In the past one week, no less than three major countries have issued security alerts/advisories on Nigeria. Within a space of 45 days, the United States of America, U. S., issued two security advisories/alerts to its citizens against travelling to and/or staying in some locations in Nigeria—the latest being on November 3. The United Kingdom and Canada have also issued similar advisories during the first week in November. Coincidentally, these security alerts from leading sources of foreign investments into Nigeria are coming at a time that the ‘young’ President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration is practically ‘combing’ the entire globe for foreign investors.
National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data show that in the declining trend of foreign investment inflow into Nigeria, in the second quarter 2023, the U. S. still accounted for the largest chunk of investment inflow into the country. Figures on capital importation into Nigeria by country of origin (q2, 2023) show that the United States of America occupied the topmost position. During the quarter, with US$271.92 million (or 26.39 per cent of total capital importation), the U.S. came first, followed by Singapore and the Republic of South Africa with capital importation of US$177.44 million (17.22 per cent) and US$136.95 milli9n (13.29 per cent) respectively. However, while occupying this ‘prime’ position in investing in Nigeria, the U. S. in September issued a security alert/advisory to its citizens in Nigeria, warning them not to travel to several parts of the country. It followed this up with yet another alert on November 3.
The U.S. embassy and consulate in Nigeria had on September 20, 2023 issued a security alert on Nigeria, warning its citizens not to travel to about 17 states out of the 36 in the country. The US said: “reconsider travel to Nigeria due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed gangs.” The advisory said violent crime—such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, hostage taking, roadside banditry, and rape—is common throughout the country. It said kidnapping for ransom occur frequently, often targeting dual national citizens who have returned to Nigeria for a visit, as well as US citizens with perceived wealth.
Further adducing reasons for the security alert, the US embassy pointed out that terrorists continue plotting and carrying out attacks in Nigeria. “Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting shopping centers, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, transportation hubs, and other places where crowds gather. Terrorists are known to work with local gangs to expand their each,” the alert said.
The US September security alert came at a time President Tinubu and his retinue of cabinet ministers were attending the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. At this outing, Tinubu and his team engaged practically all delegates to the event, trying to ‘market’ Nigeria to them as a destination of choice for investment. In this regard, in addition to a ‘town hall’ meeting with Nigerians resident in the US, Tinubu also parleyed with American business leaders under the auspices of the US Chamber of Commerce.
Yet, on November 3, 2023, the US embassy and consulate issued another security alert, warning of an elevated threat to major hotels in Nigeria’s larger cities. The embassy noted that the US government was aware of a ‘credible threat’. The security alert also asked US citizens in Nigeria to keep a low profile and review the travel advisory for Nigeria before checking into any hotel. “Exercise vigilance at major hotels. Be alert to your surroundings. Keep a low profile. Review the travel advisory for Nigeria,” the notice read.
The notice further provided the addresses and telephone numbers of the US embassy in Abuja and consulate in Lagos for US citizens to contact in case they need any help. These details not only show the US’ serious concerns about the safety and security of its citizens in the Nigerian polity but also as a pointer to the increasingly unlivable environment that the country is fast degenerating to.
Obviously, the US is the ‘flagship’ and ‘model’ to the rest of the world in several respects, including its democracy which Nigeria tends to be copying. Its continued issuance of security alerts (twice within 45 days!) to US citizens travelling to Nigeria is ‘red flag’ to the entire world that a lot is wrong with Nigeria. Without any equivocation, the US security alerts regarding Nigeria amount to a counterpoise to Tinubu government’s efforts at wooing investors to Nigeria.
Following the US security alert, the United Kingdom, on November 4, also issued a travel advisory, saying “before you travel, check the ‘Entry Requirements’ section for Nigeria’s current entry restrictions and requirements.” The UK travel advice notes that terrorists are very likely to attempt attacks in Nigeria, including indiscriminate attacks against crowded public locations. “Discretion and judgement should be used with regard to activity in public places including large hotels, with visitors encouraged to remain vigilant and alert while paying attention to their surroundings at all times,” the advisory said.
Truly, today, the socio-economic condition of Nigeria is anything but wholesome. Who would choose to invest in a country where the level of insecurity is an existential threat? A country where the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps is yet on the increase? A country where villages and farmlands are rendered desolate by marauding terrorists, brigands and kidnappers? Against this backdrop, a ghastly (suspected) bombing incident (with casualties) took place at the Canadian Mission, Abuja, on November 6. And subsequent to this, Canada shut down its Mission in Abuja and promptly issued travel advisory/security alert to its citizens.
It needs to be noted that in the comity of nations, often, when America sneezes, practically the rest of the world catches cold. Therefore, the US security alerts on Nigeria sufficiently tells the world the direction to go. This is also why beyond diplomatic niceties and bilateral relations, the US keeps flagging to the world that there is so much danger to life and property in Nigeria. Ironically, the United States still remains the largest foreign investor in Nigeria, with the US foreign direct investment concentrated largely in the petroleum/mining and wholesale trade sectors.
According to US Department of State’s Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet (Bureau of African Affairs), “in 2022, the two-way trade in goods between the United States and Nigeria totaled over US$8.1 billion. At US$3.4 billion in 2022, Nigeria is the second largest US export destination in Sub-Saharan Africa.” According to the Fact Sheet, US exports to Nigeria include vehicles, wheat, machinery, fuels, and plastics; and Nigerian exports to the United States include crude oil, cocoa, cashew nuts, and animal feed.
This depth of trade and diplomatic relations between the US and Nigeria notwithstanding, the United States is always known to put topmost priority on the sanctity of lives of its citizens. And this is the same for almost all developed nations of the world; and no investor (local or foreign) would opt to operate in an unsafe and insecure environment. The globe-totting and desperate search for foreign investors by the Tinubu administration and its officials at this time is therefore inauspicious and ill-advised. We can only pray and hope that the US example does not trigger a bandwagon effect—since many countries look up to America as the rudder.
- The author, Okeke, a practising Economist, Business Strategist, Sustainability expert and ex-Chief Economist of Zenith Bank Plc, lives in Lekki, Lagos. He can be reached via: [email protected]
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