The punch

10/01/10

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe

As confusion over Nigeria‘s true status in diplomatic circles continues, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, has denied that the country is listed by the United States as a terrorist state.

He, however, said the developments surrounding the Christmas Day failed attack on US. airline by Nigerian-born Umar Abdulmutallab had made Nigeria a country of interest to the US security.

Maduekwe‘s denial came even as the Senate had on Tuesday asked the US to remove Nigeria from the list of 14 ‘security risk states‘ or risk a diplomatic face-off.

The Upper Chamber‘s reaction came barely 24 hours after Nigeria was listed among countries where air travellers (especially those with passports from such countries) would be subjected to comprehensive security screening when entering the US.

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, had also on Thursday said the listing of Nigeria as a ‘security risk state‘ by the US amounted to harassment of Nigerians.

The US had last Sunday listed Nigeria alongside Yemen, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia among countries classified as ‘security risk states.‘

But Maduekwe who spoke at a parley with the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr. Jiechi Yang, on Friday in Abuja, noted that the US Government had not accused Nigeria of sponsoring acts of terrorism.

He said that Nigeria was on the list of US friendly countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and 14 other nations.

”Let me use this opportunity to clarify this controversy. Nigeria is not on USA terror watch list. We do not believe that the current event, which involves a Nigerian in terrorist act, will alter that.

”Nigeria is not accused of sponsoring terrorism; we cannot be because it is not in our character and not in our culture.

”Being on the list of country of interest implies that citizens from these countries will be subjected to thorough checks, just like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. These countries are not on terror list, just like Nigeria. But even at that, it is not acceptable to us.

”U.S said there is need to enhance security control for reasons which are clearly stated by them, they will naturally in their own judgment look more closely about traffic, in respect of fourteen listed countries by U.S.” he said.

He further said that there were ongoing discussions to ensure the attention on Nigeria was not different from the attention given to any other country in the world.

”I think there is need to support the effort of both countries to allow quiet subtle diplomacy to prevail on the matter because that is what is going to solve the problem at the end of the day.

”The story needs to be corrected by our media, because it is not only for our image as Nigeria but for strong relations Nigeria has with U.S. the relationship is cordial and historically excellent and we do not believe that the current hiccup is going to fundamentally alter that.

”Discussions are going on between us and U.S. to ensure that any problem caused by the unfortunate incident of Christmas Day does not lead to any problem and I am optimistic that diplomacy will prevail here and for the avoidance of doubt, I am stating for the last time that Nigeria is not on U.S. terror watch list.”