By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Some Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, have raised concern over the planned expansion of travel ban by the United States government under President Donald Trump, on four more African countries including Nigeria, and the others are Sudan, Tanzania, and Eritrea.
Speaking on the development in a chat with Vanguard, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, called for caution on the proposed move by the US, while speaking on the implications the ban on Nigeria may result to.
It would be recalled that President Trump in his disclosure on the sidelines of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said an announcement could be made as early as Monday according to the Politico.
Rafsanjani said: “We believe that the travel ban is not yet operationalised. It is still not communicated to the Nigerian government by the American authorities.
“However, if this travel ban eventually happens definitely it will have repercussions on those Nigerians who have legitimate businesses in the United States. There are so many Nigerians who are doing business in America and there are so many Americans doing business in Nigeria.
“So both citizens will suffer as a result of this policy that will happen because indirectly because if the American government put this sanction or travel ban against Nigeria, Nigeria may also retaliate or doing that. We should not go to that extent.”
He also called on the Nigerian government to approach the US government to see how both can reconcile the issues that are prompting the planned travel ban.
“I think whatever will have a diplomatic solution to the reason why Nigeria is included the Nigerian government should to go and discuss this because Nigeria will lose a lot in the sense that there are so many Nigerians working and doing business in America that are sending resources or money to Nigeria. So if there is travel ban those businesses definitely will be affected and by extension many families and the government of Nigeria.
“I want to believe that the government will do everything possible to have conversation to diplomatically solve some of the reasons why United States is planning to include Nigeria.
“So we hope that this is a clarion call on the Nigerian government to sit down and stop dismal and denial and face the problem that has been facing the country diplomatically, politically, economically, socially, and there is no way Nigeria will continue to move forward with this kind of governance crisis.”
In his advice to the American government he said instead of corrupt Nigerian government officials, those who have abused human rights and intimidated CSOs and media should be placed on the ban in order to deprive them of enjoying proceeds of loots from public coffers.
“We are also interested in some categories of public office holders who have been involved in corruption and human rights abuses should actually be the people to receive this ban because there is no point for those people to continue to siphon public funds to go and hide in the United States and other European countries while the Nigerian people are suffering and dying.”
“So we will encourage the American government to treat cases especially those ones that have to do with corruption and human rights abuses. So anybody who was involved in corruption and human rights abuses the United States, European countries including Britain should be deprived from going to enjoy the loots he has stolen from public coffers.
He further maintained that, “We will continue to advocate that the international community ban those who are corrupt officials from traveling to their countries because the more they allow them to go the more like encourage impunity in looting and stealing of public funds.
“We cannot allow some few individuals to mortgage the future of Nigeria simply because they have found themselves in the leadership position. So it is necessary for the international community, particularly America continues to place sanction of a travel ban on those corrupt public officials involved in human rights abuses, intimidation of media and civil society organizations. This category of people should actually be deprived of traveling because they are traveling to steal public funds and enjoy and deny those resources for common man use.”
Also speaking was the Convener, Coalition In Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, on the development said America should consider that Nigeria had remained its strategic partner, rather should focus on those public office holders who have jeopardized the nation’s democracy at the electoral and judicial levels.
Ariyo said, “If the draft being considered by the Trump administration would place immigration restrictions only on certain government officials and their families and individuals who are undermining rule of law in the country and abusing our democratic process, it is indeed a welcome development.
“If it amounts to strengthening an existing visa restriction measures the US government had already put in place to punish election riggers, then it is another welcome development.
“As a matter of concern, some of us are now agitating that this should even be extended to the judiciary in the face of the recent bizarre judgment of the Supreme Court delivered in the case of Imo State governorship election.
“However, a simple demand we can make is for the US government to consider protecting ordinary Nigerians traveling to America not to suffer this immigration restriction. The two countries have a lot in common and this should be handled in the overall interest of the common man in Nigeria. The US is a strategic partner to our country, but any immigration restriction that will make our ruling elites to be responsible is a good idea.
He also noted that the ban on Nigerians traveling to America is linked to recent happenings in Nigeria that have caught the attention of the international community.
“Also, this immigration restriction may not be unconnected to the recent placement of Nigeria on the watch-list of countries that engage in religious persecution. Such placement comes with its own attendant consequences in the intelligence reading of the US government. Truly space is thinning out for religious freedom with Boko Haram and terrorist groups getting more emboldened”, he added.
Still on the development, the National Coordinator, Grassroots Empowerment and Justice, GEJ Initiative, Ebriku John Friday, said the move to place Nigeria on America’s travel ban list indicates an indictment on the Buhari-led administration.
“The implications are no doubt far-reaching with multiplier effects on the polity, governance, economy, and the citizens at large. This too is an indictment on the current administration, which has lost touch with reality if things.
“This is a strong message to the administration. It is a strong signal that the international community has lost confidence in the government of Nigeria.”
He also asserted that “The decision of the US government is actually coming late the ban would have been placed two years ago as the administration has lost direction and has been hijacked posing serious threat to our national unity and integration.
“It is hoped that the proposed travel ban would put pressure on the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to step up it is game of protecting lives, curb human rights abuses, end impunity, abide by the rules of law, end the brazen persecution of the opposition.
He also urged the government to take urgent steps to address worrisome issues that have portrayed the image of the country in a bad light at the comity of nations.
“What must be done to reverse this ugly narrative is for the government to address those issues that led to the ban and allow the tenets of democracy to thrive and open the space for real development, guarantee security of lives and property, and tackle corruption head-on”, he said.