From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government, yesterday, downplayed the security alarm raised by United States, United Kingdom and other foreign governments on Nigeria, particularly Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, saying the nation’s defence and intelligence institutions were firmly in control of security challenges raised by the foreign interests.
It noted that several arrests had been made with culprits undergoing interrogations.
National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd), who addressed journalists at the end of the emergency security meeting called by President Muhammadu Buhari, said the situation on ground did not warrant the travel advisory by the US, UK and other governments.
He described the warnings, which have heightened sense of insecurity in the nation’s capital as false, unnecessary and irresponsible assuring that Nigerian citizens and residents were not in danger.
“I will like to first and foremost, assure all citizens of this country that any exaggerated sense of insecurity, any hype about a disintegration of our security forces, intelligence agencies, is unfounded.
“I want to assure Nigerians that so far, the situation has been under control, intelligence and security agencies have made a lot of arrests. They’re evaluating, they’re exploiting all the materials in their possession. We’re not in the habit of disclosing whatever has been done, but the most important thing is that from the time this story started emerging until now, about a week to 10 days, you can see that so far the situation has been brought under control.
“The issue of Nigerians being made to panic is unnecessary. The situation in various areas of the Federal Capital Territory, situation has been brought under control and we’re trying as much as possible to work with our neighbours and within the domestic situation, to work with our foreign partners in a responsible way, 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 any heightened sense of insecurity, it is false, it is irresponsible for anybody to give that signal.”
Monguno briefed journalists alongside Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, and Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar.
He urged Nigerians and other foreign nationals resident in the country to go about their daily activities without fear.
Monguno said the meeting basically was to discuss recent happenings within the FCT and certain declarations and alerts coming from various quarters insinuating growing insecurity and threat to security within the FCT and environments.
He assured the country was secured contrary to the alerts issued by countries to their citizens living in the federal capital.
“We’re working with our foreign partners in a responsible way and Nigerians should go about their normal daily undertakings without being put in a situation of fear.”
Asked if it was safe to say the alert issued by the US to its citizens was false, as the IGP said and if the US got across to Nigeria to share intelligence about what they knew before issuing the alert, the NSA said: “We’ve been sharing intelligence with not just the US, but with other partners and we’ve been acting on the intelligence we’ve been working. Has anything happened so far? No, nothing has happened, but they went ahead to issue this advisory to their people and of course, the connotations are there, they could have various reasons for doing that. This is the first time it is happening. Come on, is the first time it is happening.
“I don’t have that crystal ball to know the workings of their minds, but the truth is that the alert was for their own citizens. Probably the way in which it was released became complicated at the end of the day. These are conjectures. There’s nothing that is specific. You are right, there will be a lot of interpretations of this alert. It is an unnecessary distraction. As far as we are concerned, the safety, the security of Nigerians is paramount, and as far as we know, there’s nothing untoward so far.
“Nigerians should be allowed to go about their legitimate undertakings without being put in a tight spot. The country is safe, Abuja is safe, the security elements are doing the best that they can. That is the most important thing.”
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Lucky Irabor, also reassured that the security agencies were working round the clock, saying various arrests made recently included attackers of the Wawa Military Cantonment in Niger State which showed the alertness of the Nigerian troops and security forces.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema and Director General of NIA, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar said the country was in full engagement with foreign partners to mitigate and halt any threat from outside the country and to ensure messages from foreign missions do not destabilise or cause panic in the country.
Onyeama said: “There’s a foreign dimension to this issue, as alerts are always issued by foreign countries, with missions here in Nigeria. Now, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, have been working very closely to fully get on top of the situation, but also to engage with our foreign partners, first of all, to mitigate and blunt any threat that there could be from outside the country, but also working and engaging with the Foreign Missions within the country to ensure that whatever we do, whatever we say, is constructive and should not, in any way, cause unnecessary alarm, and in any way destabilise the country.”
The NG NIA said: “This is to say that Nigerians should remain calm, the situation is under control. There’s nothing new and just as the Minister of Foreign Affairs has said, we will continue to engage our partners in the most constructive way.”
Others in attendance included Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (retd); Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi.