Fighting 419, Nigerians Face Lethal Blow

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    The failed Christmas Day bombing by a young Nigerian could perhaps be best described as a devastating image tsunami for Nigeria, a West African nation that has been battling with an already bad image, traced to e-mail fraud known as 419 named after the Nigerian penal code perpetrated by a tiny fragment of its citizenry.

    The deadly attempt by 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up Northwest Airline Flight 253 carrying 278 passengers over the Detroit skies with an explosive device sent shock waves to Nigerians in the Diaspora.

    The story of Abdulmutallab, a staunch Muslim who was schooled in Britain and other places and the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker and politician, is not the kind of story Nigerians say their nation needs at this critical time.

    “This is very reprehensible and I join all concerned Nigerians at home and abroad in condemning it. I think it is an image holocaust that could affect the country’s trade, tourism, foreign investments and economic growth,” said Nigerian-born author C. Paschal Eze whose new book, “For Blacks (And Others) Who Really Care,” discusses smart ways Americans can make their mark on the African continent from afar. “I also think it has the possibility of making life hell for law-abiding Nigerians abroad who may come under intense scrutiny, suspicion and isolation wherever they go.”

    Abdulmutallab, who is being tried by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan before U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman, faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

    Bernard Onwuemelie, president of the Nigerian Foundation of Michigan, issued a statement Monday evening condemning the Christmas attack in Detroit.

    “The Nigerian Foundation of Michigan condemns this act of terrorism, and disassociates the Nigerian community in Michigan from all acts of terrorism and wanton destruction of life and property,” Onwuemelie said. “We call on the Nigerian government, the United States of America and all well-meaning people of the world to investigate this act in all its ramifications in order to forestall such occurrences in the future.”

    Onwuemelie said the group pledges its support “against terrorism and calls on all people to support efforts towards this endeavor.”

    The Christmas Day incident has reignited a spirited debate on the war on terror and what policies ought to be adopted for international and domestic airlines.

    But at the center of the debate is the question of why Abdulmutallab’s U.S. visa was not revoked after his own father alerted the U.S. embassy in Abuja Nigeria on Nov. 19, five weeks before the attack about his extreme religious views and possible links to terrorist groups.

    Abdulmutallab boarded the inbound flight to Detroit from Amsterdam in the Netherlands and was trying to detonate the explosive as the jet approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

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