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Nigeria is conflicted over whether its citizens should be traveling to the US

AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
Health port officials uses a thermometer to screen passengers at the arrival hall of Murtala Mohammed International airport in Lagos, Nigeria Monday, Oct. 20, 2014.
By Yomi Kazeem
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

This post has been updated.

After a presidential adviser instructed Nigerians not to travel to the US, except on urgent business, the country’s foreign minister has denied the travel advisory and maintains Nigeria-US relations are good.

On March 6, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, a presidential aide on foreign affairs and diaspora, advised prospective visitors to the US to “consider rescheduling their trip until there is clarity on the new immigration policy.” Dabiri-Erewa’s statement was in response to reported difficulties that Nigerians have faced gaining entry into the US, despite holding valid visas.

In one such incident, during a business trip on March 2, Nigerian software engineer Celestine Omin was detained despite holding a valid visa. Before granting him entry, officials at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport forced Omin to answer generic engineering questions to prove his profession.

But in a quick turnaround and rebuke, Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs has dismissed the travel advisory. “I can tell you to ignore any call or advice to reconsider travelling to the US because there is no basis for that,” he said on March 7. “Anything you hear in respect of the US is incorrect, so any one that has valid document to go to the U.S. or any other country should please proceed to do so.” The contrasting policy statements are the latest communication gaffe by Nigeria’s government.

For its part, the US embassy in Nigeria has issued a statement saying “there is no reason for Nigerians with valid visas to postpone or cancel their travel to the United States.”

Nigerians are a major source of visitors to the US. They accounted for 32% of the nearly half million nonimmigrant US visas issued to African nationals in 2015.

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