ABUJAâ€”THEÂ diplomatic relations between Nigeria and the United States appear threatened over the foiled attempt by a Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day, even as the Nigerian Senate yesterday gave the United States authorities a seven-day ultimatum to remove Nigerians from their watch list.
In another development, in Abuja, yesterday, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, summoned the American Ambassador, Ms. Robin Sanders, to express the governmentâ€™s displeasure over the terror list.
Relatedly, the House of Representatives on its part, while condemning the US action, argued that the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, Federal Bureau for Investigations, FBI and other security agencies in the United States were culpable in the incident just as the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Mike Aondoakaa, said Nigeria will officially demand that the United States remove it from a terrorism flight watch list.
Senate Spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze, at a briefing with Senate correspondents on behalf of Senate President David Mark, yesterday, said the Senate would on resumption next Tuesday take a definite position should the American authorities refuse to rescind its decision.
â€˜Donâ€™t criminalise Nigeriansâ€™
Affirming that the alleged aborted terrorist attempt by Abdulmutallab was an exception that should not be generalised, Eze affirmed that there was yet no evidence to blame the security failure on the Nigerian authorities.
Said he: â€œI am speaking on behalf of the Senate and on behalf of the Senate President to state categorically that we are very unhappy about the development and when we resume we are going to take this matter up seriously if America has not taken Nigeria off that list.
â€œWe also want to advise America that it is in their own best interest to conduct this matter very well in a manner that will not result into diplomatic row between America and Nigeria because the American president had himself clearly admitted that this was a failure of the system and manpower of Americans and I donâ€™t see where Nigeria comes in there.
â€œMoreover, this is just one instance of a Nigerian who it is clearly established has no link with any fundamentalist group or any interest group within Nigeria, not even with his parents. This was a boy whose disappearance was reported to security agencies, the American authorities, and all the relevant authorities and the American did nothing and for them to turn round to punish Nigerians for the sin of an isolated case like this is completely unacceptable to the Nigerian government and to the Nigerian Senate.
â€We have also watched with keen interests several other breaches that have taken place since this boyâ€™s attempt. There was an uninvited guest who went to the White Houseâ€” he and his wife were found in the White House, that was not a Nigerian.
America should look inward and search their soul, there is something wrong with their system and they should not punish Nigerians who are very law-abiding and good international citizens for the failure and irresponsibility of American operatives. Nigeria will not take that.
US unfair to Nigeriaâ€™
â€œI think that it will be most unfair given the kind of relationship that has existed between America and Nigeria for America to jump to this kind of conclusion without even adequate consultations with the authorities in Nigeria. This is not acceptable to us and we are going to do whatever we can as a nation to prove to America that we will not take this.
â€œOur citizens who returned from different destinations, especially those who originated their flight from America went through hell in order to come to meet their kith and kin for the Christmas break and the harrowing experience has scared a lot of them who are even afraid to go back and some who are even afraid to originate their trips for genuine transaction in America arising from tales they got from their relations and friends, this must be stopped immediately. This is not how diplomacy is conducted.â€
According to him, â€œWe are going to engage all our diplomatic gear to ensure that we either have relationship with America or we donâ€™t. We believe that America is a mature country, it is the model of democracy, all of us looked up to it and it has enjoyed very smooth and cordial diplomatic relationship with Nigeria. Nigeria has never been found wanting in her dealings with America.
â€œSo, for them to embarrass this country with this kind of classification for no justification is completely unacceptable. It is not America alone that has citizens to whom the government is responsible, we also have citizens and we are responsible for them, we will not allow Nigerians to be molested wherever they go.
I think that this message should be put out clearly and when we resume, if the situation is still there, it is going to be one of the major issues that we are going to tackle and the Senate President has told me to state categorically that he is unhappy about this and being the chairman of the National Assembly, it means also on behalf of the National Assembly.â€
Reps flays USâ€™ action
Relatedly, spokesman for the House of Representatives, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, described as unwarranted and unfair, the inclusion of Nigeria on the list of countries on the United Statesâ€™ terrorism hyper_alert countries.
â€œThe earlier they de_list Nigeria on that list or rescind from the decision to put us on alert, the better for our diplomatic relations,â€ he warned.
Eyiboh,Â however, said until the house resumed plenary next Tuesday, he would not issue an official statement on the issue.
The lawmaker who spoke to newsmen, yesterday, hours after a briefing by the Senate, added that CIA,FBI and other security agencies in the United States may also have been guilty of the terrorism act.
According to him, â€œCIA, FBI, security agencies in the United States are also culpable in the terrorism that they are talking about. It is possible that they have accomplices with the guys that trained that boy in Yemen .
â€œIf not, why didnâ€™t they condemn Yemen? Why have they spared Yemen and are now condemning Nigeria?â€ He added that the matter was not strictly within the purview of the National Assembly to decide whether to cut diplomatic ties with the United States but an Executive function.
Aondoakaa attacks decision
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mr. Mike Aondoakaa, however, declared that the US â€œwill rescind that decision because Nigeria is not a terrorist country and a single incident that involves a Nigerian cannot criminalise all Nigerians,â€ while the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo,Â insisted that there was â€œno security issueâ€ in the country.
He cited aÂ Briton, Richard Reid, the so_called â€œshoe bomberâ€ convicted of trying to blow up a Paris_Miami flight in 2001.
According to the police boss, â€œIf the American authorities could not add Britain â€¦ to the list of countries of interest, then there is no reason to include Nigeria. We may be deeply religious, but certainly we are no suicide bombers or terrorists.â€
The Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, had branded the move as discriminatory and unfair, saying the suspect, â€œwas not influenced in Nigeria. He was not recruited or trained in Nigeria. He was not supported whatsoever in Nigeria.â€
But, theÂ Action Congress, AC, argued that rather than sanctions, Nigeria needed the understanding and support of its international partners to stamp out religious extremism in the country.
According to the party, â€œa threat to peace anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere. Therefore, Nigeriaâ€™s international partners will also be assisting themselves by assisting Nigeria,â€ it said.
FG summons US envoy
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday, insisted that Nigeria does not deserve to be grouped among terrorist nations, saying it was unacceptable, even as it launched a process with the American Government towards de-listing the nation from that group.
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, at a briefing in Abuja saidÂ top Nigerian officials held critical discussions with the American Ambassador Robin Sanders and other top envoys on how to achieve that goal.
Notwithstanding Nigeriaâ€™s position, Maduekwe added that the government has ordered 30 full body scanners for the nationâ€™s airport, a demonstration of the governmentâ€™s non-compromising stance on terrorism..
According to him: â€œListing Nigeria on second tire of countries that are indicated on the ladder of terrorism and security measures from the USA is an unacceptable New Year gift to a friendly country like Nigeria on the year of its golden jubilee celebration.
â€œWe are not on the world terrorist list, nor have ever supported or connived with countries known for terrorist act. We have been on the list with which US has maintained excellent relationship. For the fact that these countries surround us does not place us in the terrorist list. It is unacceptable to Nigerians.
â€œI sensed some double standards here. What the young boy attempted to do is not different from what the suicide bomber-countries are doing and yet they are not on that listâ€.
The minister, however, noted that during the meeting with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, he pleaded that Nigeria should be off the list, adding that Nigeria is not against American government protecting its citizens from being harmed.
â€œWe want the American government to look into the matter again. We are not against them for trying to protect its citizens and we will give them all the support they needed to condemn global terrorism.
â€œWe pledged as government under the leadership of Vice_President in the absence of Mr. President to cooperate with US in all their investigations and we are keeping to that. We have stopped at nothing but to show that we are united in combating terrorismâ€, added Maduekwe.
He pointed out that even the state from which the young man came from is doing a soul searching on why he embarked on such mission, â€œit is embarrassing and unprofitable to Nigeria as a nation and undermines seriously our re-branding process.â€