One after the other, United States diplomats and their families in Nigeria are leaving the country following an evacuation order issued by the US Department of State.
“The Department ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees from Abuja due to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks there,” the statement by the Department of State read. “U.S. citizens should consider departing Abuja using available commercial options.”
The US further warned its citizens contemplating a visit to the West African country to reconsider the move, but if such a visit is necessary they should maintain a low profile while in the country.
On the reason for the evacuation calls, the State Department said: “Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting shopping centres, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, transportation hubs, and other places where crowds gather.”
In the late hours of Thursday and the early hours of Friday, US citizens in Nigeria were seen departing the country’s capital of Abuja, which has caused fears among Nigerians, especially those living inside or close to the capital.
Nigerian government insist there is no danger
Despite the departure of foreign nationals from the country, the Nigerian government continue to insist that there is no reason to be scared and described the US alert as fake news that should be disregarded.
The Minister of Culture and Information, Lai Mohammed, said the alert found its way into the media and created unnecessary panic among citizens.
“Schools were shut. Businesses were closed. Travel plans were altered. Lives were disrupted. No one cared to find out about the authenticity of these alerts,” Mohammed said. “They just published, got the benefit of massive clickbait, and damned the consequences.”
The minister assured foreigners and citizens that the armed forces and other security agencies will ensure their safety as they have continued to do in recent times.
“Our country is safer today than at any time in recent times, thanks to the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform,” Mohammed said.
“…our security forces have been proactive. Nigerians, too, should continue to be alert, but must not panic,” the minister added.
Other countries tell citizens to leave “immediately”
The calls for calm by the minister have not prevented other nations from alerting their citizens on the need to evacuate the West African country. More countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, and Denmark, also released statements calling for the immediate departure of their citizens from Nigeria.
The Austrian government told its citizens against the movement in Abuja and other parts of the country where terror attacks are likely to happen.
“There is currently a terror warning for the capital Abuja. The risk of attacks on state and public institutions and heavily frequented places such as shopping centres has increased significantly,” Austria’s foreign ministry said.
The Canadian government also warned citizens in Nigeria to “avoid non-essential travel to Nigeria, including in Abuja, due to the unpredictable security situation throughout the country and the significant risk of terrorism, crime, inter-communal clashes, armed attacks and kidnappings.”
The governments of Finland, Ireland, Denmark, and Bulgaria have also issued similar statements and called o their citizens to avoid the country’s capital at least for now.
On Friday, schools and businesses were closed in Abuja as military presence increased in the capital city. Nigerian president, Mohammadu Buhari had asked citizens not to panic, but it appears that many citizens do not trust the military to defend the country’s capital, especially since Jihadists invaded the Kuje prison and freed terrorists earlier this year.