Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Mary Beth Leonard, has said the recent ban on the granting of fresh residency visa to Nigerians is not permanent but subject to review if certain conditions are met.
She said the ban was based on the United States’ concerns for information sharing between Washington and Abuja and not about character definition of Nigeria as being erroneously peddled.
Speaking yesterday during a courtesy visit to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in Abuja, Leonard said the US would like to see Nigeria work harder towards diversifying its economy and exploiting the huge entrepreneurial manpower abound in the country.
On the visa restriction, the ambassador said: “I need to clarify something for you here. The immigrant visa ban does not affect people who are currently resident in the United States. It does not cancel the status of anyone who is currently in the United States. What the Secretary of State, Mike Pompey, said was something that was meant to be temporary.
And it is about problems with information sharing, which are investigable, achievable and resolvable and we look forward to Nigeria in a very short time being able to meet those information sharing goal so that the decision can be reviewed”.
Leonard said students visas were not affected by the current visa ban.
According to her. Nigeria should look inwards to exploit the huge entrepreneurial manpower and diversify its economy.
“I think for Nigeria, you have an interesting story about diversification of your economy and prosperity of your economy. And it is people. You know Nigerians are so well known at home and abroad for their industriousness.
“You know you hear about how much of the activity in the informal sector. So, I wonder how you think about capturing that entrepreneurial spirit and bringing it into the formal sector in service and to enhance employment,” she said.
Earlier, Ngige had raised concerns over the inclusion of Nigeria on the list of countries affected by the recent US visa ban, saying the action came as a rude shock to the ministry.
He described the ban as unwarranted considering the contribution of Nigerian professionals to the US economy.
“Some of these Nigerians are medical doctors, engineers and people with high level of proficiency in oil and gas fields. They were all part of the Nigerian residents in the US and it came to us as a rude shock when the United States Government banned Nigerians and put us on the list of those countries whose residency status have been cancelled,” he said.
Ngige added that it is on the record that more than 70 per cent of Nigerians resident in the US are highly skilled professionals who contribute billions of dollars yearly into that country’s economy while repatriating equally impressive amount home to Nigeria.
He urged the envoy to help bring up the issue with Washington with a view to reversing the order, which he described as unjustifiable.
Ngige also urged the ambassador to help secure more assistance for Nigeria to eradicate poverty and child labour.
“We have called on the US Department of Labour to assist and we have given them a list of what we need. We are not asking for monetary assistance and we are not asking for American cash.
But we need technical assistance and logistics like vehicles for those in the inspectorate division to be able to carry out their functions,” he stated.
Ngige regretted that Nigeria has not been treated fairly by the US in its offer of assistance under the AGOA resolution.
He said the US ought to take into consideration the size and population of Nigeria in deciding on level assistance to the country.