This should be averted and we demand an immediate reversal of the policy scheduled to take effect on February 22 in the interest of law abiding Nigerians who genuinely desire to live and work in the US some day and further consolidate on the long standing social and economic ties between Washington and Abuja.
According to the Donald Trump administration, citizens of the most populous black nation on earth and the biggest economy in Africa incurred its wrath for “not complying with the established identity-management and information-sharing criteria assessed by the performance metrics.”
Consequently, it directed that entry for immigrants from Nigeria be suspended, “except as Special Immigrants whose eligibility is based on having provided assistance to the U.S. Government.”
We note however, that the travel restriction wasn’t targeted on Nigerians alone as most citizens from Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Tanzania and Eritrea were also banned in the policy shift even though they will not suffer the same fate as Nigerians.
The ban in our view represents the lowest ebb in the diplomatic ties between the countries over several decades which is regrettable and portends negative repercussions for citizens.
But America said to be home currently to over 327,000 Nigerian immigrants and witnessed an influx of about 13,200 Nigerian students in 2019 alone, declared our citizens persona non-grata from this month unlike the diplomatic strides recorded during the immediate past government of President Barack Obama who introduced the White House Mandela Fellowship for mentoring young and vibrant African leaders.
The fellowship was aimed at ensuring the emergence of a new generation of African leaders with tremendous respect for public institutions and good governance that will ultimately translate to better living standard for the citizens.
Besides, the US government, we note, in arriving at its unpleasant decision was apparently unmindful of the fact that Nigerian international students resident in America who attend tertiary institutions in that country are reportedly paying over $500million annually as school fees thus contributing to the socio-economic growth of the US.
Like many diplomatic observers have pointed out, Nigerians are not yet convinced as the true motive of the American government to single them out for immigrants ban even though citizens of the five other countries affected by the travel restrictions still enjoy the privilege of applying for immigrant visas. This, to us is very curious considering that the ordinary Nigerians are now being barred from the US for the alleged inaction of their leaders.
Rather than lament or trade blame over the issue, the ban should be a wake-up call challenge on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to declare total war on terrorists and address all the issues at stake to get the ban lifted and also prevent a recurrence.
Therefore, we consider it imperative and apt, the recent declaration by the Federal Government that Nigeria remains committed to maintaining productive relations with the United States and its international allies especially on matters of global peace and security despite the ban.
Towards this end, the Buhari administration has established a committee, to be chaired by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola to study and address the updated US requirements while the committee will also work closely with the American Government, International Police, INTERPOL and other stakeholders to ensure all updates are properly implemented and the ban lifted in no distant future.
As a board, we believe this is an inauspicious time for the bilateral relations between the US and Nigeria to suffer any setback considering their strategic partnership in the global coalition against terrorism in view of the deadly attacks being launched on the latter by the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP terrorists and Fulani herdsmen.
We recall with satisfaction that the Trump administration in 2017, formally agreed to sell 12 Super Tucano A-29 planes and weapons to Nigeria, to intensify the war on Boko Haram, even though the deal was previously frozen by the Obama administration over human rights concerns.
Obama delayed the sale in one of his last decisions in office after the Nigerian Air Force bombed a refugee camp in Borno State in January which his successor, Trump decided to continue in order to support Nigeria’s efforts to fight Boko Haram insurgents.
The point being made here is that Nigeria more than ever before needs the total support and cooperation of the US Government and other nations in tackling rising insecurity nationwide rather than isolating her citizens through visa ban thereby sending a wrong signal to the international community that Nigerians can no longer be trusted.
Similarly, we share the views of some analysts that the restriction would demonize Nigerians and make them suffer discrimination and humiliation abroad as well as “harm those fleeing conflicts, torture and those who simply want to unite with their families in the US.”
This should not be particularly for citizens who are currently confronted with many challenges ranging from insecurity, unemployment, high maternal and infant mortality and under development.
We believe that time has come for true friends of Nigeria including America to rally round her to confront all challenges and make life more meaningful for all citizens.
For a better society