Archive for February, 2010

Nigeria and the U.S. Terrorist Watch List

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2010 by demibanwo

Last Christmas, I went to Nigeria for the holidays. My outgoing trip was hassle-free to say the least. I got to the airport 45 minutes before my flight, and I still made it to my flight on time.

My return trip was different. I had to get to the airport 4 hours before my flight.  Going through security, I was rubbed down, patted down, frisked and searched in all manners, most especially before I boarded the flight to Detroit.

While I was in Nigeria, the news broke about Farouk Mutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian who had attempted and failed to bomb a U.S. airline on Christmas day.

At that point, I thought to myself, “One more thing to add to the list: terrorism.” The list, in this case, is the negative characteristics already attributed to me and my fellow Nigerians.

In the following days, more news came that the United States had included Nigeria on its terrorist watch list, a move which, in my opinion, was very unfair.

Unfair, because the U.S has employed a double standard when dealing with terrorism.

In December 2001, Richard Reid, a British citizen, attempted to blow up an American Airlines plane heading for Miami. Britain wasn’t placed on any terrorist list.

What makes the U.S. decision even worse is that fact that Mutallab’s father had warned the U.S. embassy authorities about his son’s increasing radicalism a month before that attack, but still Mutallab was allowed to get on the plane with a valid visa.

You could also take into account the security checks along the route that he took. His journey originated in Ghana, had a brief stopover in Nigeria and another in Amsterdam, before boarding the flight to Detroit.

All these airports have security checks that he made it through, but only that of Nigeria was called into question. I will admit the airport security in Lagos, Nigeria could be better, but from my experience, we are not far behind Amsterdam in the security facilities employed.

Even if he received the explosives in Nigeria, he made it through Amsterdam’s security checks, so why is no one seriously scrutinizing that end?

In general, Nigeria has received a large amount of negative press as of late. Movies like Wolverine and District 9 portray Nigerians as gun-toting, trigger-happy, alien-eating criminals.

More recently, in James Cameron’s “Avatar,” Colonel Miles Quaritch says, “Three tours in Nigeria, not a scratch.” With this phrase, he singles Nigeria out as the only place in the world almost as violent as Pandora.

I am a Nigerian citizen who has always been proud of my heritage. I will admit it has been hard but I can tell that it is about to become much harder to proudly say that I am Nigerian.

With Nigeria now on the U.S. terrorist watch list, opportunities are even more limited and suspicions are raised higher all because of the decisions of a misled young man.