Geoffrey Onyeama, foreign Affairs Minister, has dismissed a United States of America travel advisory issued by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa on Monday.
Dabiri-Erewa issued the travel advisory on Tuesday after some Nigerians, with valid entry visa were reportedly denied entry to the US and deported, recently.
The presidential aide urged Nigerians who had no pressing business in the US to stay back in the country until immigration issues were cleared with US. Yesterday, Onyeama told newsmen Nigerians were free to travel to the US as the country was not on the US ban list.
The minister disclsoed he was in touch with the Nigerian embassy in the US and the US Ambassador to Nigeria and insisted there was no report of Nigerians being denied entry into the US.
“I am in touch with the US 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 US because there is no basis for that. We have absolutely no report whatsoever from the US that people are being turned back from the US or any of our consulate, that any of our people are being turned back,” he said.
The minister also said if government is speaking on external relations, it will be from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Presidency, as any other source is not from the government.
But, Nigerian Coalition for Quality Governance has countered Onyeama on the travel advisory.
“While we’re not questioning the right of the minister to an issue that borders on foreign policy as this, 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.
“Firstly, we wondered why the minister was always behind the “8th ball,” in his response to major foreign affairs and diaspora issues. While it’s never too late for 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.
“We venture to say that Onyeama should have been very circumspect in issuing his denial if he had taken time to go through a newspaper publication, yesterday, where one Francis Adekola narrated how he was “affected by the US immigration restriction. He was detained for over 10 hours before he was deported via South Africa…”
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.
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. travel advisory issued on Monday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has sparked off a diplomatic row between the two countries.
According to TheCable, Dabiri-Erewa has asked Nigerians to postpone their trips to the US alleging that the US authorities were cancelling the visas of Nigerians and deporting them on arrival.
However, the US authorities are not taking her statement lightly and have protested to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A senior official of the ministry said: “The US authorities are worried that she made such a weighty statement without investigation, without evidence. The bigger issue, though, is that it is not within her remit to issue travel advisory to Nigerians. It is the job of the foreign affairs ministry.
“By failing to observe due protocol, she has caused a diplomatic problem for the country which we have to carefully manage. A travel advisory is a serious issue that cannot be issued by a presidential aide.”
It was gathered that high-level meetings are ongoing to contain the potential crisis.
Speaking through Abdurrahman Balogun, her media aide, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said: “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, such affected persons were sent back immediately on the next available flight and their visas cancelled.”
Dabiri-Erewa said the US immigration authorities did not give reasons for the decision to turn back Nigerians.
She advised that the US be avoided until the Donald Trump administration’s policy on immigration is clear.
“This is only to advise Nigerians without any compelling or essential reasons to visit the US to consider rescheduling their trip until there is clarity on the new immigration policy,” she said.