Monday, January 4, 2010

Nigerians have been waiting to learn the immediate consequences of the 'knicker bomber', Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's, attempt to blow up a plane headed to Detroit, MI. While various authorities have publicly played the blame game, the U.S. has gone ahead and listed Nigeria on a list of "terrorism prone" countries and placed special directives for all travelers coming from Nigeria and flying through Nigeria. While it is understandable that Nigerians would be disappointed by their nation's inclusion on such a list, they should not be surprised by this unfortunate reality.

All citizens from countries on this new list, created by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), will endure more stringent screening. So will non-citizen passengers traveling through or from airports in those countries. The list includes the four countries currently on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, and countries of "special interest", Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.

    Noticeably absent from the list are other countries involved in the 'knicker bomber' incident - Ghana, where Abdulmutallab purchased his fateful ticket and likely commenced his journey. And, Amsterdam, where he boarded the last leg of his journey, the Delta flight to Detroit. One other country that is involved in the attempted bombing incident is in fact, the United Kingdom, where the 'knicker bomber' went to school and according to reports, likely began his radicalization.
    Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reportedly tells the FBI to expect more bombers like him.

    Since the announcement that Nigeria was included on the 'terrorism prone' list, there has been a quick negative reaction from Nigerians around the world. There has even been much surprise from some who believe certain factors are being conveniently ignored. Abdulmutallab's father warned the U.S. government about his son's radicalization and that he was possibly a threat. The young man's ability to get on the flight from Amsterdam reflects a failure of US authorities to act on credible intelligence as it relates to the war on terror. Abdulmutallab also spent less time in Nigeria than he did in any other country he flew through to attempt his suicide mission - approximately 23 minutes. Additionally, American intelligence also had information about a Nigerian in Yemen for terrorist purposes. Plus, the fact that although Abdulmutallab was on a British 'watch list' such information was not shared with either American or Nigerian authorities. Furthermore, and most critically, the masterminds of the Christmas Day attempt were known Al Qaeda leaders, previously held in Guantanamo but released by the Bush administration to return to Yemen, a failed state and terrorist haven. And despite these facts, Nigerians will pay the repercussions for something that could have been prevented if certain other actors had not dropped the ball.

    However, the addition to this list must be seen through the context of various additional facts. America has publicly associated Nigeria with terrorists before. In 2007, the U.S. put Nigeria on a list of countries with ties to terrorism and announced that "it had received information that Western and U.S. interests were at threat from a terrorist attack in Nigeria." The U.S. State Department eventually removed Nigeria from that list and later said that there were no specific threat to American interests in the country. Moreover, Nigerian authorities, for whatever reason, have publicly referenced Al Qaeda with regard to Nigerian security as was the case with the former head of Nigeria's Police Force, Mike Okiro in 2008. There is also the issue of MEND and other Niger Delta militants who have, in the past, wrought havoc in the Delta region and Lagos. Then, there is Boko Haram which wrought carnage in northern Nigeria not too long ago. And, of course the newest entrant to security issues in Nigeria, the Kalo Kato sect, whose fighting in Bauchi State resulted in over 30 deaths, many of the victims children. These examples of insecurity, Nigeria's porous borders, corrupt officials at all levels that can be paid to look the other way and the fact that Nigeria already had body scanners which were not used on Abdulmutallab when he traveled, would, regrettably, compel any relatively sane person to treat travelers coming from or via Nigeria with caution.

    There should have been a serious offensive by spokespersons on international programing highlighting that most of the lapses in this case where not of Nigerian origin (true or not). The Minister of Foreign Affairs who spent N2.7 billion on "visibility" should have dispatched diplomats around the world to speak about the incident and distance Nigeria and Nigerians from it. In addition to the official statement released from the Minister of Information's office, the official statement could have been published in major newspapers across the world. While that might seem like a waste of time and money, it would provide at least Nigerians with the confidence that their government is beginning to react, as it should, to the incident and the expected fallout. That and much more could have been done to effectively counter the negativity Nigerians are beginning to and will experience as a result of the kicker bomber's actions. The official Nigerian response, save for Harold Demuren defending the Nigerian government (albeit he seemingly lacked crucial information about the body scanners already in Nigeria's possession), is a clear example of how not to react when a nation is faced with a grave international event that directly affects its image and thus, will have future consequences. Once again, the duty of doing right by the nation has been left to Nigerians themselves who have released multiple press statements (such as that from Champions For Nigeria), spoken out to the media against the terrorist act (such as Nigerian Muslims in Detroit), and collectively expressed their condemnation online in a Facebook group that is over 82,000 members strong and possibly growing.

    For now, it will be much more difficult for Nigerians to travel, and even those merely traveling from or through Nigeria will come under much more strict scrutiny given the new list. As long as Nigeria remains on the "terrorism prone" list, some potential tourists and business persons will likely be discouraged from visiting, as well. What remains to be seen is what else Nigerian officials will do to combat the stigma from Abdulmutallab's actions, beyond committing to the purchase of full body scanners and stepping up armed officers at the nation's international airports. A concrete and sustainable plan to ensure that Nigerian airports are not a passageway for international terrorists, coupled with a zero tolerance for militancy and a commitment to security within Nigeria will go a long way in convincing the world that Nigeria is not to be associated with terrorism. These factors, and the steps necessary to make them happen, would equally convince Nigerians themselves that the country's leadership has a sound understanding of how to steer the national ship during these trying times - something that has been seriously lacking the last 2 years.

    From the Archives:
    - African Travel Post Abdulmutallab
    - A Nigerian Terrorist & A People's Passivity
    - 'Is Nigeria A Breeding Ground For Terrorism' (May 2007)
    - America Speaks...Does Nigeria Respond?
    - How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot With Al Qaeda

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    32 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

    Shadenonconform said...

    you couldn't have said it better. Hopefully the Nigerian government works hard to rectify this horrible situation....

    Sassy Trends said...

    So sad...
    so much for a bad reputation...humnn..

    beauty said...

    I hope "the country's leadership has a sound understanding of how to steer the national ship during these trying times" has the same meaning as words like Brainstorming, Strategic Thinking, Policy Formulation and Good Governance. Many have written a lot about these over the years and the end game is inclusion on the "terror list". Perhaps, it is time to re-open the debate in "Things Fall Apart". This is no longer about a "single story" since it is our collective leadership that failed has failed us.

    The report card simply says, fail. How do we move on from there rather than just shifting the blame is perhaps the next debate. Why is our president in Saudi Arabia when some of the world´s best cancer/heart specialists are Nigerians practicing elsewhere? Why did the late Gani Fawehinmi reject the award of OFR? What happened to our education system? Why do the starts say 70% of our people live below the poverty line? These and others are many of the issues we must tackle with "fit-for-purpose" people, today, then, a stupid list wouldnt matter in the future. After all, it is only about us.

    N.I.M.M.O said...

    So, what's new?

    When you want to send your wife packing - even when all evidences shout her innocence, that's when you remember that she puts too much salt in her soup!

    I am surprised Nigeria was not on that list ab initio. The Americans have a right to protect themselves but sometimes, I laugh at their efforts.

    They are doing exactly what Al Qaeda wants them to do: to be suspicious of and ultimately isolate themselves from every other nation in the world through this pervading paranoia.

    They probably have citizens of some other US-friendly-not-yet-on-the-list country in training right now waiting to carry out the next bombing and believe it or not, they don't need to succeed to trigger off another wave of paranoia.

    Maybe the next would-be-bomber will be a Mexican or a South African or Malaysian or whatever, and the list keeps growing until eventually America isolates itself.

    Then Al Qaeda wins.

    NneomaMD said...

    SSD, this post is golden...can't add nor subtract...

    The Activist said...

    it is really a shame that we keep getting bad names as Nigerians... I pray 2010 will brign forth good news about Nigeria.

    Oluniyi D. Ajao said...

    Nigeria does not deserve to be on their yeye list. This is high-handedness.

    Al said...

    This is really annoying. As if our passport wasn't already tainted enough, now this human being has come to make it worse!

    And these US people, how come Ghana and Amsterdam are not on that list? That's just absurd! Even if the boy is originally from Nigeria by birth, he's not been in the Country. In fact, I'm just too upset to keep typing.

    Anonymous said...

    this is insane..and sad at the same time esp for all other innocent naija ppl all over the world.

    - BJ from Facebook

    Anonymous said...

    :<, Do you think the unintended consequences of being placed on a Terror Prone List will mean that there will be less religious unrest in the country? Will the authorities clamped down on all the religious riots since it now has greater implications to the international community?

    - Yemi A. from Facebook

    Anonymous said...

    This is so sad and infuriating

    - K from Facebook

    Anonymous said...

    The USA is always quick to judge every other person. Who made them lord over us. I thought they said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? Have they found any yet?

    - Doja from Facebook

    Anonymous said...

    My friend and her husband wanted to visit her dad for the new years ' weekend. The dad resides in Michigan and they were coming from Canada...guess what happened?

    They got stopped at the border for questioning. My friend's husband is a canadian citizen while my friend is a US citizen. They saw the passport and all but insisted on knowing where the husband was originally from. Immediately he said Nigeria, they told them they were not allowed to enter the US. It got rough!! They seized the couple's passport and told them it would be mailed to them.

    One of the the officer went as far as rough handling my friend's husband. He was pushed into a room where he was stripped naked for thorough searching. Can you imagine that? ... See More

    Mind you, this is not their first time of crossing the border. It's so easy to go to Canada from MI.

    - Olamild from Facebook

    Anonymous said...

    @ Olamild, Are you serious? Were they coming in my road or by air?

    - N. N. from Facebook

    Anonymous said...

    U should do a story on them 'cuz I want to know

    - T. O from Facebook

    Azazel said...

    I feel that Nigeria was just treated wrongly in this

    NneomaMD said...

    sorry for the double post, but was not aware of the comments from facebook. went to toronto earlier last week by bus, and I was the only one singled out for further questioning by immigration though i was one of the few members on the bus with a US/North American passport (was taken to a separate room for the interview, which was quite embarrassing). Mind you, this is not the first time I have traveled to Canada either.

    Dee said...

    @ Olamild
    I traveled to Canada from the US on Saturday with my Naija passport and God knows I was praying not to get any wahala…cos I was expecting some. I hadn’t even seen or heard about the airport security changes release but I was definitely expecting some hassle. I’m still thanking God I had no problems
    What happened to your friend’s husband is worth a lawsuit
    On the flip side of the coin, I guess we now know how those the Arabs, people with Muslim names and those from the so called ‘terrorist states’ feel when they go through airports and security

    Anonymous said...

    More Britons have attempted terrorism on America and yet they are considered allies
    A single and isolated attempt by a man who had publicly cut off all ties from the
    Country and family within easily clasifies all Nigerians as terrorist.

    America might be shaken and ready to do what's necessary to protect its citizens
    But she should endeavour not to make life more difficult for those of other countries.

    Nigeria will continue to get such treatments until we tap on our potentials and move forward on all fronts.
    Reduce dependency on countries like America and define our own future.
    America has really not applied intelligence when it is most needed.

    I will begin to consider vacations in europe. America is truely becoming more hostile by the day.

    Anonymous said...

    This is a grand conspiracy o.
    The CIA knew everything from day one when this mutallab guy was studying in London. British intelligence (M15) knew about him and they passed on the info to the CIA. Since then the CIA have followed him to Dubai and then Yemen. They provided decoys for the guy who provided some training and then handed him a milkshake for liquid explosives. If there were real explosives the guy should have detonated, remember he is an engineer. But no big bang. Yeah there was a pop and some burn but that was all. Definitely not PETN as they claim.
    But why should the CIA set this guy up at all? Well the father need to be roped in. Remember Soludo? He did a great "job" in the CBN serving some interest. Naija banks were deliberately pushed to the brink of callapse and who argued for the appointment of Sanusi? The father of course. Soludo et al are not happy with the shenanigans being exposed in the banks. Also the new currency contract that was laden with bribes and executed by Australian Bank. To get to Sanusi easily you get to the father of mutallab.
    If you doubt this then check how the Washington post is made to play down mutallab's action here complete with a brand new picture. The purpose is to mellow down things for the boy on the condition that the father play ball.
    Look at what americans now read about mutallab:

    "When Abdulmutallab spoke, he was courteous. He didn't publicly express radical thoughts, didn't lash out against U.S. policies in Iraq or Afghanistan. He didn't express core Muslim grievances such as Israel's treatment of Palestinians. He often handed out money to poor Yemenis and African migrants."
    See what I am telling you? they want to spring the boy off through this kind of media soft talk ...think naija people.think

    N.I.M.M.O said...

    @Anon 5:29 AM: Only in Nigeria! LOL!! I knew there would be a story out of this.

    Actually, I was expecting someone to say it was Yar Adua that sent the boy so as to cover up PHCN's inability to generate and distribute 6,000 mW of power by December 31st 2009 but the Soludo/CBN/Sanusi angle to the story is equally as entertaining.

    Everybody knows the sun rises in Nigeria and probably sets here too.

    Naija people! Anybody wey jam una, wey no carry yansh ehn, I pity the maga.

    Nigeria, we hail thee!

    Mikel said...

    The country is going worser everyday and i pray God should bless me so i can migrate from this stinky country.......let our leaders eat shit and die

    pt said...

    Does Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father run Nigeria's national arms industry (DICON)?


    @ pt: he used to.

    Anonymous said...

    Mikel, didnt u read stories above of people who carried American passports still being mistreated? Where ever u migrate to, u will still be Nigerian. I dont think ur way is the way to go, man. said...

    I think the real culprits here are the innocent Nigerian citizens who will suffer from this bad Nigerian leadership at all levels...but it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure this all out; like I have said before, that placing the comatose Nigerian president Yardua, along with his veepee, federal ministers, all past Nigerian military and civilian presidents, all Nigerian politicians, corrupt Nigerian business executives, along with their children, grand-children, wives, cuncubines and their relatives on the world's terrorist & travel watch list...together with stoping all of their stolen wealth from being sent to overseas bank accounts at the detriment of the Nigerian populace would be the only viable solution in solving this problem!!!

    Anonymous said...

    Nigeria doesn't deserve all this but they wouldn't be able to do all this to us if we had better leadership.

    Anonymous said...

    Happy new year SSD! It seems I have been missing out on some great discussions.

    I think our inclusion on the terror list is highly unfair and rather suspect. I don't understand why the UK is not on the list if Nigeria is seeing as there are plenty of reasons to consider it a potential grooming/recruitment ground for terrorists.

    I also disagree with the attempts i've seen repeatedly on the news to link internal struggles in Nigeria with the US problem of terrorism. Mutallab is Nigerian but my view is that there's very little about his descent into terrorism that is related to the country. All the crucial events took place outside Nigeria. It's such a shame that he had a near perfect foreigner/immigrant profile yet chose to squander it to the detriment of millions of innocent Nigerians.

    Anonymous said...

    Okay. Let's assume Mutallab is Nigerian, through through. And as such, putting Nigeria on "the list" is justified. How about putting Britain, and Germany etc on the list. Not to worry, if the American government refuses to get us off the list, let every American who travels to or through Nigeria be stripped to the pants and subject to lie-detection tests "on the suspicion that s/he might be carrying materials or information detrimental to our national security! Chikena!!

    CodLiverOil said...

    Umar Farouk Mutallab, there are a few points I'd like to raise.

    1) It is true that Mr Mutallab traveled through various countries on his torturous route to Detroit in the US.

    If this doesn't make it clear, look at this

    "Mr Abdulmutallab's route began in Yemen, from where he travelled to Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria. On 24 December, he flew from Lagos to Amsterdam, where he boarded the flight to Detroit."

    Taken from

    From what I can gather Ameria has chosen take stern action only against Nigeria. They have decided to give more material assistance to Yemen (as if that is all that is required).

    No word on the repercussions for Ghana, Ethiopia and the Netherlands.

    2) Ultimately it is up to America how they decide to deal with various countries around the world in the light of this attempted atrocity.

    3) There can be no doubt that Nigeria has a problem with religion, that it has failed to deal with for at least 30 years (it is not taken seriously by the elite). That accompanied with the fact of weak law enforcement, high crime, high unemployment, many young minds who can be easily persuaded to kill and destroy, and increasing anti-Western sentiment that is gaining popularity in some parts of the country. Make it understandable that America has taken it's current course of action.

    Nigeria, is now seen as an unreliable, and unstable nation, and increasingly incapable nation (Mrs Clinton has observed this first hand). Whom America have written off (they are expecting the collapse of the nation before 2015).

    The best way for Nigeria to remove itself from this list. Is not by delivering an ultimatum (a sure way to not achieve the desired outcome). But to as you say, tackle the problem of insecurity comprehensively, and lowering the religious tone of the nation and encouraging mutual understanding. It is by actions, that Nigeria can correct this perceived "injustice".

    For now we will all have to live with the fallout of Mutallab's actions, and the shoddy performance of those in power.

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