US, other countries re-open missions in Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The US, Britain and some other European countries Monday re-opened their diplomatic missions in Nigeria's economic capital of Lagos, shut in the wake of an alleged security threat last week.

However, consular and other services are yet to resume fully in some of the missions.

Security also remained tight along the Walter Carrington Street hosting the embassies Monday, with uniformed and plain-cloth security agents screening vehicles and people entering the crescent-shaped street.

The police bomb squad has also moved its vehicle from the front of the US consulate to the entrance of the street, while armed policemen remained posted to the various missions.

The US triggered the closures last Thursday when it announced, in a terse statement, the shutdown of its consulate due to "a security issue of mutual concern to the US Mission in Nigeria and the government of Nigeria".

The embassies of the UK, Germany, Russia, Italy and Bulgaria, among others, followed suit on Friday, when Nigerian authorities reinforced the deployment of armed policemen and other security agents to the area.

Visa applicants to the British deputy high commission in Lagos Monday were asked to come back Tuesday, even though a security man at the gate claimed the mission was open for business. Also, full consular services were yet to commence at the US mission.

A statement issued by the US embassy in Abuja at the weekend said the consulate would re-open 20 June but that full consular services would not begin until Tuesday, 21 June.

"We regret any inconvenience to the public caused by the closure," the statement said.

The US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, is expected to address a press conference on the closure on Tuesday.

But hordes of visa applicants were seen in front of the Italian and Russian missions, in an indication they were fully open for business.

The exact nature of the threat has yet to be officially disclosed, even though the local press has been awash with speculations that the security measure was taken because of an Al-Qaeda-related threat or a threat from a local ethnic militia.

The leading private Guardian newspaper reported at the weekend that the closures had forced the Nigerian government to launch a diplomatic offensive against the US and the other countries for unilaterally shutting their mission in Lagos.

The paper quoted an unnamed Nigerian foreign affairs official as saying it was unconventional for the missions to have effected the closures without notifying the appropriate authorities in the host country.


Pan African News Agency
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