The federal government has told the U.S. to be cautious in granting a visa to the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in order not to create the impression of endorsing him for the 2019 election.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, gave the government position at an interactive session with media executives in Abuja on Thursday.
Mr Mohammed said the government was aware of the move by the former vice president to lobby the U.S. to lift the visa ban imposed on him.
He said while the U.S. has the prerogative of whom to issue visa, it should be mindful of the timing, in order not to give the impression that Atiku has been endorsed by the U.S. government.
“We understand and appreciate the fact that it is the prerogative of the U.S. to grant a visa to anyone who applies.
“However, we want the U.S. to be neutral and be wary of taking any decision that will give the impression that they are favouring or endorsing one candidate over the other
“Impression must not be created that the U.S. government is endorsing one particular candidate over the other,’’ he said.
The minister recalled that for years, there has been a kind of congressional bi-partisan investigation of corruption against certain individuals which had made it difficult for Mr Abubakar to secure a U.S. visa.
“I am sure you will all recall the Jefferson’s case and the cold 90,000 U.S. dollar in fridge.
“We are not unaware that Atiku has engaged the services of some lobbyists to persuade the U.S. to issue (a) visa to him.
“Our position is that if the former vice president is seeking the U.S. visa we have no problem about it.
“However, we want the U.S. government not to create the impression that it is endorsing one candidate over the other,’’ he said.
Speaking on security, the minister insisted that despite the recent set back brought about by attacks on the military, the Boko Haram insurgents had been largely decimated.
He recalled that when they took over in 2015, Boko Haram was active in 10 states including the FCT where they chose where and when to attack
The minister said that 20 of the 27 Local Government Areas in Borno were under the insurgents where they hoisted their flags collected taxes and deposed the Emirs.
He said since they took over, no inch of Nigeria territory is under the control of the insurgents who now operated in the fringes –Lake Chad Island- to launch guerilla attacks.
“What happened was a set-back and it is not enough to say that we are losing the war against the Boko Haram.
“We want to appreciate the gallant military who are sacrificing day and night and those who have lost their lives to protect Nigeria’s sovereignty,’’ he said.
The minister added that the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Borno and his ongoing visit to Chad were indications of renewed vigour to end the war.
Mr Mohammed also denied the allegations that the government was closing media space against the opposition.
On the arrest of Deji Adeyanju, convener of Concerned Nigerians by the Police, the minister noted that “being an activist or in the opposition does not protect anyone from arrest and prosecution.”
He said the case had been charged to court and it would be prejudicial to make further comments on it.