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Nigerians Fear Backlash Over Attempted US Bombing


Many Nigerians think his action harmed the image of their country; the government plans to fight any attempt to stigmatize its citizens in the incident

The botched Christmas Day bomb attack on a U.S. airliner involving a suspect from Nigeria has prompted concerns for Nigerians traveling abroad. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan warned the incident could trigger more scrutiny and "harassment" of Nigerians.

The Nigerian government says it will fight any attempt to stigmatize its citizens in the wake of the alleged attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger jet by a Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The suspect has said he was trained by al Qaida in Yemen.

Many Nigerians think his action harmed the image of the West African nation. But the government says the alleged attack was an "isolated incident" and cannot be an excuse to discriminate against Nigerians living or traveling abroad.

House of Representatives member Abika Dabiri, who chairs the House Committee on the Diaspora, says Nigerians living abroad are very worried.

"We've heard many complaints and worries from Nigerians in the diaspora as to how they are being treated, all of a sudden because of this," Dabiri said. "So we are worried about that, but we want to stress that the act of this Nigerian, this alleged act of terrorism, it doesn't represent the face and conscience of Nigerians so it should not be an opportunity or a reason to treat Nigerians all over the world shabbily."

Nigerians have often complained about being targeted at international airports for stricter screening," Ekhomu said. "In Lagos, security consultant Ona Ekhomu says even more stringent security measures await Nigerians at foreign airports.

"To all Nigerians, when you are flying abroad please have a great attitude. Do not go there and do our normal Nigerian thing. We are brash, we are very self-assured, we know our rights and stuff … you will end up in jail."

The West African nation is without a leader at the moment, as President Umaru Yar'Adua is still receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for a heart condition. Image-conscious Nigeria also faces unrest in its oil-producing region as well as endemic corruption, a high crime rate, poor infrastructure and other problems.