Biden Reverses Trump’s Visa Ban On Nigeria, Other Countries

US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)

 

Newly inaugurated US President Joe Biden has reversed a Donald Trump policy that restricted the granting of immigrant visas to Nigerians.

In January 2020, Trump had expanded curbs on immigration to include six more countries, including Nigeria.

At the time, the US government said the policy was designed to tighten security for countries that don’t comply with the U.S. minimum security standards or cooperate to prevent illegal immigration.

But the Biden administration, which campaigned partly on a message of diversity, is seeking to re-open America to the world.

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The reversal is part of a 10-day onslaught of executive actions intended to overturn key Trump policies without waiting for Congress, on topics ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change and criminal justice, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

Biden has halted the US exit from the World Health Organization, stopped construction of Trump’s cherished wall on the Mexican border, and rescinded a ban on visitors from several Muslim-majority nations.

He has also committed the United States to rejoining the Paris climate accord, blocked an oil pipeline project, and froze Arctic drilling in a raft of executive orders signed hours after taking office Wednesday.

FG Grants Approval For Emirates Airlines To Operate In Nigeria

Muritala Muhammed International airport

 

The Federal Government has agreed to lift the ban placed on Emirates Airlines, which prevented it from operating in and out of the country.

According to a statement signed by the Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu on Wednesday, the development was based on an undertaking by the authorities of the United Arabs Emirates (UAE).

The statement quoted the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, to have said that the commencement of the airline’s operations would depend on the commencement of visa issuance by the UAE.

“UAE has written to state that they agree to issue visas to Nigerians, consequently, decision has been reached to allow Emirates to fly into Nigeria.

Commencement of the Visa issuance is condition precedent. Please bear with this unusual situation.”

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Speaking further, the Minister appreciated the understanding of everyone who has been negatively affected by the recent policy decisions which forbade some airlines from operating into the country when Nigeria reopened its air space to international flights.

The decisions, according to him, were taken to protect the interests of the nation and its citizens who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, same Nigeria treats other nationals.

Emirates Airlines was initially given approval to operate into the country, an approval which was withdrawn following the inability of Nigerians to obtain/use valid tourist visas to enter the UAE.

‘It Was Key’: Wike Attributes Edo Election Success To Visa Ban On Riggers

 

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has said that the international community played a huge role in ensuring a smooth governorship election in Edo State.

Speaking on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily on Friday, the governor explained that threatening to place a visa ban on anyone found guilty of rigging, forced people to act appropriately.

“One thing that played out and which I noticed was the role of the international community. For example, the US, the UK came out and said that there would be a visa ban if anybody tries anything in terms of violence or rigging and they have gone further to ban some governors,” he said.

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“Everybody was being careful, saying, I don’t want to have any problem, I don’t want my children and family to have any problem. We all go to the UK everytime.

“Infact they should even go further, not only politicians, but security agencies, then you’ll see everybody will sit up and say look, I cannot jeopardize the future of my children and mine, simply because you want me to rig the election, so it’s very key”.

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When asked about his role in the election, the governor said he didn’t play any special role and it the success of the election was a result of the joint efforts of all the stakeholders, particularly the governors of Oyo and Delta state.

He also spoke about the role of the Inspector General of Police in the elections, saying he tried to force him (Wike) to leave the state.

“First of all, the IG’s role as far as I’m concerned as it relates to me, has to do with someone who has had a premeditated view about me because the IG never saw me outside. I was inside my room and I got a call from the IG, that I must leave Edo State.

“What surprised me was that I am the Chairman of the campaign council so why should I leave. And as chairman you must monitor what is going on so that at the end of the day, you’ll be able to write your report to the party,” he explained.

According to him, the IGP’s action had nothing to do with the election but rather it was based on a personal vendetta.

 

 

“I discovered that the IG’s own had nothing to do with the election because I remembered that some time ago my commissioner returned to me from a FAAC meeting and said there were deductions made to the Police Trust Fund.

“I asked who approved it because the police are under the exclusive list and not the concurrent list. I told my attorney-general to challenge it. This angered the IG,” Wike explained.

The Rivers State Governor, however, commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for their role in ensuring a credible election.

According to him, if INEC can replicate what was done in Edo, for the Ondo Governorship election, then the PDP can be assured of victory.

Kogi Govt Writes US Over Visa Ban, Says Action Is Unacceptable

A file photo of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.

 

The Kogi State Government has written a letter to the United States Government, protesting against the recent visa ban imposed on politicians suspected to have rigged the November 2019 election in the state.

The US had on Monday imposed a visa restriction on some individuals for allegedly rigging the November 2019 governorship polls in Kogi and Bayelsa States as well as in the run-up to the September and October 2020 Edo and Ondo governorship polls.

“We find this unacceptable, and we protest your presumption. The least you could have done if indeed this is about democracy and human right as claimed is create a room, no matter how slim, for a fair hearing,” the letter issued by the State Government, Folashade Arike Ayoade, partly read.

The letter addressed to the Ambassador of the United States of America was dated September 16.

According to the SSG, Governor Yahaya Bello argued that the US should have created room no matter how slim for a fair hearing.

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“As it is now, partisan speculation as to who is indicted, who is not and for what has become cudgels, furiously swung in the media space by all comers.

“Your action has therefore added abundant grist to the rumour mills and electrified the merchants of fake news.”

Although the state government admitted that there were some challenges with the governorship poll conducted last year, it, however, noted that subsequent elections would be improved upon.

 

SEE THE LETTER BELOW:

KGS/GO/ADM/25/II/XXX

16 September 2020

 

The Ambassador Of The United States of America

Embassy of The United States of America

1075 Diplomatic Drive

Central Business District

Abuja, NIGERIA

 

Your Excellency,

 

RE: VISA RESTRICTIONS ON INDIVIDUALS AND INCLUSION OF THE 2019 KOGI STATE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS IN US STATE DEPARTMENT LIST OF ALLEGEDLY COMPROMISED ELECTIONS – A LETTER OF PROTEST

 

  1. I have been so directed by His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and I hereby make and forward this Letter of Protest to you in respect of the matters contained in it.

 

  1. The Kogi State Government became aware of a United States Government list of individuals who received US visa restrictions for alleged electoral malpractices via a Press Statement to that effect posted on your Embassy website at https://bit.ly/32vD96M. In your own words, the still-unnamed individuals are cited as guilty of ‘acts of violence, intimidation, or corruption that harmed Nigerians and undermined the democratic process.’ They are also alleged to ‘have operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and undermined democratic principles and human rights.’

 

  1. You also noted in the statement that the sanctions are derived from unspecified misconducts by the said individuals which extend from the February/March 2019 General Elections in Nigeria through the off-cycle November 2019 gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa to the as yet unheld governorship contests in Edo and Ondo States. Please note that for the purposes of this protest letter we are only interested in the citations to the extent that they are referable to Kogi State and her citizens.

 

  1. For the most part, we concede that elections in Nigeria are complex affairs which will continue to require improvements for the foreseeable future. The 2019 Kogi State Gubernatorial Election was also not without its challenges. However, it is also crystal clear from critical and composite analyses of the records (official, media, observers, etc) of the November 16, 2020 polls that regrettable incidents were limited to a few polling units, while the overwhelmingly larger portions of the ballot were free, fair and credible.

 

  1. Further, and in line with Nigerian law, the few political parties and individuals who alleged widespread electoral malpractices had free rein to contest the outcome in court. They vigorously litigated their claims over a gruelling 9-month period, through a 3-step hierarchy of courts, to the inescapable conclusion at the Supreme Court of Nigeria that the said elections satisfactorily complied with the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act.

 

  1. Our concern right now is not the prerogative of the United States of America to impose entry restrictions on anyone, for any or no reason at all, which prerogative remains unfettered, but the room for atrocious misinformation which the timing of your Press Statement and the mention of the Kogi elections therein has created in our state.

 

  1. For the February and March 2019 General elections, your advisory came out in July 2019, long before the Supreme Court delivered her judgments in the petitions against those elections, including challenges to President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election. The presumption is that in spite of your intervention, the Supreme Court still discovered no merit in the petitions and dismissed them accordingly.

 

  1. In our case, i.e., Kogi State, you made the tactical decision to release the update shortly after the Supreme Court delivered judgments in the 4 petitions which made it before her. Amongst a plethora of well-reasoned pronouncements, the Apex Court dismissed the said petitions for failing to prove their allegations and for having no ‘scintilla of merit’. The inference from your timing is that the judgment is somehow tainted and did not meet the justice of the case, thereby casting aspersions, not only on the Nigerian Judiciary but on the second term mandate freely bestowed on His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello by the good people of Kogi State.

 

  1. We find this unacceptable, and we protest your presumption. The least you could have done if indeed this is about democracy and human rights as claimed is create a room, no matter how slim, for a fair hearing. As it is now, partisan speculation as to who is indicted, who is not and for what has become cudgels, furiously swung in the media space by all comers. Your action has therefore added abundant grist to the rumour mills and electrified the merchants of fake news.

 

  1. For instance, a United States-based blog, saharareporters.com, has made inflammatory publications in which they named His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, among others, as a definite recipient of your visa restriction. Though you have named no names, accuracy is of no moment to them, just base political expediency, and they quote unnamed US State Department sources to give credibility to what is otherwise unproven.

 

  1. Also, other players in the Kogi political space, including candidates and officials of opposition political parties which lost the elections and could not prove their allegations in court as aforesaid have now latched onto this action, holding media conferences and making press releases, claiming that the United States has justified their wild allegations and conspiracy theories where the courts and the administrative quarters failed. This is utterly regrettable.

 

  1. Let it be noted that we are not challenging your visa bans in any way, whoever they may affect and for how long, but we do register the strongest protest possible as a State to the collateral and unwarranted interference in our political and social processes which it represents. You have reignited already dying embers of discord around the February/March General Elections and the November 16 Kogi State Gubernatorial Elections of 2019. This has invariably made our usual post-election duty of reconciliation with fair-minded political opponents all the harder. We are hurt and disappointed.

 

  1. Digressing a little beyond Kogi State to our contiguous states of Edo and Ondo, we wish to advise generally that by so preemptively interfering in their elections, both of which are yet to hold, events on the ground since your publication indicate that the United States has foisted on our political process, not the expected caution or good behaviour by politicians which may have been your intent, but further calcification of hardened attitudes, more violent polemics, and increased sabre-rattling.

 

  1. Even now every camp is trying to spin your action as evidence of US support for themselves and hostility to their opponents. Everyone involved in those elections is now stoked with an aura of invincibility and hellbent on displaying all manners of outrageousness on election day to prove their opponents the aggressors. After all, with sanctions looming over everyone like the Sword of Damocles, every stakeholder, including the security agencies are on tenterhooks and less likely to be lively. We fear you may have done our democracy more harm than good with this action, and we consider it most unfortunate indeed.

 

  1. In conclusion, we believe that if the United States of America, despite her commanding heights and much longer experience as the acclaimed Bastion of Democracy in the world, is still locked in a fight to defend the integrity of her own electoral processes to this very day, then she ought to accord greater empathy, more civility and much less disruption, to nascent democracies.

 

  1. Please be assured of our high regards always.

 

 

MRS FOLASHADE ARIKE AYOADE, Ph.D

Secretary to the Government of Kogi State

Buhari Sets Up Committee To ‘Study’ US Travel Ban

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday established a committee to “study and address” the recent US visa ban on Nigerians.

The committee will be chaired by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.

On Friday, the US’ Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced temporary travel restrictions on six countries, including Nigeria.

The restriction will affect the issuance of US “immigrant visas” to Nigerian passport holders from February 21, 2020.

The suspension does not apply to other U.S visas such as those for official, business, tourism and student travel.   

The DHS stated that the suspension of “immigrant visas” became necessary due to security concerns related to information sharing between Nigeria and the US.

However, in a statement released by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, the federal government said Nigeria remains “committed” to its relationship with the Americans.

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“Accordingly, President Muhammadu Buhari has established a committee, to be Chaired by the Hon. Minister of Interior, to study and address the updated U.S. requirements,” the statement said.

“The committee will work with the U.S Government, INTERPOL and other stakeholders to ensure all updates are properly implemented.”