Nigerian authorities on Monday dismissed recent terror warnings by foreign missions for the capital, Abuja, as "false" and "irresponsible." Heads of Nigerian security agencies made the comments to journalists after an emergency security meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari. But security experts are urging Nigerians to take the warnings seriously.
Top government officials including the national security adviser, defense chief, head of national intelligence, and foreign affairs minister, held a joint session with journalists soon after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The meeting comes in the wake of warnings issued by various foreign missions in the West African nation, of elevated risks of terror attacks, crimes, kidnapping and communal clashes, especially for the capital, Abuja.
The national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, addressed journalists.
"We're trying as much as possible within the domestic situation to work with our foreign partners without giving the impression that Nigeria is skating on thin ice and we're about to implode. I'll want to dispel any illusion about heightened sense of insecurity. It is false, it is irresponsible...," Monguno said.
The officials reiterated that there's no cause for alarm and urged citizens to go about their normal activities without fear.
The security alert last week was first issued by the U.S. embassy in Abuja, warning Americans that government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, and malls in Nigeria could be attacked.
Soon after, the U.K., Ireland, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Bulgaria, Finland and Australia issued similar warnings, and began evacuating their citizens from the capital.
Security analyst Chidi Omeje says he's disappointed at authorities' stance and that citizens must treat the warnings seriously.
"I'm actually confounded that the national security adviser will be the one to make such dismissal of such serious matter," Omeje said. "A country like the U.S. has a robust intelligence asset, America ought to be your partner; we must take it seriously."
Nigeria's armed forces, though, have heightened alertness around the country. Police said they have beefed up security and ordered the activation of emergency numbers to help officials promptly respond to any incident.
The growing calls for caution have spread fear among many Abuja residents, leading to the shutdown of businesses.
Borno state-based peace and security expert Abba Ali Mustafa says the United States and other nations should have talked with authorities before issuing the warnings.
"Nigeria does have a security architecture and a security system and a functioning government, so what the foreign missions should have done is reach out to Nigerian security units, liaise with them, collaborate with them and pass out this information through the national medium," Mustafa said. "I think the position of the government on this matter is on the breaching of the national integrity of the country and nothing much. It might paint a picture of hopelessness."
President Buhari last week called for calm.
Nigerian forces have been battling Boko Haram and Islamic State militants in the northeast for more than a decade. In recent years, terror groups have expanded their activities to other regions. In July, Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP, claimed responsibility for a jailbreak in the capital that freed hundreds of inmates, dozens of whom remain at large.
By Timothy Obiezu
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