31 December 2012

Nigeria: U.S. Travel Ban On Nigeria


In its latest travel advisory to its citizens, the United States Department of State described Nigeria as fluid and unpredictable. It admonished its citizens to desist from travelling to Nigerian States of Edo, Delta and Bayelsa and also the whole 19 northern states, as it also declared the whole nation as unsafe for its citizens. This new travel warning replaces the earlier one dated June 21, 2012. Placing such a sweeping ban on more than 60 percent of the country is damning.

It is interesting to note that the Department considered the yuletide season in the country as risk-prone and contended that insecurity was not peculiar to the States listed but that "in the continuing violence, extremists may expand their operations beyond Northern Nigeria to the country's middle and southern states." The statement cited cases of abduction of foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens in Kwara, Imo, Enugu, Delta and Kano States in the first six months of 2012, as well as kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks.

Also the Americans, based on some safety and risk assessment, placed restrictions on travels by US official to the entire Gulf of Guinea because of the threat of piracy, and insisted that offshore and land-based oil facilities, residential compounds, and public roadways were prime targets. For being listed, the Edo State government has described the US listing of the State as laughable. "While we are unclear on the parameters used by the Department of State, we, however, make bold to state, and this can be confirmed from the security agencies in the country, that Edo state is the safest in the South-South region of Nigeria and one of the safest in the country." the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Julius Ihonvbere said. We are rather traumatised that our entire political landscape is seen by those who should be our partners in the fight against the scourges of insecurity and terrorism as inhabitable and unsafe.

We are worried by the grim statistics of the death of nine foreign nationals in these abductions, including three who were killed by their captors during military-led raids in Sokoto. It's more worrisome that the number of kidnapping incidents throughout Nigeria is underreported and the strategy for security release through Police actions and negotiations remain oblique. Rather than contesting the facts of our characterisation as a country plagued by armed muggings, assaults, burglaries, car-jacking, rapes, kidnappings, and extortion, we should take these challenges very seriously and tackle them headlong.

It is neither in our economic or foreign policy interest to live in self-denial. The US will also do the world a lot of good by offering technical assistance to combat these heinous crimes as they are not peculiar to Nigeria. If as the "policeman" of the world, the US didn't issue global travel warning on Connecticut where 20 innocent Elementary School Pupils and six of their teachers were mowed down in cold blood in the confines of their classrooms a couple of weeks ago; on New Jersey which America's Cable News network (CNN) said "has already suffered 65 violent deaths in 2012" and on Philadelphia where the "the year-to-date total of homicides is 322", we do not want to believe that this periodic travel advisory on Nigeria is in good faith.

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