Nigerian authorities have called for calm and vigilance after the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Abuja, issued a security alert warning of an elevated risk of terror attacks, specifically in Abuja. The embassy urged Americans in Nigeria to avoid nonessential travel and crowds, and to stay alert.
The U.S. Embassy warned Sunday that government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, bars, and hotels, could soon be attacked. It urged American citizens in Nigeria to avoid nonessential travel and keep their mobile phones charged.
The embassy also said it would reduce working hours as a result but did not respond to a request for further comment on the matter.
Abuja-based security expert Senator Iroegbu said the warning is not surprising.
“We don’t know the extent of intelligence that they have, but it’s still in line with the security realities.”
Nigerian authorities have struggled to halt a stream of terror attacks and abductions across the country.
The situation is especially worrying in the north where Islamist militant groups and armed gangs —who routinely kidnap people for ransom — are active.
In July, heavily armed men breached the security of a correctional facility in Abuja and freed more than 800 inmates.
More than half of them were later recaptured but hundreds remain on the loose, including 64 high-profile terrorism suspects. Islamic State West Africa Province claimed responsibility for the attack.
Iroegbu said the threat to security has grown in Abuja, also known as the Federal Capital Territory, since the prison break.
“Even the military admitted there are sleeper cells of ISIS and other Boko Haram elements even with FCT and other surrounding states, and that these sleeper cells can be activated anytime. And since then, there’s no news I’m aware of that the presence of these sleeper cells have been unraveled and neutralized.”
Nigerian Kelvin Obumuke said he had an appointment at the embassy Monday to discuss a travel issue. The sudden security threat upended those plans.
“I was actually about boarding my flight when I received this email stating this and telling me of the cancellation of my appointment,” Obumuke said. “I was livid considering the emergency with which I needed to come to Abuja and how I had to purchase a premium ticket because I needed to be here today.”
Nigeria’s Department of State Services responded to the U.S. Embassy’s security warning in a statement Sunday urging citizens to stay calm but cautious.
Authorities also assured citizens that security forces would mobilize to avert any threat to national security and encouraged members of the public to report suspicious acts of criminality to the authorities.