BY HUGO ODIOGOR
Nigeria may have been delisted from the countries that harbour or sponsor terrorism against the United States (US) and its allies which was the source of diplomatic tension between the two countries following the ill-fated attempt by a foreign based Nigerian student, Farouk Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab, to bomb a plane in Detroit, US on December 25, 2009.
Nigeria’s external image took a dip in January 2010, when the US placed the country on global terror list following the failed attempt by Abdulmutallab to detonate the bomb strapped to his pants while, on the domestic front, there have been a spate of bomb blasts targeted at politicians, the security agencies, churches and academic institutions by the Boko Haram sect operating in the northern part of the country.
Foreign Affairs Ministry sources told Sunday Vanguard that Washington has removed Nigeria’s name from the terror watch list which subjects Nigerians as well as nationals from the listed countries to special security checks on their arrival to the US.
The sources said that before he was inaugurated on May 29,2011, President Goodluck Jonathan took steps to address the impression created by the action of the US authorities as Nigeria was not a known base for terrorist groups neither is the economic interest of the US and safety of its nationals in Nigeria in peril. The insinuation by an MI5 agent, according to the sources, that Al-Qaeda planned to use Nigeria as its operational base is without foundation.
Nigeria also took steps to convince the American leadership that “Nigeria as a state does not sponsor terrorism against its citizens or its neighbours or indeed other countries, regardless of differences in their foreign policy orientation and disposition.” One of the sources added:”It was therefore an overreaction on the part of the US authorities to use the action of one youth to brand, target and subject over 150million other people to odious treatment, through invasive searches and other humiliating security checks”.
Nigeria, the sources maintained, has sped up the passage of the Anti-Terrorism and Other Related Offences Act 2010 to underscore her commitment to tackling terrorism at the domestic and international fronts. “We are the first in Africa to do this and we have been fully compliant and cooperative with international security agencies in exchange of intelligence on counter terrorism but this does not mean that there are no challenges as we have seen in the Boko Haram activities in the bombing of the headquarters of Nigeria Police, the reckless use of improvised explosive devices to attack military and security personnel in Abuja, Suleja, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna and other parts of the country,” one of the sources stated.
“We have since told the Presidency of the need to take proactive steps to mobilise public opinion, support and action to tackle the scourge of terrorism which has adverse socio-political and economic consequences for Nigeria within and outside its borders.
“As you may know, all American flights carry marshals who are trained to combat possible in-flight terror attack. There are other counter-terrorism measures that are taken which we should keep off the record.” Apart from the US, members of the European Union (EU) have stepped up their support for Nigeria’s anti-terrorism war.
France, Germany and Britain have indicated their willingness to aid Nigeria on the war against terrorism. The sources said the support by the EU countries will come in form of training for security agencies and provision of technical support to counter terrorism in the country.