A professor of History and Strategic Studies at the University of Lagos, Prof. Olajompo Akinyeye, in this interview tells BAYO AKINLOYE that United States authorities denying Nigerians with valid travel documents entry into the US is an insult to all Nigerians
Nigerians being turned back by the US authorities at the airport claimed they had valid travel documents, what is your reaction to this?
Did you find out whether they have genuine visa? In Nigeria, we cannot deny the racketeering that goes on concerning travel documents. If those Nigerians had valid visa, I don’t think they should have been denied entry into the United States. Even though Nigeria has its challenges with terrorism as a result of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, it has not been shown that Nigerians engage in terrorism or acts of insurgency in other countries. While one concedes that the US authorities have the right to determine who enters their country, people with valid visa should not be turned back.
That is a serious affront to Nigeria and it does not portend any good for Nigeria-US relations. It is a slap on Nigeria. US cannot use what is happening in the North-East to debar Nigerians with legitimate documents to travel to the US because even in their country there are cases of hate crime and extremism. The Nigerian government has not because of violent cases in the US turned back Americans from entering Nigeria; unless it was established that those Nigerians turned back were security risk to the US. But if those turned back are law-abiding citizens with valid documents what the US authorities did was to stigmatise Nigeria – it is like labelling Nigeria a terrorist country. It is not everyone in Nigeria that is involved in insurgency. Or, could it be that the US has privileged information that we don’t have necessitating entry denial to those Nigerians? Their decision and actions are an affront to Nigeria.
But the US government, like many other countries, always state that having a visa doesn’t guarantee entry into its country.
That is a violation of international immigration policy. If you are given a visa to enter a country and you are prevented entry despite having valid documents, to me is doublespeak.
What should the Federal Government of Nigeria do at this point?
The Nigerian government should express its displeasure to the US authorities. For the US authorities to grant visa to Nigerians and at the point of entry into their country, the visa is revoked without any explanation is gross disrespect for Nigeria and an insult to all Nigerians. International diplomacy allows for tit-for-tat but I will urge the Nigerian government to go for dialogue and give peace a chance and ask for discontinuation of turning back Nigerians with legitimate documents to enter into the US. If that fails, we can now consider other steps. There should be a formal representation of Nigeria expressing displeasure and asking for discontinuation. The individuals affected should also make a formal complaint to the ministry of foreign affairs. They should approach the government and seek compensation for all that they have lost due to the denial of entry into the US.
The Nigerian government would appear divided on this development as Abike Dabiri-Erewa, a presidential aide to the President urged Nigerians to stay away from the US while the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama, said there is no cause for alarm that Nigerian citizens can travel to the US without fear of being turned back. How do you see that?
As far as international relations are concerned I agree with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama. The foreign ministry is in a better position to tell us what is going on unless they are deceiving us – that is another kettle of fish. But they are in the best position to inform us because the Nigerian ambassador to the US is answerable to the foreign ministry; he relates directly with the minister and provides information about happenings in the US and in turn, the minister informs the government. The minister has no reason to tell a lie. We should give the government the benefit of the doubt.