The Federal Government said it was investigating the denial of entry to Nigerians at the United States ports of entry and their alleged maltreatment by American immigration and border protection officers.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who tweeted this on Thursday night, however reiterated that Nigeria was not on the US travel ban list.
“Nigeria is not on the US travel ban(list); so we are investigating airport maltreatment and entry denial reports from some Nigerians with valid visas,” the minister tweeted.
The minister’s turn-about was sequel to an exclusive report by our correspondent on the detention of a businessman, Femi Olaniyi.
He was locked up in a cell for four days by US immigration officers at the Los Angeles Airport, his visa was cancelled and he was banned from visiting the US for five years.
The government decision to probe the maltreatment of Nigerians was coming barely 48 hours after the minister countered the advisory issued by the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa on Monday.
Onyeama at a press briefing refuted the report that Nigerians were being sent back at the US borders, adding that he had reached out to the US ambassador who he said denied the incident.
He insisted that his ministry was the right authority to speak on the nation’s external relations and asked the public to ignore the reported barring of Nigerians by the US government.
He said, “On the issue of Nigerians being turned back from the U.S, this is not the case. If the Nigerian government is speaking on any external relations, you will hear it from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Office of the President.
“I have reached out to the US Ambassador to Nigeria and the country’s high level officials who said nothing of such had happened. I can tell you to ignore the advice to reconsider travelling to the U.S because there is no basis for that,” he added
But public affairs analysts said the minister’s earlier position was hasty, stressing that he should have investigated the allegations before refuting the reports.
A lawyer and the National Coordinator, Advocates of Peoples Rights and Justice, Victor Giwa, attributed the controversy between the minister and the SSA to a lack of communication and poor understanding of the fact of the matter.
He said, “My position is that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, should have investigated the claims and allegations first before denying that Nigerians were not being denied entry into the US.
“I think this had to do with a lack of communication and poor understanding of the fact and hasty conclusion. Although the minister did not categorically say that Nigerians were denied entry, but he said there is no problem with Nigerians travelling to the US.
“You cannot give somebody a valid visa and then deny him entry at the port of entry. The minister was hasty in his statement; he should have asked Nigerians who were denied entry to call or contact the ministry of foreign affairs for more information and clarification.
“The impression he gave was that he was defending the US. He did not capture the feelings of Nigerians who were denied. Some of them were turned back, their airfare was not returned and no apology was tendered. He was not expressing the feelings of Nigerians, which I think is bad for a minister.”
The activist said Olaniyi could take up the issue with the US mission to Nigeria by appealing the five-year ban slammed on him.
But the Director, Centre for China Studies, Charles Onunaiju, said, “The minister should have investigated the issue before speaking but the truth of the matter is that things are not clear; the US is in a flux, nothing is clear, things are in disarray and there is no policy coherence. Trump is still trying to establish framework and maintain a foothold.
“Now, let’s be honest, being granted a visa does not guarantee you entry into any country. This is not the first time Nigerians are being sent back, it depends on the border control. Visa is not the final say in entering any particular country, not just in the US but even in Nigeria. If you have a valid US visa, the border control can still turn you back. Entering a country is at the discretion of the border control officers.”