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.
The new restrictions will apply to travellers and immigrants from Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
As of today, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen are on the list, while in the case of Venezuela, political office holders are barred from entering the US.
Nigerians won’t be entitled to some visa –Report
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Nigerians will not be barred from entering the country, but will not be issued with certain types of visas.
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.
Unlike the initial travel ban list of 2017, not all the new countries have a majority Muslim population.
Several of them, however, have had relatively higher rates of their citizens overstaying visas in the US, according to the Demographic and Health Survey data.
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.”
Another US newspaper, the New York Post wrote, “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 was quoted as telling the session, “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.
We have yet to be officially informed –FG
However, the spokesman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, said he could not comment on the issue, adding that Nigeria had not been officially informed by the US government about the visa restriction.
Why US is extending visa restriction to Nigeria –Ex-diplomat
But commenting on the development on Wednesday, 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.
Akinkuolie said, “There is a large Shi’ites population in Nigeria and there is a problem between the US and Iran over the killing of the commander of the Quds forces, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
“So, now retaliation is expected from all angles; from Hezbollah and from all the countries where you have Shi’ites populations that Iran may wish to use to strike America. Of course, you have this problem between Shi’ites in Nigeria and the government over the detention of their leader, El-Zakzaky.”
The retired director observed that the US might have been perturbed by the protests that trailed Soleimani’s killing in northern cities, including the burning of an American flag by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria members in Abuja.
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.
“There was also the son of a Chief Justice of Nigeria who left for Syria with his two wives to join ISIS. So, America is being careful so they don’t get the surprise of 9/11 attack.”
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.
Insurgents, killer herdsmen and FG responsible –SMBLF
But the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum blamed the bloodshed by Boko Haram insurgents and killer herdsmen for the visa restrictions.
The forum said the Federal Government’s failure to address the issue was partly responsible for the decision by President Trump.
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.
We won’t react until the policy is out –Presidency
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 have read the news that the Trump administration is planning to add a host of African, Asian and Eastern European countries to its travel restrictions list as reported by the U.S. media.
“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 in a statement on Wednesday to the media.
Nigeria has become seedbed for terrorists –Ohanaeze
An Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said that any security conscious nation would do what the US did.
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, who spoke one of our correspondents, said, “Nigeria, no doubt, has become a seed bed for terrorists, insurgents, dare devil herdsmen or whatever nomenclature you may wish to ascribe to them.”