Amidst growing criticisms that it is lukewarm to the plight of Nigerians being victimised at points of entry into the United States; and needless bickering between his Ministry and presidency officials, especially presidential assistant, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, has told everyday.ng he has no official complaint that Nigerians were refused entry into the US.
In a terse response that was not fundamentally different from media reports Wednesday he said in a text message: “No Nigerian has gone to a Nigerian Embassy, Consulate, Ministry or Government office to register any complaint of victimization by the American Government.
“The American Government has formally asserted that it has not imposed a travel ban of any kind against Nigerians.”
He had been asked: “We need to get your position on a story making the rounds in Abuja that rather than engage the American government on the victimisation of Nigerians and placing a ban on travelers from our country, you have been belly-aching over what you consider the meddlesomeness of certain presidency operatives, especially Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
“Sir, what is your position on this allegation.”
But an international Immigration expert, Mr. Jide Olatunji, faulted the minister’s position.
His words: “I have traveled many countries in Africa, Europe, and America. I have interacted with many Nigerians in the the diaspora. I have even published a book sponsored by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Brussels. Most Nigerians prefer not to go to the embassies or the so-called Consulate. This is because the embassies don’t usually help. How would someone who is not allowed to the US go to the embassy? They were stopped at the airport. Consulates don’t have offices at the airport to assist Nigerians in distress..
“Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa did the right thing with the Advisory. Nigerians deserve her intervention. It is the Right To Know-RTK. FOI. Foreign Affairs Ministry is advised to rise up to prioritize & protect Nigerians rights around the world
“Who should Foreign Affairs believe? The Americans who (tell stories) always to make America great again or your citizens account whose rights were violated. They can’t even say they’ll investigate.”
From Dabiri-Erewa’s office, there was no official response, but a source said, “that there are three cases right now, judge for yourself. All she issued in an advisory to our citizens to be a bit more cautious and go for now only if absolutely necessary.”
He pointed to a report in The Punch of last Tuesday as another evidence of shabby treatment of Nigerians. The report reads in part:
The Federal Government has advised Nigerians against visiting the United States of America at the moment except for crucial matters as a result of the lack of clarity in the country’s new immigration rules.
The advisory was sequel to the barring of some Nigerians, with valid US visas, from entering the US in recent weeks.
“At least, four Nigerians with valid visas were denied entry to the US within the last two weeks and sent back to the country on the next available flights,” the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, told The PUNCH on Monday.
In a statement on Monday, Dabiri-Erewa advised Nigerians without any compelling or essential reasons to visit the US to consider delaying their trip “until there is clarity in the new immigration policy.”
She added, “In the last few weeks, the office has received a few cases of Nigerians with valid multiple-entry US visas, being denied entry and sent back to Nigeria.
“In such cases reported to the office, the affected persons were sent back immediately on the next available flights and their visas were cancelled.”
She reminded Nigerians in the Diaspora to abide by the rules and regulations of their host countries and be good ambassadors of the country.
Francis Adekola, who was affected by the immigration restriction, explained that he was prevented from attending a friend’s wedding in Mississippi on February 15, 2017.
Narrating his bitter experience, Adekola said he was detained for over 10 hours before he was placed on aircraft and returned to Abuja via Johannesburg.
He said, “I travelled to the US on February 15, but when we got to the Atlanta airport, where I was to connect another flight, I was asked to step aside at the check-in counter by an armed border protection officer.
“He walked me to the luggage section and searched my wallet and bag. He also collected my telephone (set) and went through the contents: SMSes, pictures, WhatsApp chats, everything.”
Adekola, who recently finished his Ph.D at a Canadian university, said he was informed by the immigration agent that he did not have strong ties in Nigeria and that he might not go back home if allowed into the US.
Though he was allowed to speak to someone in the US, he stated that he was still prevented from entering America.
Adekola added that his mobile was not returned to him until he got to Johannesburg.
“My documents were not released to me until the plane was airborne on its way to Abuja even though my home was in Lagos,” he said.
He explained that he saw some nationals of other countries, who were also denied entry to the US, noting that the wasted trip cost him over N1m in airfare.
The US embassy could not be reached for comment as it had yet to respond to an email, sent to it, seeking its reaction to the barring of Nigerians.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also unavailable for comment.
Its spokesman, Clement Aduku, did not return calls to his mobile and had yet to respond to an SMS as of the time of filing this report on Monday.