrorist attack, a source said the report hinted of a “threat that has international dimension.”

The source said the report, signed by the US Ambassador, Campbell, was later forwarded to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olu Adeniji, who quickly alerted President Olusegun Obasanjo.

It was gathered that the President put all security agencies on the alert and ordered a reinforcement of mobile policemen, agents of the State Security Service, police detectives and operatives of the National Intelligence Agency to the consulate.

As at press time, it was learnt that both the offices of the Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser had been getting hourly situation report from all the agencies guarding the consulate.

But apart from the security beef-up, investigations revealed that The Presidency and security agencies had been analysing the remote and immediate causes of the US Embassy’s decision.

Although the Chief of Staff, Maj.-Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed (rtd), a respected intelligence officer, was put in charge of the implications of the threat to the consulate, the government was said to be considering a move by some foreign interests to sabotage the nation.

Another factor being analysed in the last few days was a likely attempt by some forces to frustrate Nigeria’s bid for a seat in the UN Security Council, through a false terrorist alarm.

But reacting to the development, the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said the closure of the consulate suggested a pattern.

He said, “First of all, it does not mean that the country is unstable and neither has anybody, not even the Americans suggested that, that is the case.

“It is true that the Americans consulted us on a security risk to their consulate in Lagos and as a consequence of their concern, Mr. President has directed that a number of mobile policemen and security personnel be drafted to the US consulate to protect it. That shows you that we do not take their concern with a pinch of salt.”

He, however, said there was a reason to suspect sabotage but he was not forthcoming on those involved.

He added, “However, when you link this action and this American security scare together with the US Intelligence Report, which was issued a few weeks back, you begin to see a pattern and the pattern is that some people, for reasons best known to them, wish to paint Nigeria as an unstable country which does not deserve any foreign investment.

“Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth because Nigeria is stable, Nigeria will not disintegrate, and Nigeria is investor friendly.

“No matter what the reality is on the ground, we are bound to take every sufficient action and measure to ensure that any security risk to any foreign mission or person or indeed Nigerian is sufficiently protected. And that is why Mr. President has ensured that additional security is assigned to the American Consulate.”

Responding to a question, Fani-Kayode ruled out a strained relationship between Nigeria and the US.

“You must remember that the Americans are our allies and our friends. President George W. Bush and Mr. President enjoy an exceptionally closed relationship. So, we will do everything in our power to take care of their concern.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure that anybody that feels threatened for whatever reason is fully protected.”

When contacted, the Nigeria Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ighodalo, said, “You can call back in two hours’ time for our reaction. I had been at a public inquiry, I need to find out the true situation of things.”

A diplomatic source in Lagos expressed surprise at the US Embassy’s action.

He told our correspondent that a security threat that would warrant such a drastic action could be internal or external.

According to him, the diplomatic missions had doubled their security since the September 11 attacks on the United States. “Everybody is extra careful, the US could have some intelligence report of an impending attack on their consulate. In this case, the decision would be pre-emptive.”

The British travel warning also reiterated the Bin Laden 2003 statement, which called for “support for brothers in Nigeria.”

Britons were warned against travelling to Bakassi peninsula and cautioned against travel by boat or road to the riverine areas of Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States.

The travel note reads, “You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be against civilian target. Localised outbreaks of civil unrest can occur at short notice.

“Violent crime is prevalent in the south of the country, including Lagos.”

The Punch, Friday, June 17, 2005

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown