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A Nigerian cabinet minister says Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s botched attempt to blow up a plane in the United States has “seriously” undermined the government’s efforts to improve the country’s image.
Information minister Dora Akunyili called on President Barack Obama’s administration not to consider Nigeria as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“That categorization is very unfair. We don’t deserve that. Nigeria as a country doesn’t have terrorist tendencies. It’s not in our culture. It’s not in our ways. It is not part of us. It is alien to us. We cannot be stigmatized or labeled as likely terrorist because of the…behavior of one person,” she said.
The Nigerian government has said the airport rules, which took effect Monday after a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to blow up a US plane, discriminate against 150 million Nigerians.
Akunyili maintains that Abdulmutallab was neither recruited nor trained in Nigeria.
“This young man spent almost all his life outside Nigeria …He was influenced outside the shores of this country to behave the way he did. He was recruited outside this country and trained outside this country. Nigeria never supported him. Even his family reported him when they said he was behaving weird. So we feel very sad about it that over 150 million people can be stigmatized because of one person. It is very unfair…I wish that the American government will revisit this list,” Akunyili said.
Abdulmutallab has been charged with "willfully" attempting to destroy Northwest Airlines flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas day with almost 300 people on board.
Akunyili said her government is continuing with investigations into the incident.
“Investigations are going on, and the Nigerian government right now is cooperating with other international bodies to investigate this matter so as to get to the root of the problem. We are in the process of putting in place the 3-D body-scanners so that there would be better search of…our security in the airports and all the ports are also beefed up,” Akunyili said.
Information minister Dora Akunyili is leading Nigeria’s re-branding efforts to improve the country’s image worldwide.
She said Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up the plane presents a difficult challenge in the government’s re-branding efforts.
“Oh definitely, Abdulmutallab’s attempt has dealt a terrible blow on our re-branding campaign, because in re-branding we want to project Nigeria positively. We want to behave better… and our cultural value is not to be a terrorist, and we cannot project Nigeria positively by one of us trying to do what he wanted to do. We only thank God that he did not succeed,” she said.