The Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, in an interview with EZRA IJIOMA, explains why the Nigerian government does not want the US government to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organisation.
How has it been as Nigeria’s Ambassador in the United States?
Well, the challenges are enormous but so also is the determination. We have a government here that is giving you all the support you need, trying to reposition the country and making all efforts to transform the country; that is making a determined effort to stop corruption, establish democracy, and making effort to make Nigeria take her rightful place in the world. They encourage you and that’s why one has to be strengthened in one’s determination to project Nigeria positively. There are over 1.5 million registered Nigerians in the US and there are over one million Nigerian-Americans in the US; those are Nigerians who have taken American citizenship and have American passports.
You said some Nigerian ex-militants are being trained in the US; how many of them?
I can’t put a figure on the number but all the state governments in the Niger Delta have agreements with American institutions, universities and colleges and technical schools to train those militants who are within the amnesty programme and they are being trained to come back and serve in Nigeria.
Where do you see Nigeria/US relations in the future?
It’s doing very well. We have the best of relations with the US and our BNC agreement has been very, very successful. United States sees Nigeria as its strategic ally. To the US, Nigeria is the most strategically important country in Africa and they see us as a source for democracy, human rights, good governance and the rule of law. So that is why they are interested in helping us to combat all these problems we have, the problem of Boko Haram and others. They are cooperating with us on these areas through the regional security component of Nigeria/US BNC.
Did the embassy make any representations to the US Congress when it debated on designating Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organisation?
We have told them that we don’t want that.
For so many reasons. Number one, to declare Boko Haram an FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organisation) would mean that Nigeria is not able to deal with Boko Haram, and that is not right. After all, we have dealt with a more focused, more dangerous, better organised protest movement like the Niger Delta movement. Those ones really had a cause for fighting but Boko Haram has no cause for fighting. We knew the leaders of Niger Delta movement, we could talk to them but we don’t know who is Boko Haram. Niger Delta was more focused and you can understand their reason though you may not even share it or even agree, but you can understand their reason. And to designate Boko Haram an FTO would give such psychological boost to Boko Haram among other terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, which can be tempted to embrace it and support it. Three, to designate Boko Haram an FTO will discourage investors from coming to Nigeria because nobody wants to go to an area where a terrorist organisation resides and is so well recognized.
It will make nonsense of our investment programme. Even from the point of view of the US, they say it constitutes a threat to their interests, but it’s not. That argument cannot be sustained because if they did not declare Niger Delta movement a foreign terrorist organisation, Niger Delta movement was a bigger threat to the US interest than Boko Haram, because at the height of Niger Delta movement, it was affecting our oil production which we supply to the US. But for Boko Haram, it is only a suspicion that it is linked with al Qaeda, but that is yet to be proved up until now. So if you did not declare Niger Delta an FTO, why are you going to declare Boko Haram an FTO? It doesn’t stand to logic or reason.
And the final reason is that I got to the US just after the Abdul Mutallab (underwear Christmas Day attempted plane bomber in US) episode and I know what they subjected Nigerians to when we they wanted to enter. Now, if we declare Boko Haram an FTO, it means that every Nigerian entering the US port will be seen as a potential, a possible Boko Haram member, and will be subjected to horrendous search at US entry points, and we don’t want that. So those are the issues and we told them. I know some politicians in US are trying to do that but we are not supporting that. We are opposed to it.