The United States President, Donald Trump, is set to add Nigeria and six others to a new list of countries on America’s visa restriction.
It said the Trump administration planned to roll out its expanded travel restrictions on Monday, marking the third anniversary of the initial travel ban Trump signed on his seventh day in office, sparking controversy at the beginning of his term.
The report reads in part, “The Trump administration plans to add seven countries to a group of nations subject to travel restrictions, including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, along with others in Africa and Asia, according to administration officials who have seen the list.
“The new restrictions would apply to travellers and immigrants from Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. The countries wouldn’t necessarily face blanket bans on travel to the US, but could have restrictions placed on specific types of visas, such as business or visitor visas, administration officials said.”
“They (new countries) could also be barred from entering the diversity visa lottery, which doles out green cards to people in countries with low levels of immigration to the US as part of a programme that Trump has sought to end.”
Although the list is not officially out, Trump gave a hint while speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that it would be done “very shortly.”
Trump said “We are adding a couple of countries to it. We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe.”
The new restrictions, expected to be announced on Monday, next week, will coincide with the third anniversary of the first list Trump signed into law after assuming the US’ Presidency.
Attempts to stop the policy through the US federal courts succeeded twice before a third ruling gave legal backing to it in June 2018.
However, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, the spokesman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he could not comment on the issue, adding that Nigeria had not been officially informed by the US government about the visa restriction.
A retired Director of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Rasheed Akinkuolie, attributed the visa restriction to fear of Iranian attacks on American interests by Iranian sympathisers in the country.
He noted that Nigeria might have been placed on the restriction list on account of its large Shi’ites population, noting that America was simply trying to protect itself.
He added, “There have been demonstrations in many northern cities and even in Abuja over the killing of Soleimani and they even burnt US flags. That is a signal. Remember a Nigerian, Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to bomb an American plane on behalf of Al-Qaeda.
Also, a former Nigerian ambassador to Argentina, Ambassador .Chive Kaave, said it was within America’s diplomatic rights to determine who gets its visas, adding that the Federal Government was free to reciprocate the US action.
“This has happened before, it is not the first time. It is within their diplomatic rights to determine who to give visas to. There is the principle of reciprocity which every country was free to enforce. The matter is complicated, it is not an open and close case,” he said.
But the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum blamed the bloodshed by Boko Haram insurgents and killer herdsmen for the visa restrictions.
The SMBLF spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, noted that the development showed that the global community was watching the happenings in the country, adding that the visa ban was America’s way of repudiating the FG’s failures.
But the Presidency adopted a wait-and-see response on Wednesday to the alleged bid by Trump, to include Nigeria on the list of nations that US had placed travel restrictions on.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, giving the Presidency’s stance in Abuja, noted that whenever the policy was out, it would first be analysed to fully understand the implications before Nigeria would make its formal position known.
“We are not going to react to speculations. We urge you to wait for us to see what unfolds under the new policy, its scope, its reach, the implications and its consequences before we react,” Shehu said.