US Travel Ban: Group Says Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Goeffrey Onyeama, Must Wake Up

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Foreign Affairs Minister

By Sadiq Umar – The Nigerian Coalition for Quality Governance (NCQG) has faulted claims by Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, that Nigeria was not included in the recent U.S. travel ban, saying enough evidence has already surfaced that not a few Nigerians had been put on the next available planes from the US airports back to Nigeria despite their possession of all travelling documents including the US entry visa.

Foreign Affairs Minister

The Coalition said Mr. 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.

In a statement by its National Coordinator, Gbenga Omoniya, the Group “wondered why the Foreign Minister was always behind the “8th ball” in his response to major foreign affairs and diaspora issues, noting that his latest was a belated response, and a desperate effort to counter earlier reports credited to Senior Special Advisor on Diaspora, Abike Dabiri.

“While it’s never too late for Mr. 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,” it said.

“We venture to say that Mr. Onyeama should have been very circumspect in issuing his denial if he had taken the time to go through The Punch newspaper of Monday, March 7, 2017 in which it copiously reported the case of Francis Adekola who was “affected by the immigration restriction.”

Narrating his experience to the newspaper, Mr. Adekola said “he was detained for over 10 hours before he was placed on aircraft and returned to Abuja via Johannesburg.”

“What about the case of Celestine Omin, a 28-year old Software Engineer, who, after having spent more than 24-hours at a US airport and made to answer a few questions from the US immigration officials to prove that he’s truly an engineer, bundled into a Qatar Airways plane back home? Omin, who, for the last six months had been working for Andela, a start-up that connects the top tech talents in Africa with employers in the US, left Lagos, Nigeria on Sunday, February 26, 2017 for the US with a valid short-time visa only to find out, to his utter chagrin, that he wasn’t going to be allowed into the country with no explanation whatsoever by the US immigration officials,” the Group stated.

Full statement by Nigerian Coalition for Quality Governance:

The above-named group’s attention has been drawn to Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama parading the corridors of the country’s media establishments in his effort to deny and dismiss the effects of the Executive Order of the US President Donald Trump banning nationals of select countries from the United States despite their possession of valid US visa. While it must be admitted that Nigeria is not officially among the countries whose citizens have been banned from entering the US, enough evidence has already surfaced that not a few Nigerians had been put on the next available planes from the US airports back to Nigeria despite their possession of all travelling documents including the US entry visa.

There’s no doubt that Mr. Onyeama’s denial that Nigerians have been affected by the US president’s Executive Order may not have been unconnected with the Travel Advisory issued over the weekend by the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa that advised “Nigerians who have no compelling or urgent reason to travel to the US to postpone their travel plans until the new administration’s policy on immigration is clear.” The advisory also added that “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” with “no reasons…given for the decision by the US immigration authorities.”

While we’re not questioning the right of the Foreign Minister to an issue that borders on foreign policy as this, Mr. 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 had wondered why the Foreign Minister was always behind the “8th ball” in his response to major foreign affairs and diaspora issues. While it’s never too late for Mr. 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 Mr. Onyeama should have been very circumspect in issuing his denial if he had taken the time to go through The Punch newspaper of Monday, March 7, 2017 in which it copiously reported the case of Francis Adekola who was “affected by the immigration restriction.” Narrating his experience to the newspaper, Mr. Adekola said “he was detained for over 10 hours before he was placed on aircraft and returned to Abuja via Johannesburg.” What about the case of Celestine Omin, a 28-year old Software Engineer, who, after having spent more than 24-hours at a US airport and made to answer a few questions from the US immigration officials to prove that he’s truly an engineer, bundled into a Qatar Airways plane back home? Omin, who, for the last six months had been working for Andela, a start-up that connects the top tech talents in Africa with employers in the US, left Lagos, Nigeria on Sunday, February 26, 2017 for the US with a valid short-time visa only to find out, to his utter chagrin, that he wasn’t going to be allowed into the country with no explanation whatsoever by the US immigration officials.

We advise Mr. Onyeama to confirm these two cases and many others who were affected but had no one to report to as his Ministry has no functional communication mechanism before his next appearance at the next media house. Rather engage in spurious denials that has no basis in facts, we enjoin that the foreign minister collaborate with the relevant agencies of the federal 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.

 

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