Foreign Affairs Minister must wake up to responsibility – Group

FG following investigations on death of 2 Nigerians in S/Africa
United Bank for Africa

A non-governmental organisation, Nigerian Coalition for Quality Governance, has berated the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, for parading the corridors of media establishments in an effort to dismiss the effects of the Executive Order of the US President Donald Trump banning nationals of select countries from the US despite their possession of valid US visa.

In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Mr. Gbenga Omoniya, the group said while it must be admitted that Nigeria is not officially among the countries whose citizens have been banned from entering the US, enough evidence has already surfaced that not a few Nigerians had been put on the next available planes from the US airports back to Nigeria despite their possession of all travelling documents including the US entry visa.

The group pointed out that there was no doubt that Mr. Onyeama’s denial that Nigerians have been affected by the US president’s Executive Order may not have been unconnected with the Travel Advisory issued over the weekend by the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa advising Nigerians who have no compelling or urgent reason to travel to the US to postpone their travel plans until the new administration’s policy on immigration is clear.

“While we’re not questioning the right of the Foreign Minister to an issue that borders on foreign policy as this, Mr. Onyeama has undoubtedly put the wrong foot forward in calling on Nigerians to ignore this Travel Advisory in the face of verifiable evidence that Nigerians are being unfairly targeted and included in the dragnet of the US immigration authorities.

“Firstly, we had wondered why the Foreign Minister was always behind the “8th ball” in his response to major foreign affairs and diaspora issues. While it’s never too late for Mr. Onyeama to wake up to his responsibilty, we wonder if he must play to the gallery with his denial that Nigerians have been affected by the US travel ban in any way,” the group said.

The coalition therefore, stressed that the minister should have been “very circumspect in issuing his denial” if he had taken the time to go through The Punch newspaper of Monday, March 7, 2017 in which it copiously reported the case of Francis Adekola who was “affected by the immigration restriction.”

The group quoted the victim as saying, “he was detained for over 10 hours before he was placed on aircraft and returned to Abuja via Johannesburg.” What about the case of Celestine Omin, a 28-year old Software Engineer, who, after having spent more than 24-hours at a US airport and made to answer a few questions from the US immigration officials to prove that he’s truly an engineer, bundled into a Qatar Airways plane back home? Omin, who, for the last six months had been working for Andela, a start-up that connects the top tech talents in Africa with employers in the US, left Lagos, Nigeria on Sunday, February 26, 2017 for the US with a valid short-time visa only to find out, to his utter chagrin, that he wasn’t going to be allowed into the country with no explanation whatsoever by the US migration officials.

“We advise Mr. Onyeama to confirm these two cases and many others who were affected but had no one to report to as his Ministry has no functional communication mechanism before his next appearance at the next media house. Rather engage in spurious denials that has no basis in facts, we enjoin that the foreign minister collaborate with the relevant agencies of the federal government in making sure that Nigerians are treated with dignity and respect wherever they may be. Trump is putting America first. Onyeama should put Nigerians first too,” the group added.