Nigeria 'not into terrorism'

2010-01-02 22:43

Lagos - Nigeria, a country long synonymous with graft and coups, now has to defend itself over claims that it is a breeding ground for Islamist fundamentalists after last week's bid to blow up a US airliner.

While Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit prison cell accused of trying to kill the passengers and crew of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, officials in his homeland insist the episode does not point to a wider malaise.

But terrorism experts say the Christmas Day plot, foiled when the chemical explosives stitched in Abdulmutallab's underpants failed to explode properly, will inevitably lead to closer surveillance of Africa's most populous nation.

Although Abdulmutallab hails from the capital Abuja, much of the focus is on the mainly-Muslim north where 12 states operate shari’ah law and which has been the scene of a number of anti-government uprisings by hardline Islamists.

Geoff Porter, an Africa expert for the New York-based Eurasia thinktank, said mass clashes last July between the Nigerian security forces and a group known as Boko Haram had raised "active concerns about jihadi sympathizers" in the north among Western intelligence which were bound to be heightened now.

"The Nigerian angle to the Detroit plot will undoubtedly increase US counter terrorism efforts in sub-Saharan Africa," Porter said in a new report.

Gathering steam

Porter said that while intelligence operations in the region had been "slowly gathering steam", they had so far lacked sufficient clout.

"The Detroit attack will give it widespread political support throughout Washington that it has thus far lacked," he said.

The official line from the Nigerian government is that, for all its problems, it does not deserve to be associated with terrorism.

"One thing that I can tell you that we are not known for as Nigerians is terrorism," said Information Minister Dora Akunyili.

"We are not into terrorism; we may have several issues but definitely not terrorism. Our country abhors it."

Ever since independence in 1960, Nigeria has been blighted by bloody clashes between ethnic and religious groups - Sunni Muslims against Shi’ites, Christians against Muslims.

A Christian senior government official, who asked not to be named, insisted the concept of martyrdom was alien to Nigerians and said that Abdulmutallab had been radicalised during time spent in countries such as Yemen.

God's fools

"We are 'survivalists', we do not have this kamikaze spirit of God's fools," said the official.

"This young man, all that he has learnt and has launched him into extremism were picked up from abroad," he added.

Others however say the government is in denial.

"There are terrorists in Nigeria and we have told the Nigerian government about it," the secretary-general of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in northern states, Reverend Saidu Dogo, told AFP.

The west African nation of 150 million is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.

The majority of Muslims live in the north where often grinding poverty has proved fertile ground for radical Islamists.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is a sin", attracted thousands of followers who staged a series of attacks in the north last July which were eventually put down by the authorities after hundreds of deaths.

The Nigeria Democratic Liberty Forum said the government should never have allowed such an environment to fester, saying the country's reputation was at a new low after already being tarnished by "shameful deeds like fraud and corruption".

"One can imagine the danger posed by millions of neglected, unemployed, impressionable Nigerians that the Nigerian system has failed and could be target for terrorism recruits," the pro-democracy pressure group wrote in the Lagos-based Guardian daily, calling Abdulmutallab's arrest a "wake-up call".

Read more on:    boko haram  |  umar farouk abdulmutallab  |  nigeria  |  us plane attack

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24


Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route

The route of the 2015 Absa Cape Epic has been announced and it promises to be as challenging as ever!


Where were you when you last felt alive?

4 exercise excuses and how to beat them
Watch: Insane road bike skills!
The most extreme journey ever?
Red Bull Lionheart trail run - not for the fainthearted!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


There is a strong desire to be self sufficient, right and in control today. There is a tendency to hold on too tightly to more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.