The 16th of June marked the first 30 days, following the attack on a two-car convoy of the US Embassy’s advance party in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra, in south-east Nigeria.
The US government has now said that it is being briefed by the Nigerian government on the investigation of the attack but the perpetrators are yet to be apprehended.
“We appreciate the Nigerian government and Nigerian law enforcement, military, and security agencies for their partnership and cooperation at this time, and we are working closely together to bring those responsible to justice,” a State Department Spokesperson told PREMIUM TIMES this week.
What started off as a day of diplomatic engagement via a phone call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and then Nigerian President-elect Bola Tinubu on the morning of 16 May, ended in an awful tragedy. Nine people were killed in the shocking attack, their bodies set on fire, and two were abducted.
State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller had that day published a readout confirming the Tinubu-Blinken call. “Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke this morning with Nigerian President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu to emphasize his continued commitment to further strengthening the U.S.-Nigeria relationship with the incoming administration,” he said hours before the attack.
Hours later, the unfortunate attack happened, rattling Abuja and Washington. No group has claimed responsibility but similar attacks in the region have been blamed on a separatist group, IPOB, who are demanding an independent country of Biafra.
The Nigerian government has labelled IPOB a terrorist group. The US has, however, not done the same.
Biafra was the name of the breakaway territory led by Odumegwu Ojukwu that seceded from Nigeria in 1967, but was reintegrated into the country in 1970 after a brutal civil war.
Today, some of the Igbo – who make up Nigeria’s third largest ethnic group – continue to use the name ‘Biafra,’ calling for autonomy, self-rule, and sovereignty.
Because the investigation into the 16 May attack is still ongoing by Nigerian authorities, the US State Department said it is refraining from offering an update on the status of the inquiry.
However, “Our Nigerian partners have been responsive, and we will continue to work with Nigerian authorities on bringing those responsible to justice,” a State Department Spokesperson said, adding that “Given that this is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to provide additional details of the situation at this time.”
With regards to the victims, who are not American citizens, but worked for the Embassy, “Our fallen colleagues will forever be remembered for their work, and for giving their lives to build a better future for the people of Nigeria,” the spokesperson told PREMIUM TIMES this week. “We support the families but have no specific information to share.”
“We at the U.S. Mission are mindful that this attack was not unique, and that Nigerians around the country have suffered the loss of loved ones in similar attacks. Despite this awful event, all of us at the U.S. Embassy and Consulate remain committed to sustaining our humanitarian efforts and the many other activities and projects that contribute to a productive partnership and a brighter future for Nigeria and the United States.”
So, what happened in the attack, which the U.S. Abuja Embassy characterised as “heinous?”
One month ago – on 16 May – an Abuja, US Embassy and Consulate advance party was brutally attacked in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra state, in south-east Nigeria.
“Unknown assailants yesterday attacked a convoy of two U.S. government vehicles,” the office of the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said in a press statement on the day after the incident.
On 19 May, three days after the incident, Nigerian authorities announced the rescue of two officials missing during the attack; information later confirmed by the US.
“Two U.S. Mission employees missing since the May 16 attack in Anambra State are alive and safe, and under the protection of Nigerian authorities in Anambra,” the US Embassy in Abuja confirmed.
Now, in its second month, the investigation has yet to yield concrete results on who slayed the victims, what was known, when it was known, who knew, and when.
“The convoy was carrying nine Nigerian nationals: five employees of the U.S. Mission to Nigeria and four members of the Nigeria Police Force,” Mr Blinken’s office said.
Confirming the reason the Embassy staff were on the trip, the press statement said that “They were travelling in advance of a planned visit by U.S. Mission personnel to a U.S.-funded flood response project in Anambra.”
In its first press statement, the US said that it did not yet know the intentions and motivations behind the attack, but condemned it “in the strongest terms.”
US-Nigeria engagement continues
In separate US-Nigeria diplomatic engagements, the Office of the Spokesperson confirmed that Assistant Secretary Pyatt will travel to Nigeria. He works for the Department of State Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) and will be in Abuja, from 18-20 June.
“While there, he will highlight U.S. engagement on Nigeria’s clean energy transition as well as our ongoing support for reforms and decarbonization of Nigeria’s large traditional energy sector,” the announcement said.
Mr Pyatt is scheduled to “hold bilateral meetings with Nigerian government officials and take part in a roundtable with energy companies from the American Business Council. It is expected that he be a panellist “with both private and public sector organizations to discuss ways to accelerate the development of Nigeria’s power sector, including through the Clean Energy Demand Initiative (CEDI), a mechanism to increase corporate investment in clean energy to support economic growth,” the Office of the Spokesperson said.
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based White House Correspondent, and media commentator with expertise in U.S. foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe
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