The United States recently issued a travel advisory, warning American citizens to avoid certain parts of Nigeria, including the Niger Delta. The oil-rich delta has been the scene of much violence and many kidnappings over recent years by militant groups.
Monday, authorities in Rivers State responded to the travel advisory by sharply increasing security.
VOA reporter Chinedu Offor, who’s in Port Harcourt in Rivers State, says the Rivers State governor met for several hours Monday with the police commissioner and top military leaders from the army, navy and air force
“There are armed policemen and soldiers guarding strategic areas of the state. They are guarding government buildings. They are guarding approaches to the state at the borders,” he says.
A special team is also guarding the creeks where many militant groups are based, “trying to preempt any attempt by militants to attack any government facility or to kidnap anyone. The governor says this is to assure the United States and anyone who wants to come to Rivers State that everything is OK,” he says.
The governor says it’s his responsibility to protect lives and property.
Offor says the initial beef-up in security is a direct response to the U.S. travel advisory. But he says this is only the beginning, as the political season gears up in the coming months.
“The fear is that a lot of militants who took advantage of the amnesty program of the government and dropped their arms are being recruited by politicians to be used as thugs,” he says, “to disrupt upcoming polls or to kidnap possibly candidates, who oppose whoever it is that is sponsoring them.”
Offor says President Goodluck Jonathan has promised next year’s elections will be free and fair and accepted internationally.
The increased security could be in place, Offor says, for years.