Tuesday, January 5, 2010

U.S. blacklists Nigeria

Henceforth, Nigerians will start experiencing what they probably fear the most on the international arena: blacklisting. The country has been added to the infamous list of "countries of interest" and its citizens travelling to the United States would be thoroughly scrutinised, no thanks to Umaru Farouk AbdulMutallab, the would-be bomber who attempted to blow up a transatlantic jetliner on December 25, 2009. But the Minister of Information, Professor Dora Akunyili, has described the move as discriminatory against 150 million Nigerians.

THISDAY learnt last night that the National Security Adviser, Gen. Sarki Muktar, has summoned an emergency security meeting for today to discuss the latest development.

Expected to attend the meeting are the heads of the security agencies, including the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA), State Security Service (SSS) and the Inspector General of Police. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that the US had stepped up measures to stop potential suicide bombers in their tracks. These measures include categorising countries into two - "states sponsors of terrorism" and "countries of interest" followed with enhanced screening. Starting from yesterday, air travellers flying into the US from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Yemen and other "countries of interest" would be subjected to enhanced screening techniques, such as body scans, pat-downs and a thorough search of carry-on luggage. The US State Department lists Cuba, Iran, Sudan, North Korea and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism.

The other "countries of interest" whose passengers will face enhanced screening are Afgha-nistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan and Somalia. Additionally, all passengers on US-bound international flights will be subjected to random screening, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced. Airports were also directed to increase "threat-based" screening of passengers who may be acting in a suspicious manner. Akunyili is defending Nigeria vigorously saying AbdulMutallab's case is a "one off thing". According to her, the 23-year-old suspect does not represent what Nigeria stands for. "He (AbdulMutallab) was not influenced in Nigeria and he was not recruited or trained in Nigeria.

He was not supported whatsoever in Nigeria and his behaviour is not reflective of Nigerians and should therefore not be used as a yardstick to judge all Nigerians," declared the minister. "Nigerians are peace-loving and happy people. We were even voted as the happiest people on earth," Akunyili stated further. The minister said AbdulMutallab was a well-behaved child from a responsible family who developed an ugly tendency because of his exposure outside the shores of Nigeria. In her reaction, the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on the Diaspora, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the US should not have grouped Nigeria with countries where terrorists already have cells. She added that uprisings or killings which Nigerian security agencies had been battling to curtail started even before Al-Qaeda came into existence.

"In fact, we do not in anyway deserve this categorization and I think this is part of failure of leadership because since this happened, we do not have a president speaking with the US President Barack Obama and this is one of the consequences of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua not handing over properly before he travelled for treatment abroad," she stated. The new security measures came in response to the failed Christmas Day attempt by AbdulMutallab to bomb a Northwest/Delta jetliner as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam. AbdulMutallab is the son of wealthy retired banker, Umaru Mutallab. Reports say his father and mother Aisha will travel to the US for his trial which starts on January 8.

This Day

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