GEOFFREY-ONYEAMA [Photo credit: guardian.ng]
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama,, has said that no Nigerian with full valid entry visa has been denied entry to the U.S. contrary to reports.
Mr. Onyeama, who stated this while fielding questions from journalists over the issue, said Nigerians were free to travel to U.S. as the country was not on the ban list.
The minister said he was constantly in touch with the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. and the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, adding that there was no report on Nigerians being denied entry into the U.S.
“On the issue of Nigerians being turned back from the U.S., this is not the case.
“I am in touch with the U. S. Embassy and the Ambassador said no, there was nothing of such nature.
“I can tell you to ignore any call or advice to reconsider travelling to the U.S. because there is no basis for that.
“We have absolutely no report whatsoever from the U.S. that people are being turned back from the U.S. or any of our consulate or any Nigerian that any of our people are being turned back,” he said.
The minister’s position came a day after Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, to President Muhammadu Buhari, advised Nigerians to travel to the U.S. only when it is very pressing.
She said her office her received reports of Nigerians being turned away from the U.S despite having genuine travel visas.
Mr. Onyeama said if the government is speaking on any external relations, it will be heard from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Presidency as any other source is not from the government.
He said Nigeria had embassies in almost 114 countries across the world and the ministry relied on their reports.
“The U.S. Government has been reaching out to Nigeria.
“The U.S. president took all the trouble to call our president and to offer the hand of cooperation to see how he was doing.
“And, to congratulate him on the efforts he is being making and expressing the respect that he had for him, his leadership and his government,” he said.
According to him, the U.S Secretary of State called to echo exactly the same thing and our cooperation with them is exemplary.
“Nigeria is on no list and Nigerians are on no list ban by the U.S. Government and it is always business as usual and very good business with the U.S. Government.
“Anything you hear in respect of the U.S. is incorrect, so any one that has valid document to go to the U.S. or any other country should please proceed to do so,” he said.
In the same vein, the minister said there was no life lost in the recent xenophobic attacks against Nigerians living in South Africa as was also reported in the media.
“I want to say that no Nigerian was killed at the last xenophobic attacks in South Africa, wherever the information is coming from it is not true.
“We have the high commissioner and we have the consular there and the report of people being killed is not correct,” he said.
He said the Federal Government was having discussion with the South African Authority at the highest level to ensure that the issue did not repeat itself.
Mr. Onyeama said the discussion was also to ensure the protection of foreigners living in South Africa.
U.S President Donald Trump had on Monday signed a new executive order which bans immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, dropping Iraq from January’s previous order, and reinstated a temporary blanket ban on all refugees.
The new travel ban comes six weeks after Mr. Trump’s original executive order caused chaos at airports nationwide before it was blocked by federal courts.
It removed language in the original order that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees and called for prioritising the admission of refugees who are religious minorities in their home countries.
That provision drew criticism of a religious test for entry and would have prioritised Christians over Muslims fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East.
The new ban, which takes effect March 16, also explicitly exempts citizens of the six banned countries who are legal U.S permanent residents or have valid visas to enter the US.
This included those whose visas were revoked during the original implementation of the ban, senior administration officials said.
Group condemns foreign affairs minister
Meanwhile, a group, Nigerian Coalition for Quality Governance, has criticised the foreign affairs minister for his handling of the U.S. travel controversy.
In a statement Tuesday, the group said Mr. Onyeama was only trying to deny and dismiss the effects of the Executive Order of the U.S. President Donald Trump banning nationals of select countries.
“While it must be admitted that Nigeria is not officially among the countries whose citizens have been banned from entering the US, enough evidence has already surfaced that not a few Nigerians had been put on the next available planes from the US airports back to Nigeria despite their possession of all travelling documents including the US entry visa,” the group said.
The group said the minister was wrong in calling on Nigerians to ignore the advisory issued by Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa.
“While we’re not questioning the right of the Foreign Minister to an issue that borders on foreign policy as this, Mr. Onyeama has undoubtedly put the wrong foot forward in calling on Nigerians to ignore this Travel Advisory in the face of verifiable evidence that Nigerians are being unfairly targeted and included in the dragnet of the US immigration authorities,” the group said.
“Firstly, we had wondered why the Foreign Minister was always behind the “8th ball” in his response to major foreign affairs and diaspora issues. While it’s never too late for Mr. Onyeama to wake up to his responsibilty, we wonder if he must play to the gallery with his denial that Nigerians have been affected by the US travel ban in any way.”