United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, yesterday, reinforced the position of the U.S. Government on the visa restrictions imposed on some prominent Nigerians over their alleged involvement in electoral violence and other malpractices during the 2019 general election. Leonard, who spoke on the sidelines of the inaugural US/Nigeria Consular Forum Meeting held in Abuja, said the U.S. was very serious about the need to protect the sanctity of the ballot and, by extension, democracy and would not condone the activities of persons who seek to undermine the electoral process in Nigeria.
She said the imposition of visa restriction on those who undermine electoral process was very necessary as the integrity of electoral processes was fundamental to the trust in the social contract between citizens and their government in any democracy. According to Leonard, “The U.S. takes it very seriously and anyone found guilty of having fallen short of compliance with the laws governing the electoral process would be subjected to the sanctions.”
Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo had, on Monday, imposed visa restrictions on some Nigerians for their actions surrounding the November 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa states elections and in the run up to the September and October 2020 Edo and Ondo State elections. The meeting, yesterday, was to enable both Nigeria and the U.S. deliberate on consular matters, particularly the ban on migrant visas slammed on the country earlier in the year. President Donald Trump had, on January 31, 2020, expanded his administration’s curbs on immigration visas to Nigeria and six other countries for failing to meet U.S.
security and information sharing standards. However, during yesterday’s meeting, the U.S. government said it would review its ban on some categories of Migrant Visas for Nigerians, having been satisfied with the country’s level of compliance with information sharing and other concerns. Leonard commended Nigeria on the progress made in information sharing and other concerns raised by the U.S. government, which led to the ban. The U.S. envoy explained that the Presidential Proclamation mandates the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to prepare a report addressing the measures that have been taken which is then submitted to the White House for reevaluation. She said that contrary to reports, the Presidential Proclamation did not mean that no Nigerian could ever enter into the United States. Leonard said that the bi-national commission meeting was held at about the same time of the proclamation, which allowed Nigeria’s Foreign Minister and the U.S. Secretary of State to make public statements on what it entailed.
“I have to congratulate Nigeria on its progress on greater information sharing with the United States. “We have reviewed the Federal Government’s report on information sharing and we are inspired by the strides that Nigeria has made to improve access to stolen and lost travel documents. “I am particularly encouraged by the September 7 announcement that the U.S. provided Interpol router is successfully connected to Nigeria’s Immigration Service and National Centre Bureau in Abuja. Washington is extremely pleased about that development in particular,” Leonard said. Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Mustapha Sulaiman, disclosed that the forum will serve as a platform where both countries can progressively improve on bilateral relations and address concerns for the benefit of their citizens. Sulaiman said that the migrant visa ban on Nigeria was being reviewed because Nigeria had met almost 90 per cent of the requirements set by the U.S. government.
According to him, the U.S. placed a ban on some categories of migrant visas in January because the requirements set by the U.S. were far from being met. “We have accomplished so much within a very difficult year, but essentially, we want to acknowledge the recognition and put on record Nigeria’s response to the concerns by the United States government in respect of the immigrant visa restriction that was imposed on Nigerians. “I want to say that we appreciate the acknowledgement and the commendations from the United States government in respect of this response. “From the assessment of the recipient of our response, I think we have accomplished almost 90 per cent of the requirements that have been set in that regard.”