United States Consulate
By Paul Ohia
A suspicious object caused panic at the United States Consulate in Lagos Thursday forcing workers to disperse hurriedly just as the embassy promptly issued a fresh travel warning to its citizens on its website.
The consulate staff that normally closed duty by 4.pm had to leave the premises of the foreign mission as early as 2.pm leaving only few essential workers behind.
“A suspicious package was found at the US Consulate in Lagos. We are working with the Nigerian authorities and security agencies concerning the matter,” Mr. Omotunde Ajoke, an information specialist at the Public Affairs Section of the consulate told THISDAY.
According to her, the object was discovered around 2.pm and transferred to local security officials for investigation.
A more detailed warning on the embassy’s website reminded Americans of the continued threat to terrorist attacks but failed to mention the suspicious object found at the consulate.
It mentioned the upcoming 52nd Independence anniversary and the recent anti-American demonstrations sparked by a US anti-Islam movie and warned the citizens to consider their personal security in the forefront of their planning.
The statement did not clearly state if the embassy anticipates a terror attack on the occasion of the celebration of Nigeria’s 52nd Independence anniversary.
The advice said the US Mission in Nigeria currently has no new threats or information regarding new demonstration or attacks directed at US facilities in Abuja or Lagos but stated that demonstrations and riots can occur with little or no warning.
The embassy recapped that extremists attacked cellular telephone towers in Northern Nigeria, damaging over 50 towers to date and degrading cellular telephone and Internet communications nationwide.
“Additional attacks could further weaken the ability for you to communicate through cellular telephones and the Internet. Landline telephone communications in Nigeria remain limited,” it continued.
Also mentioned in the advisory were threats issued by Boko Haram threatening to carry out attacks against government personnel and offices, hotels, all educational institutions, both private and public, especially schools attended by children of prominent and foreign individuals, religious institutions, communications centres, media offices, and mass transit facilities.
The embassy observed that most of these attacks have been accomplished by the group.
“Kidnapping remains another common tactic extremists use to instil fear and promote extremist goals. In the last year, extremists killed three Western expatriates kidnapped earlier in the year in the North.” the embassy said further.
The embassy noted that Nigerian authorities have re-assigned security personnel in the Federal Capital Territory from crime prevention to other security-related assignments and thus urged Americans to maintain a heightened level of personal security awareness when moving in and around Abuja and Lagos.
“US citizens should exercise extra caution while visiting public gathering places, such as large hotels, markets, malls, Nigerian government facilities, diplomatic missions, and beer bars/viewing establishments.” the statement continued urging Americans to avoid crowded streets while driving especially those with only one entrance and egress point.