Amateurish criminal action by a Nigerian citizen, against Northwest or Delta flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, has unleashed unwarranted and unbridled criticism against Nigerian Muslims, Nigerian Security Agencies and Nigeria the country.
This, even though Nigerian Muslims, Nigerian Security Agencies and Nigeria have all denounced the suspect and his botched criminal enterprise.
These unwarranted attacks, maligning and denigrations of Nigeria, have occurred despite the facts. The facts are that the father of the Nigerian citizen in question, acted forthrightly, as he took actions, he clearly and specifically notified the United States of America of his worry, regarding his son’s radicalization or extremism. A father acted against his son, that is profound and heroic! How is it possible for some, to still generalize about Nigerian Muslims and Nigeria, in the face such division between good and evil even at a nuclear family level?
Some in the western media are hastily and lazily describing Nigeria as a sort of fertile breeding ground or recruitment forum for Al Qaeda or Taliban. And this is quite untrue, just as it is a quantum leap in silly speculations. After all, there are homegrown terrorists here, in the United States and this should not lead anyone to label all Americans, just as, there should be no generalizations against Nigerian Muslims, Nigerians and Nigeria, just because of the acts of one lone wolf Nigerian without known cohorts or co-conspirators, co-actors, accomplices and collaborators anywhere in Nigeria or with any other Nigerian anywhere in the world.
It should be clear to the world that a mistake was made. A father reported a son, and American law enforcement and security agencies thereafter accomplished nothing much after the complaint by the suspect’s father.
The fact is that, someone dropped the ball in neglecting to put on a no-fly list or at minimum, put him under some extra scrutiny if he indicated interests in flying, and particularly so, when is destination is the United States.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. The United States was put on notice for a long time, as to the possibility of Umar Farouk Abdul Muttallab’s criminal act which occurred on Christmas Day 2009. The suspect’s visa to the United States, could and should have been revoked. The US Embassy in Nigeria is well known and is on record for denying visas or revoking and or canceling visas because it received an anonymous telephone call against a visa recipient, visa applicant. The US Embassy in Nigeria regularly denies visas to Nigerians over flimsy reasons or no reason at all, and in this instance, there was abundance of reasons to have revoked or cancelled the suspect’s visa or put his travel plans under heightened scrutiny and red alert.
The suspect’s father is prominent and high profile Nigerian citizen. He was a leader of a major bank in Nigeria. He volunteered information against his own son. And despite this advance warning by a Nigerian father, a hero and a patriot, in all of these, those whose duties it was to act, failed to act and instead of accepting their lapses, they are conveniently blaming everyone and everything else, but themselves. It is in comparison to a situation in which the president of a major bank in America, Citibank or Chase Bank, reports his son to law enforcements, after careful observation and consideration and the law enforcement agencies neglected to take action and thereafter, seeking scapegoats.
There are three critical issues to examine in this incident which could have been catastrophic in outcome, had he been successful. The attempt by Umar Farouk Abdul Muttallab to engage in criminal acts against an aircraft and its passengers could have been nipped in the bud, it was clearly preventable.
First, it was preventable in view of the fact that there were advance notice to the appropriate American law enforcement agencies, as to the possibility of its occurrence. The suspect’s father took prescient and profound steps to address the risks, even where, taking such action, clearly meant a diminution of life and liberty for his son. It must be stressed that this is not by any means an easy thing for any parent to do. The elder Mutallab, must have agonized and gone through most excruciating pains and nevertheless resolved to do the right thing and he did, he reported his own flesh and blood as someone with criminal tendency or inclination, while the suspect was still preparatory or the crime in an inchoate phase.
Secondly, the Mutallab, the suspect, began his trip in Nigeria, and more specifically, from Lagos Airport where there is a huge presence of American security personnel stationed there in almost overbearing numbers and yet this slipped through their fingers and every expert, pseudo analyst and commentator has been blaming Nigerian security operative since the Christmas Day incident. It is common knowledge worldwide, that American Customs, Immigrations and Drugs or Narcotics Enforcement Agents now play pervasive permeating roles in airports around the world these days, particularly, since September 11, 2001. Agents of US law enforcements dominate airport screenings in many countries, including Nigeria. How then, did this suspect beat all of them in Lagos and Amsterdam? My personal experience in Canada and Bahamas is that flights bound for America from these countries are literarily taken over by the American Enforcement Agents.
In this incident therefore, it is one of two things, it is either that the suspect bomber was so clever in his subterfuges, so much so, that no precautions by the Nigerians and their American counterparts at the Lagos Airport could detect his murderous shenanigans or that, he was hiding in plain sight and the Americans, the Dutch and the Nigerian security system failed the world in not detecting him. It cannot be that the Americans and the Dutch performed excellently, but the Nigerians failed in some sorts of selective way hence the failure to detect the bomber in Lagos or at some other point during his flight.
The suspect embarked on his flight initially in Lagos with the Dutch airline, KLM flight 588 on a Boeing 777, 11:00 PM, Nigerian time, on Christmas eve, a first screening in Lagos ostensibly undertaken by a combined team of American and Nigerian security operatives. Thereafter, more screening were undertaken at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam for transit passengers including the suspect Mutallab, in their second and final leg of flights Northwest-Delta flight 253 on Airbus A330 departure at 8:54AM from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan. I have been a transit passenger through Amsterdam and other airports in Europe and around the world, and transit passengers received secondary or additional checks before merging with continuing or final leg of journeys. And as a matter of fact, checks in Amsterdam have revealed that Mutallab the suspect changed planes from KLM to Northwest-Delta with other passengers in Amsterdam. And that he and others, were required to be checked or screened before boarding the Detroit portion of their flight through Northwest-Delta.
It will be recalled that a similar murderous attempt by Richard C. Reid also known as the shoe-bomber, he too had embarked upon a similar transatlantic flight in 2001 with plans to bomber a jetliner bound for the US out of the skies. Reid like Mutallab the suspect, was thwarted as well and I do not recall anyone blaming Britain and or labeling all Muslims in Britain and for that matter, blaming all Britons, because of the dastardly attempt by Reid. This makes me want to ask, what exactly is different now? Reid fooled security operatives in Europe and got into the flight board for the United States. Tackling crimes, international crimes, must become collaborative and more multilateral in planning and implementation.
Instead of blaming Nigerians, Nigerian Muslims and Nigeria, the suspect’s father should be held up as a hero. He did his part, he supplied his son’s name to law enforc
ement and intelligence community, but for their reason, chose to treat the report as trivial or treat the complaint with levity and disregard, because according to their judgment, the son of whom the biological father complained, did not have derogatory information against him on file. What is more derogatory than a father calling his son a religious extremist?
This incident happily resulted in no loss of lives. However, it does exemplifies the need for shared intelligence and more elaborate communication between American National Security Agencies and their Nigerian counterparts as equal partners in the global fight against crimes and those who perpetuate crimes. Poor communication and inadequacy in information sharing between agencies of the American security apparatuses led to the lapses culminating in this near tragic incident in Detroit airspace.
It is now public knowledge that the suspect has been traveling. The suspect should have been monitored in all his travels to London, Dubai, Yemen before he ever embarked on the fateful journey to Detroit from Lagos via Schiphol. After Mutallab the elder reported his son, Mutallab the suspect should have been flagged as a person of interest and it would not have been too much to subject all his travels to extra scrutiny. There was no room for error or the sort of lapses which enabled him to travel widely, evade detection, despite his father’s generous information against him.
There should have been a universal precaution after the report by his father. This is more so, especially in view of the plots of violence and spates of violence which has not ebbed since September 11, 2001. Even by the admission of Mr. Edmund S. Hawley, formerly of Transportation Security Administration and others in Homeland Security claim to know that Al Qaeda and other extremist or militants group have since September 11, 2001 and they are going to keep trying, and so, vigilance is the operative word or key word here, and yet, this is precisely the opposite of what was done when the elder Mutallab reported his son’s bent for extremism and militancy. There was a neglect of vigilance.
Worldwide vigilance is demanded by all, in the security services everywhere. I could have been on that plane. We should all be concerned as to where penetration might be next and this is not a Nigerian problem or challenge. Mistakes were made everywhere in this particular case of Mutallab and the mistakes were made on both sides of the Atlantic. Blaming Nigeria is quite unreasonable in view of all the circumstances and the known facts.
The world must reject the notion that it is okay to blame Nigeria in a matter like this, where there was a name and an identified individual who, despite advance notice and warning, slipped through multiple layers of security, defying the Americans, the Dutch and the Nigerians, all.
Unfortunately however, since the incident, all manner experts, analyst and commentators have had most disparaging things to say about Nigerian Muslims, Nigerians and Nigeria. We have heard how porous and ill-equipped Nigerian Airports are. We have heard and seen the so-called Osama Bin Ladin perception index which has determined that Osama is considered as if some sort of hero in my Nigeria according to PEW “Research” which has claimed that Osama is more popular in Nigeria than in Pakistan and Afghanistan together, with 54% popularity among Nigerian Muslims.
Whereas, the truth of the matter is that there are approximately 50 million Muslims in Nigeria, they are not admirers of Osama bin Ladin and they are not all like the suspect , whose father, it must be restated, is a Muslim himself, who would report his son to the Nigerian and American authorities, clearly because his did not share his son’s worldview. This criminal act is purely an isolated incident without Al Qaeda or Taliban connections as some have strenuously sought to fathom from ashes and dusts. Nigeria is not a hub for any extremism. Nigeria is not a recruitment ground for any mass murderers. Nigerians and Nigeria reject this untoward and unsavory label and any attempts to smear us and generalize about Nigerians and Nigeria. Nigerians reject generalizations and these rush to judgment about Nigeria, because of a crime committed by one Nigerian citizen alone.
However, this has not stopped those intellectually lazy journalists, experts, analyst, so-called political leaders and sundry careless commentators from generalizing about Nigerians, Nigerian Muslims in particular and Nigeria as a nation. Too many of these person clearly do not know where Nigeria is on the world map. Nor do they care to know Nigerians and Nigeria.
I have rolled my eyes each time they pronounced Lagos which is properly pronounced LayGUS as LA-GUS or LAH GOSH! Just the same way these persons have lazily and ignorantly pronounced Iraq as EYE-RACK, instead of Iraq which is properly pronounced as EERAK. The ignorance and intellectual laziness is so palpable. It makes me want to ask, how much effort could it really take to say Lagos correctly? There are several Nigeria diplomatic missions in the United States, notably in Washington D.C. New York, Atlanta and Houston etc and one phone call could have done it, and besides, there are thousands of Nigerians in America, ignored and sidelined in all of these commentaries and opinions about an incident arising from the behavior of a Nigerian citizen. Western journalists should at least learn to say LayGus and not LAH-GOSH !
When all is said and done, the truth is that millions of Nigerians, Christians, Muslims and Atheists have since Christmas Day incident, condemned and denounced the attempt by Umar Farouk Abdul Muttallab, at mass murders of passengers in an American airline. Countless Nigerian individuals and groups, in Nigeria, in America and elsewhere in the Diaspora have roundly condemned the suspect for engaging in what could have been a major tragedy with catastrophic proportions.
It is such terrible shame that some would seek to demean Nigerian Muslims, other Nigerians and Nigeria as a nation, when in fact criminals and their crimes are not peculiar to any nation, especially in the face of homegrown religious extremists right here in America itself! Richard Reid is not a Nigerian.
The murderer who assassinated former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is not a Nigerian. Rabbi Kahane is not a Nigerian, Major Hassan is not a Nigerian. Timothy Micveigh was not a Nigerian. John Walker Lindh the Taliban is not a Nigerian. Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber is not a Nigerian. The woman who attacked the Pope on Christmas eve is not a Nigerian. Christian extremists militants who the name of God and in the name of being anti abortion shoot, to kill, shoot to maim and shoot to murder medical doctors in America, are extremist and dangerous across the world and across all religions. Religious extremism is global and it is an affliction endured by all. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab is accused of a crime and he should be judged accordingly to the fullest extent of the laws and based on the evidence.
Crimes and criminals demean us all, with their negative impacts and in their equally negative consequences or outcomes. Crimes and criminals are like religious extremism-militancy, they are like virtues and vices which are part of human frailties and foibles, warts and all and are universal.
Not peculiarly Nigerian.
It is therefore a shame and disgrace on the part of those who are exploiting the Northwest/Delta flight 253 incident to disparage Nigerian Muslims, Nigerian Security Services and Nigeria as a country!