Former federal capital territory minister Nasir el-Rufai has described as "regrettable" the decision of President Barack Obama's administration to put Nigeria on a list of terror states.
In a letter to the US President, Mr. El-Rufai expressed "profound sadness and distress" on behalf of all Nigerians for the recent attempted terror attack by a Nigerian aboard an American airline in Detroit on Christmas day. The suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, had laced his underwear with explosives which failed to detonate aboard a Delta airline from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas day.
Affirming the need for a renewed fight against terrorism and its sponsors, the former minister regretted that "one of the new measures put in place has been to subject incoming passengers of Nigerian nationality to undergo the same security screening procedures as state-sponsors of terrorism."
Mr. El-Rufai, in his letter, observed that "this understandable change in policy has created a negative and hopefully incorrect perception that the United States considers us (Nigeria) to be a terrorist state."
Raising further fears of Nigerians being subjected to this wrong perception across the world, he stated that "there are significant fears that other countries will adopt similar measures, and speculation that 150 million innocent and peace-loving citizens of Nigeria could be subjected to racial profiling and discriminatory treatment at all airports and transportation hubs in the world." He added that "There are strong arguments which point out that the addition of Nigeria to a terrorism list causes more damage than benefit."
The former minister stated that it "saddens him to witness this acrimony", and said "instead of (the policy) providing an additional security precaution, this decision has sown deep bitterness and distrust on the streets of Lagos and Abuja, among people who firmly reject the actions and beliefs of this one tragically misguided individual."
Writing the letter from his base in the United Arab Emirates, the former minster, referring to "the leadership lacuna in Nigeria's governance", said that when "constitutional order is restored from the currently troubled leadership in Nigeria," the U.S. and Nigeria "can repair their once strong partnership."
He referred to Mr. Obama's recent speech in Cairo appealing to the Muslim world, in which he (Obama) had said "so long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end."
In the light of this speech, Mr. El-Rufai urged the US president to reconsider the targeted policies against Nigerian nationals, which he claims "contradicts the essential principles of your Cairo declaration.
"I also believe that the goodwill that defined relations between the United States and Nigeria can be restored. Nigerians are ready to lead the way. But you must give us the chance to build trust," he concluded.