The United States government has said it would require the legal consent of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar before releasing information about his immigration status in the country.
The U.S. government was responding to a PREMIUM TIMES enquiry on whether Mr. Abubakar was wanted in, or barred from entering, the U.S.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is prohibited by law from releasing such information without the written legal consent of the individual about whom you are asking these questions,” Julie, a Senior Public Information Officer at U.S. CBP said in an email response.
The agency declined to provide Julie’s surname, citing “security concerns”.
The former vice president’s U.S. immigration status was, once again, the subject of debate following a spat with Governor Nasir E-Rufai of Kaduna State last November.
Mr. El-Rufai had dared Mr. Abubakar to travel to the U.S., suggesting he was wanted for alleged corruption.
The governor was reacting to an interview Mr. Abubakar granted to Zero Tolerance magazine, published by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, where he accused Mr. El-Rufai of betrayal after bringing him into government.
According to the magazine, when asked about claims by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, that there is still a valid travel restriction on him to the U.S., Mr. Abubakar said he had been to the country on several occasions before the relocation of his family.
“The reason why I always visited the US was because of my wife,” Mr. Abubakar, who was vice president between 1999 and 2007, said. “She is no more in the US. So I don’t have compelling reason to visit the US now.”
But Mr. El-Rufai accused Mr. Abubakar of corruption saying the former vice president stayed away from the U.S. for fear of being arrested.
“Can Alhaji Atiku explain the findings in the report of the United States Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations which detailed a pattern of wire transfers of more than USD 40 million from offshore companies like Siemens into bank accounts controlled by him and one of his wives,” the governor said in a statement he issued after Mr. Abubakar’s interview.
“The report detailing the US Senate findings is online, as one of four case histories of foreign corruption in the USA. Alhaji Atiku should tell a better tale of why he is avoiding the United States of America.
“Someone as obsessed with Nigeria’s presidency as he is, should clear up such matters conclusively. We wait to see how well he does with that.”
Last November, the U.S. Department of Justice told Nigeria’s The Punch newspaper that it did not have any record showing that Mr. Abubakar had a pending lawsuit in the U.S.
Asked whether Mr. Abubakar’s records should not be accessible to the Nigerian public since he had held – and is possibly planning to hold – public office, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection replied: “According to U.S. law, CBP cannot release such records without his (Mr. Abubakar’s) legal authorization.”
PREMIUM TIMES asked Paul Ibe, Mr. Abubakar’s spokesperson, if his principal would be willing to give his consent for the release of his immigration status as stated by the U.S. government agency, and he said he would refer the question to the former vice president.
Efforts to get a response from Mr. Ibe after two weeks were unsuccessful as he failed to answer his calls or reply messages.