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U.S. WARNS NATIONALS OVER VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA

By NBF News
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Nigerians abroad, others laud polls
AS a fallout of the post-election violence in the north, the United States (U.S.) Department of State has issued travel warnings to her citizens travelling or had plans to travel to Nigeria, alleging high crime rate and insecurity.

Meanwhile, Nigerians in U.S. and some international observers, including former Canadian Prime Minister, Joe Clark, have commended the conduct of the 2011 presidential election, which they described as the most credible in the history of polls in the country.

They however condemned the violence tat greeted the announcement of the results in the northern part of the country, urging the protesters to cooperate with the winner, President Goodluck Jonathan, to achieve better governance and make life more meaningful to the people.

The U.S. Department of State, which is under the Bureau of Consular Affairs, specifically told her citizens to avoid travelling into the following states: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Abia, Edo, Imo, Plateau, Bauchi and Borno states because of the risks of kidnapping, robbery, and other armed attacks.

Violent crime committed by individuals and gangs, as well as by persons wearing police and military uniforms, it said, remains a problem throughout the country.

The State Department added: 'This notice replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria, dated October 19, 2010, to update information on violent activity and crime in Nigeria.'

The American agency stated on its website that since January 2009, over 140 foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Nigeria, including five U.S. citizens since November 2010, noting that six foreign nationals were killed during these abductions, while two U.S. citizens were also killed in separate kidnapping attempts in Port Harcourt in April 2010.

Local authorities and expatriate businesses operating in Nigeria assert that the number of kidnapping incidents throughout Nigeria remains underreported. Listing criminal activities in Nigeria, the U.S. agency said:

• In 2010, alleged Boko Haram members claimed responsibility for bombings in the country. A bomb exploded December 31, 2010, near a busy Abuja 'fish bar,' killing several people and injuring many others;

• On December 24, 2010, alleged Boko Haram members detonated several explosive devices in Jos, Plateau State, and conducted attacks against police and others in Maiduguri, Borno State, leading to significant casualties and property loss;

• In October 2010, Boko Haram members attacked various Nigerian government security personnel and facilities, government officials, and authority figures in northeastern Bauchi and Borno states.

• On October 1, 2010, two car bombs detonated near Eagle Square in downtown Abuja during Independence Day celebrations, killing 10 and wounding many others. A Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND) spokesperson claimed responsibility for this attack, while most former MEND militants publicly disavowed any links.

Since then, this MEND spokesperson threatened further bombings in Abuja;

• In September 2010, over 150 members of the Boko Haram extremist religious sect escaped from prison in Northeast Bauchi, some of whom may be participating in Boko Haram attacks in other parts of the country;

• Since March 2010, five improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have detonated in the Niger Delta region with one to three reported casualties; and

• During the electoral campaigns, several acts of violence had occurred in various locations in the country, resulting in scores of deaths and injuries.

The U.S. mission had urged U.S. citizens to exercise caution and to avoid political rallies and demonstrations as such events sometimes become violent and unpredictable.

The chairman of the former U.S.-PRONACO group, Dr. Baba Adam, said 'we are hereby sending our congratulations to the President-Elect, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. May God guide him to take Nigeria to greatness. We are also saying thank you to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Governor Ibrahim Shekarau and all the other presidential candidates for a very well executed campaign that inspired millions of people and in the process strengthening Nigeria's democracy.

Richard Downie, the Deputy Director of the Africa Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, stated that 'Nigeria has held the most credible presidential election in its history. The contrast between the debacle of 2007 and the relatively orderly process which unfolded in 2011 could not be sharper.'

The U.S. analyst commended the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for making the difference this time around.

'There has been honest and competent leadership at the top. INEC was completely discredited in 2007 but has since been overhauled and placed under the chairmanship of a well-respected academic noted for his integrity. Important changes were made to voting procedures which closed the door to some of the most common types of fraud,' Downie said.

To the former Canadian Prime Minister, Clark, 'it's been a remarkable improvement over the last election.'