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US consular services resuming in Abuja after powdered passport, thought to be ‘anthraxed’, led to suspension

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Good news is on the way for travellers to the United States of America from the northern part of Nigeria as plans have been concluded to re-open visa and consular services suspended from the US Embassy in Abuja. The restoration of the services may commence this week or latest, next.
Last Tuesday’s announcement by the United States Embassy in Nigeria that it was temporarily shutting down its visa and consular services section in Abuja was swift in coming and caught almost everyone, including most embassy staff, by surprise!
But it was due to an alleged anthrax scare the previous day.
First, the public address system announced to all those within that they were to remain within. Many panicked, thinking it was a terrorist infiltration.
And then, shortly after the sequester, the visa and consular services section was closed and the area evacuated. Later visitors and others were advised to leave.
The next day, only key staff were allowed in. Then the announcement that visa and consular services were suspended from Abuja until further notice.
Then confusion set in for travellers.
However, it was gathered that the development was due to the delivery of a travelling passport doused in a generous amount of powdery substance. The object set off an alarm that the substance was anthrax.
It turned out not to be, but it was learnt that embassy officials scrambled standard operating procedures to protect staff and visitors against any attack on its grounds.
Sources said an investigation is underway to figure out how the courier containing the powdered passport made its way in.
On its website, the embassy prohibits, “Weapons of any kind or size, sharp metal or glass objects, razor blades, liquids, bottles, powdery substances, umbrellas and electronic or battery-operated equipment (including cell phones, radios, tape recorders, cameras, personal digital assistants, computers). If you have any of these items, you will not be permitted to enter the facility.”
A stement from the embassy had explained why the consular services were suspended. It reads: “”Due to reasons beyond our control we are temporarily unable to provide regular services for visa and American Citizen Services in Abuja, but other offices within the Embassy remain open.  Please note that consular functions at the  U.S. Consulate Lagos are not affected and will continue.  Until further notice, applicants are encouraged to contact the Consular Office in Lagos for immediate emergency travel.  Please monitor the Facebook page and the Webpage of the U.S. Embassy for updates on consular operations.  Scheduled visa and ACS applicants for Abuja will be contacted for rescheduling.
“American citizens in northern Nigeria with emergency services needs should continue to contact the after-hours emergency number for Abuja at 09461-4000 and press “0” to go to the operator to request assistance.  We regret the inconvenience this has caused to our applicants and hope to resume operations soon.”

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