The Federal Government yesterday said the recent terror alerts by the United States(U.S.) and United Kingdom(U.K) would have long-term negative effects on Nigeria’s economy.
The government, however, said it had started verifying the sources of the alerts with a view to nipping the alleged threats by terrorists to attack Abuja and other parts of the country in the bud.
Restating that it had beefed up security within Abuja, Nararawa, and Niger states, the government added that it had commenced verifying the sources of the security alerts.
Information and National Orientation Minister Lai Mohammed and his Defence counterpart, Bashir Magashi, stated these in Abuja.
The duo appeared before the National Assembly Committees on Information and Defence to defend their ministries’ 2023 budget proposals.
Chief of Army Staff (CAS) Farouk Yahaya, who also defended the Armed Forces budget proposal before the House Committee on Army, lamented that “envelope system” of budgeting for the Armed Forces was not helping in the fight against insecurity.
The U.S had in a travel advisory to its citizens last week alerted them to likely attacks on some public places in the Federal Capital Territory, including Abuja and other parts of the country.
A day after, it advised non-emergency staff members of its embassy and their families to exit Nigeria. The UK and some European countries followed suit by also issuing terror alerts to their citizens.
On Monday, the National Security Council rose from a meeting in Abuja, dismissing the alerts as being exaggerated and uncalled for.
But yesterday, Mohammed told the Senate Committee on Information that the long-term effects of alerts on the economy would be “quite harmful.”
Mohammed, who responded to a question from The Nation after the budget defence, said he received inquiries from Nigerian missions abroad on the security situation.
His words: “The advisory sent a wrong signal that Abuja was not safe. Many schools did not open on Monday, and some flights, including British Airways, were diverted to Lagos.
“I received several inquiries from our missions abroad as if there was a problem in the country. It was really unfortunate.
“These embassies heightened the situation by evacuating their nationals and sending advisories to stay away from Abuja.
“The long-term economic effects of the advisory will be quite harmful to Nigeria because investors will not come and invest in a country alleged to be unsafe. It was really sad.”
Mohammed, who said he was pleased being a minister under the Muhammadu Buhari administration, lamented that the ministry was incapacitated in the campaign against fake news, disinformation, and hate speech.
He told the committee that the ministry required adequate funding to fight the vices, the latest being the terror alerts.
The minister said: “If there is any ministry that should be adequately funded and not suffer from yearly budget cuts, it is the Information Ministry.
“The terror alert raised by the U.S and some other countries against Nigeria, though denied, but not properly done in terms of putting things in proper context in preventing the wrong perception from becoming reality.
“The ministry is even more incapacitated from discharging its basic functions of getting Nigerians informed at all times as regards the position of the government on burning issues through yearly budgetary cuts.
“I’m extremely sad as far as annual budgetary cuts are concerned because it is getting worse and worse by the day.
“A worrisome example of this is that while the Information Ministry was given N2.5billion for capital expenditure in 2022, one-third of it which is N869million was earmarked for similar purposes in the 2023 Appropriation Bill.
“This to us in the ministry is very depressing because it seems as if it is the main agency bearing the burden of the cash crunch being faced by the government.”
In the House of Representatives, Magashi said: ”The ministry is trying to verify the source of the threat as well as countries that are also interested in the remarks made by the U.S. government,
“We believe that there is no smoke without fire and in that regard, we were able to subject the details to our intelligence organisations and they have provided answers to those areas which the government demands.”
The defence minister said: We tried to verify the source of the threat or the pronouncement made by the US government.
“We tried to identify countries that were also interested in the same remarks made by the US government and we are of the opinion that the best way to go about it is to continue and where possible beef up security in Abuja and its contiguous states, that is Nassarawa, Niger and the rest of them.
“However, we believe that there is no smoke without fire and in that regard, we were able to subject the details to our intelligence organisations and they have provided answers to those areas in which the government is in doubt and we realised that what we need is to be extra-vigilant
“I think we are on top of the situation. The threat is not very dire but we are not taking it lightly. We are doing all we can to ensure that peace and progress of Nigeria are maintained.”
Also yesterday, CAS Yahaya, appeal to the National Assembly to pass the Armed Forces Trust Fund bill before the end of the 9th Assembly.
Detailing Army’s efforts at tackling insecurity in the country, he said::The envelop system leads to inadequate funding of the Nigerian Army for the performance of its constitutional duties.
“I hope this honourable committee will passionately look into this, with a view to correcting it.”
Chairman of the committee, Abdulrazak Namdas, who noted the tension created by the security alerts, challenged the military to “put enough boots on the ground to contain” any form of threat to the peace of the country.
Nambas recalled that the budget of the Army has been on the increase since 2020 when it was N463billion to N509bn in 2021 and N589bn in 2022.
*Correctional service: we are on higher alert,
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Correctional Service, (NCoS) has said its “eagle-eye” personnel are watching its facilities in the FCT.
The Service spokesman, Umar Abubakar, described the situation around the Kuje Medium Custodial Centre and the Suleja facility as calm.
“The eagle eye of every officer on duty is watching and on higher alert,” Abubakar told The Nation in Abuja yesterday.
It was gathered that different security measures were put in place at the custodial centres by authorities of the service immediately after the alerts surfaced.
The measures include barricades and checkpoints at roads leading to the centres. Also, well-armed personnel are detailed to patrol the sorroundings