Akwa Ibom State government has said it is baseless and unfair for the UK government to include it on its list of “unsafe states” in Nigeria.
The UK government recently advised its nationals against travelling to Akwa Ibom and 20 other states in Nigeria, due to security concerns.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement, “There is a high threat of criminal kidnap in the Niger Delta region”.
Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, and Cross River are among the states in Niger Delta included in the travel advice.
The other Nigerian states are Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Niger, Zamfara, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Kogi, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Abia.
“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Nigeria,” said the UK government.
“Most attacks occur in the north east, particularly in Borno (including central Maiduguri and along access routes connecting the city to other major towns and along the Niger border, including in Damasak), Yobe, including the eastern LGAs bordering Borno State both north and south of the Damaturu road), and Adamawa States.”
The Akwa Ibom government has, however, said “Akwa Ibom State remains one of the most peaceful, safe and secure States in Nigeria”, contrary to the claim by the UK.
A statement from the Secretary to the Akwa Ibom Government, Emmanuel Ekuwem, Monday, cited people, including a top Nigerian military chief and a first class traditional leader, whom he said have commended the state for its “peaceful nature”.
“We believe Akwa Ibom State was erroneously given a mention in the report based on the agitation for equitable distribution of God’s given resources by the youth of our Niger-Delta zone, which fortunately today, through several laudable government intervention programmes, has been significantly reduced.
“One of the largest American Oil and Gas companies, ExxonMobil operates peacefully in our State.
“The Niger Delta region today is exceptionally peaceful which has seen other major International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the region, and achieving their OPEC production quotas,” Mr Ekuwem said.
The SSG said, “The US Ambassador, Stuart Symington, had visited Akwa Ibom State on two occasions within the last one and a half years. No Ambassador would visit a State that is considered unsafe.”
Around 117,000 British nationals visit Nigeria each year, according to the UK government.
“Most (of these) visits are trouble-free,” it said.