the United States on Tuesday warned of possible attacks on expatriates and foreign visitors in Lagos during the public holidays marking the Eid-el-Fitri celebrations.
The US Mission in Nigeria, in a statement on its website, said terror groups planned to attack hotels and waterfronts visited by expatriates during the holiday.
“The US Mission in Nigeria advises that groups associated with terrorist activities might be planning attacks on hotels in Lagos frequented by international visitors, including those located on waterfronts, during the Eid-el-Fitr holidays,” the United States Consulate Nigeria said in a statement.
The Federal Government had initially declared Tuesday and Wednesday as public holidays, but extended the holiday to Thursday following the non-sighting of the moon in Nigeria on Monday which determines the end of the Ramadan fast.
The US warning, posted on its embassy’s website, which was not specific, was not the first warning about possible attacks on locations frequented by expatriates.
It stated, “The US Mission in Nigeria reminds you to review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates. Be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.”
According to an AFP report, a similar security warning was given in December last year and in May 2014, when diplomats were warned of possible attacks on two Sheraton hotels in Lagos.
Tight security in hotels, airport
Meanwhile, there was tight security around top hotels frequented by expatriates, wealthy Nigerians and politicians in the Federal Capital Territory on Tuesday.
One of our correspondents, who went round, observed that additional security measures had been taken to secure the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Maitama.
A new security post with sandbags to protect security operatives had also been erected with armed security operatives on duty.
More sniffer dogs were also deployed while armed security personnel were seen manning strategic parts of the hotel.
At the Sheraton Hotel, the private security guards at the gate were seen meticulously screening vehicles entering the premises.
It was gathered that undercover security operatives were on the ground to foil any security breach and give full protection to guests and hotel workers.
The NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja also had armed security guards, who were complemented by the hotel’s private guards, who took time to search incoming vehicles.
Also, officials at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, told one of our correspondents that the security awareness at the facility had been high, particularly since the terrorist attack at Ataturk Airport Istanbul, Turkey.
According to them, the number of officers from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Army, Navy and the Police Force has been increased considerably in the past three weeks.
“Security situation has been tense world over, not just in Nigeria and this has warranted increased security presence at the Abuja airport in the past three weeks, especially after the recent attacks by terrorists at the Istanbul airport in Turkey,” an official said on Tuesday.
When The PUNCH visited the Sheraton Hotel and Protea Hotel in the Ikeja GRA area of Lagos on Tuesday night, the presence of security personnel was noticed within and around the hotels.
At the gate of one of the hotels, apart from the security guards at the gate, who had searched the boot of one of our correspondent’s car and other cars, two men in suit, thoroughly searched places and occupants of each car.
They equally asked the mission of each visitor to the hotel before any one was allowed in.
“There are men of the Department of State Services outside and inside the hotel. They are unidentifiable except you are smart enough to notice them. There are about 20 of them,” a worker at one of the hotels said.
“There about 65 foreigners on our visitors’ list. What this means is that many companies, since Monday, have been lodging their workers here for safety reasons.”
A source at the Eko Hotel and Suites on Victoria Island, Lagos, said there had not been any change in security measures at the hotel.
She said, “I also heard about the threat. It was my husband that actually called me from home to tell me about it. But so far, I have not seen any change in security measures at the hotel. We have just been running business as usual.”
A source in the DSS told our correspondent that the service had been informed of the impending attack since last week and had put measures in place to forestall the threat.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated, “We were informed last week that international terrorist networks were planning attacks in select locations.
“In the last five days, you have seen attacks in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. These attacks were not coincidental but carefully planned on an international scale.
“We were told that Nigeria is also on the terror list and the real target is Lagos because it will make international headlines being the commercial nerve centre of West Africa.
“So, we are warning Nigerians to avoid crowded places for now. It is very important. These terrorists can even use little children or women.”
We’ve strategised to forestall terror attacks – Police
But the Lagos State Police Command says it has put in place operational strategies to forestall terror attacks on any location in the the state.
The state Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday, said the command was on top of the situation.
Owoseni, ‘‘Measures have been put in place to forestall any unfortunate incident. We are on top of this situation.’’
In a statement later on Tuesday, the Police Public Relations Officer, Dolapo Badmos, added that the police would ensure maximum protection of lives during the Eid-el-Fitri.
Badmos, a Superintendent of Police, added, “Adequate and necessary measures have been put in place during and after the Eid-el-Fitri celebrations.
“Furthermore, operational strategies have been devised to ensure hitch-free celebrations around all praying grounds, recreational centres, hotels and other public places.’’
Merchants of evil behind Saudi bombings, says Buhari
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday condemned the Monday suicide bombing, which occurred in Islam’s second holiest city, Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
He described those responsible for the attacks as merchants of evil.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President condoled with Saudi authorities over the attack, saying the development was a desecration of all that was sacred and holy as it took place near the Prophet’s Mosque and on one of the holy days of Ramadan.
He said the attacks had again shown that terrorism was not about religion.
Buhari said, “It validates the claim that terrorism really has nothing to do with Islam. Purveyors of terror are simply agents of the devil.
“The fact that the Madinah bombing came the same day as a suicide bomber struck near the US Consulate in Jeddah, also in Saudi Arabia, shows that it was an orchestrated plan to foul up the Eid-el-Fitr celebration.”