Terror Blacklist: US gives Nigeria four conditions
Nigeria would have to meet four conditions before it could be removed from the list of 14 “countries of interest”, a group whose nationals are under heavy scrutiny by the United States for potential terrorist activities.
And in another development, Britain has commended Nigeria for the way it resolved the political crisis caused by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's prolonged hospitalisation in Saudi Arabia.
Removing Nigeria from the terror blacklist is being seen as a major challenge for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, revealed the conditions given by the US during a meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday.
The conditions, he said, are: public condemnation of any form of terrorism anywhere in the world; improvement of security in the nation's airports; deployment of air marshals on board aircraft and passing legislations geared towards combating terrorism in the country.
Although the meeting held behind closed-doors, Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Honourable Bature Umar, said it was convened to get an update on the December 25, 2009, botched bombing of an American airline by 23-year-old Nigerian, Farouk Umar AbdulMutallab.
Nigeria was placed on a list of “countries of interest” shortly after the attempted bombing incident.
During the meeting, Maduekwe was said to have briefed the lawmakers on how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been handling the diplomatic row that followed after Nigeria was listed.
Maduekwe also briefed the committee on issues of common interest to the US and Nigeria, particularly the deployment of troops in Sudan; the transformation of the Africa Union (AU) and the recent controversy over the failure of the Nigerian Embassy to pay about $16 million tax on its property located in New York.
The interaction, Bature said, had put paid to insinuations that the inclusion of Nigeria on the watch list makes it a terrorist country.
According to him, “Nigeria was listed as a 'country of interest' which requires that anybody flying from or through Nigeria to the United States should be subjected to extra security check irrespective of his citizenship.”
Meanwhile, the resolution by the National Assembly empowering Jonathan to take over as Acting President pending the return of the president has been commended by the United Kingdom.
Maduekwe, announced UK's statemnent yesterday at an interactive session with the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Maduekwe said that the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, called him to express the British Government's profound appreciation at the effective management of the crisis by the National Assembly, the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) and the entire leadership of the country.
He also confessed at the session that Yar'Adua's absence made his assignment in diplomatic circles very difficult.
“Just before I came in here, the British Foreign Secretary called me and he expressed his government's profound appreciation that a challenging time like this is being managed very well by the National Assembly, by the Executive Council of the Federation, by the entire leadership; that Nigeria has justified the confidence many of Nigeria's friends have in this country,” the foreign minister stated.
In response to a question on the difficulty encountered in managing diplomatic relations during the period, Manduekwe stated that “One cannot divorce the issue of diplomacy from the issue of the domestic situation.”
He stressed that “all over the world, wherever I go, the challenge is made even more difficult for me with the unfortunate indisposition of the President”.
He added: “Of course, the Vice-President himself cannot travel. Where the President should normally be and he is unable to be there, it should be the Vice-President.
“But if the President is outside the country, it means the Foreign Minister will be instructed through the then Vice-President, now Acting President to represent the nation.
“So, through my encounters with presidents, prime ministers, they asked about their brother, our President, and I had a very difficult challenge to explain things to them, to assure them that Nigeria is going through a very difficult moment.
“We miss our President but the country is not about to implode as they all think. Of course, that has its own security implications.
“But I assured them and the National Assembly has vindicated me in that assurance. I assured them that whatever happened, the constitution of the country; that the robustness of our democracy is intact and that we will come out of this strong, respected, appreciated and will play very vital role in how this country will move forward.”
According to him, “When the National Assembly took the historic decision they took a few days ago, not only did it bring stability to the nation, it also assisted the Foreign Minister in his task of engaging the rest of the world.”
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Jibril Aminu, had told Maduekwe that the Senate Committee on Appropriations had rejected the Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposed miscellaneous budget of N2.4 billion.
He said the Appropriations Committee had maintained its position on working within the framework of the budget and had advised that the Ministry should consider areas of its N44 billion budget where adjustments could be made.