Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs has said that no Nigerian with full valid entry visa has been denied entry into the United States (U.S.) contrary to reports.
Onyeama maintained that, Nigerians were free to travel to the U.S. as the country was not on the list of six banned mainly-Muslim countries.
The banned countries are Iran, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. Iraq was removed from the list in the revised Executive Order issued by President Donald Trump.
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.
The minister spoke against the background of the advisory issued on behalf of the government by Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Foreign Affairs Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa on Monday that Nigerians without any important thing to do in the United States should not ravel there because some Nigerians had been inexplicably sent back home from the airport.
But yesterday, Onyema said: “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.
According to him, if government was speaking on any external relations, it would 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.
The minister also reiterated that no Nigerian was killed in the recent xenophobic attacks against Nigerians living in South Africa.
“ 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.
But a pressure group, the Nigerian Coalition for Quality Governance, said the minister was misleading the Federal Government with his denial.
The group’s national coordinator, Gbenga Omoniya, said it was wrong for Onyeama to dismiss the travel advisory issued by Mrs Dabiri-Erewa.
Omoniya said the Federal Government could not afford to close its eyes to maltreatment meted out to genuine Nigerian travellers in the U.S. despite exclusion of Nigeria from the travel ban.
Rather than engaging in denial, Omoniya advised the minister to wake up to his responsibility by creating functional communication mechanism to track cases of victims affected by the U.S. immigration measures.
Omoniya said: “We advise Mr. Onyeama to confirm cases of Nigerians affected, but which have not been reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affair rather than engage in spurious denials that have no basis in facts, we enjoin that the minister to collaborate with the relevant agencies of the government in making sure that Nigerians are treated with dignity and respect wherever they may be. Trump is putting America first. Onyeama should put Nigerians first, too.”