Indians advised to avoid visiting three Nigerian states

Accra, June 5 (IANS) Indians have been advised to avoid visiting three states in Nigeria where emergency has been declared to combat militancy.

With the Nigerian security situation showing no signs of improvement, the Indian High Commission in Abuja has issued a warning to Indians to avoid visiting the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where the Nigerian government has declared a state of emergency.

On May 14, Nigerian authorities declared emergency in the three north-eastern states to battle militancy.

The high commission said that "following this measure, some areas in these states have witnessed higher level of violence and the security outlook appears to be uncertain at this stage".

It asked "Indian nationals living in these three states to carefully weigh their options and consider relocation until the security situation settles down. Similarly, those planning to visit these three states are advised to consider postponing their visits until security situation settles down".

There are a total of 35,000 Indians in Nigeria. In general, Indians in Nigeria are well off and enjoy a largely non-controversial existence. The community has two temples in Lagos and a number of cultural and ethnic associations, most prominent of which is the Indian Cultural Association.

The high commission cautioned Indian nationals who decide to continue living in or visit these states to be extra vigilant and take all possible security measures for their protection.

It recalled the death of two Indian nationals and one other person who was seriously injured in an attack by an unidentified armed group on an Indian owned Gum Arabic factory in Maiduguri, Borno, July 25, 2012.

It took up the "matter of safety and security of the Indian community and their properties in Nigeria, with the concerned authorities in Nigeria".

The high commission said, over the past few months, the "security situation in some parts of Nigeria has deteriorated..."

"A sharp increase in cases of kidnappings in coastal belt, particularly by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, has also been noted."

The high commission said that "these instances of insecurity have occasionally involved Indian nationals as unfortunate victims".

"While in most cases they were passive victims of a situation or a criminal conspiracy, there are cases when they were specifically targeted for kidnapping or physical harm. Either way, a more prudent and cautious conduct could have avoided a calamitous outcome," it added.

On June 4, gunmen assassinated Alhaji Murtala Attahiru, a Sokoto state assembly member representing Gada West constituency.

State Commissioner of Police Alhaji Lawal Gambo said a number of assailants on motorbikes killed Alhaji Attahiru while he was on his way home and took away his car.

"Investigation carried out at the scene revealed that the slain lawmaker struggled with the hoodlums when they wanted to snatch the car - his shirt was torn. Thus, it was during the struggle that he was killed by the miscreants," Gambo added.

As the situation escalates, the US has posted a $23 million reward to help arrest five known militant leaders who are suspected to be behind the terrorist attacks that have spread from Nigeria to other part of the West Africa region.

Anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest of Nigeria's Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, who has openly invited Islamists from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to join the group to create an Islamic State, will receive $7 million.

The US has also targeted Malik Abou Abdelkarim, a senior fighter with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Oumar Ould Hamaha, the spokesman for Mali's Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, for rewards of up to $3 million each for information leading to their arrest.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at fkokutse@hotmail.com)

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