Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Terrorism and National Security - My Thoughts

It is official; Nigeria has now been inducted into the US terrorism ‘hall of fame’. Oh sorry, the US terrorist ‘watch list’.

The US govt through Transportation Security Administration (TSA), announced that it would begin enhanced screening procedures on any US-bound air passenger travelling through a list of 14 nations, in which Nigeria has been included. From the US point of view, the 14 nations (Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Cuba, Afghanistan, Algeria, Libya ) are believed to have links to terrorism.

So how did we become a member of the terrorism “hall of fame”? On 25 December 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, son of the former First Bank Chairman, Dr AbdulMutallab, attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear on a Northwest Airline Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit Michigan. And according to the US authorities, Umar claimed to have obtained explosive chemicals and a syringe that were sewn into his underwear from a bomb expert in Yemen associated with Al Qaeda. Further investigations by US authorities also revealed that Umar has been in contact with radical Islamic extremist Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been accused of being a senior al-Qaeda talent recruiter.

My thoughts

Many commentators have described the action of the US govt has been high-handed. The Minister for Information also described the action has been ‘unfair’. From the public perspective, it seems that 150million people have now been ‘criminalised’ because of the nefarious act of a single individual. However, for anyone to think that US govt reaction was just because of Umar AbdulMutallab’s terrorist expedition smacks of naiveté.

It is common knowledge that religious extremism has been on the sharp rise in Nigeria. We all know of the famous Boko Haram killings. Also, just two days after the US terrorist attempt, hundreds of lives were lost in Bauchi State to religious riots (Kalo Kato). The nation also witnessed incessant bombing of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta. The combination of religious extremism in the North and armed militancy in the Niger Delta underlines the failure of our national security.

As much as we can criticise the US for its high-handedness, it’s the US govt prerogative to determine who it allows into the country and under what terms and conditions. We need not to remind ourselves that the US is a sovereign nation.

It is convenient for our leaders to say Umar’s action was an isolated case, and not representative of behaviour of 150 million Nigerians. But there is no doubt that the US govt will be deeply concerned about the failure of the Nigerian govt in dealing with the local religious extremism. Who knows if the Boko Harams are actually al-Qaeda sympathisers? Who knows if some of the extremist organisations in Nigeria are affiliated to the al-Qaeda or Hezebollah of this world? It’s been alleged that some of the Niger Delta militants were trained in Libya (!).

Up until now, there’s not been a case of religious extremism that has been successful investigated. Almost every year, hundreds of lives and properties worth millions of naira is lost to religious riots. Instead of getting to root of the problem, our security agencies engage in judicial killing.

What the government fails to realise, is that the whole world is watching. No nation is interested in dealing with countries with failed national security. Our failed national security is a haven for home grown terrorists. While these terrorists may not be interested in blowing up US interests, there are a threat to our national existence.

What we are witnessing are the effects of failing (or failed) nation. The western world has lost faith in us. Our society is deeply corrupt. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of our society. Our security agencies are arguably some of the most corrupt in the world. With the level of corruption in Nigeria, I’m convinced that a suicide bomber can pay his/her into a passenger aircraft. For the right price, such a person would be offered a ‘first class’ seat. It is in Nigeria where Customs officials aid and abet importation of fake drugs. It is in Nigeria where Immigration officials knowingly issue passports to non-citizens using false identity.

There is no doubt that the new US policy would affect every Nigerian, irrespective of social status. Unfortunately, 150 million people will now pay for the sins of one stupid individual. Already a Nigerian travelling overseas is a suspected asylum seeker, suspected over stayer, suspected illegal immigrant, suspected identity fraudster, suspected drug courier, and now a suspected terrorist.

May God help us!


Real Madrid said...

What have happened to nigeria as a result of the faild bomb attack,is a result of a rotten egg conterminating the owl basket.

to be pragmatic,the US government have hasten to include nigeria on the terorist nation list.if Farouk were to be a south African would The Us governmet list south Africa?there is soo much violence and hostility in south africa too.i believe judging nigeria with one singular indecent act as a terrorist nation for me is a premedidated jugdment

ebun said...

Well said by Seyi but my problem with criminalising every Nigerian by the US is double standard and hypocritical,we do understand that the US is a souvering nation, butI'm yet to see Egypt and IRA bombers country on that list,The USA is always in the habbit of quick judegment and blacklisting nations that they do no benefit from, look what Iraq has become as a result of their rash and quick judgement, I honestly hope the US goverment considers that Umar Farouk's father is a Nigerian that tried to safe the situation and reported his own son, but can the almighty USA ever blame their own downfall on their lack of better judgement.
that not withstanding, Nigerians need new reorientation about themselves and our goverment needs to do more for its people.Not that I condore any act of terrorism, because If I'm asked i'll say Frouk should rot in jail forever, he's an idiot not a hero.

Myne Whitman said...

I just love the title of your blog. It resonates so much especially at this period of uncertainty and bad image for the country. I agree with most of what you said and I hope we get out of all this problems in one piece.

Nice blog and write-up.