An official of the U.S. Consulate in Lagos on Friday said the issuance of U.S. visa to a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, and anyone else. is strictly a confidential matter.
He said the U.S. Government will not discuss the issue in public for any reason.
The Public Affairs Officer (PAO), of the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, Brussel Brooks, made this known against the backdrop of the controversy surrounding the U.S. visa status of the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).
Mr Abubakar has been flayed by politicians of the ruling party, APC, for his perceived ‘inability’ to secure a U.S. visa due to the report of an American congressional panel that investigated allegations of financial impropriety against the ex-vice president and others years ago.
Mr Abubakar, the main challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid, has not visited the U.S. since then, spiking perceptions that he has been ‘banned’ from entering the country.
Mr Abubakar has downplayed this perception, which has gained momentum as the 2019 elections approach even as the U.S. government has refused to be drawn into the controversy.
The former vice president has said he actually applied to go to the U.S. but was denied a visa.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday, appealed to the U.S. government not to grant Mr Abubakar a visa as this would send the wrong signal to the country on who the U.S. was supporting politically in 2019.
An aide to Mr Abubakar, Gbenga Daniel, recently claimed that the U.S. was ‘considering’ granting a visa to the PDP candidate.
The American consulate official spoke during an education forum organised for 150 teachers and students drawn from various public schools in Oyo State.
The programme entitled, “Teaching Resources: Availability, Applicability and Appropriateness” which took place at the Distance Learning Centre, University of Ibadan, was organised by Fulbright Language Scholars’ Association under the leadership of Tolu Akinwole.
Mr Brooks said the case of Mr Abubakar’s visa status has been an issue in the newspapers for some time, but “the position of the U.S. Mission has remained the same throughout any discussion of this issue, that visas are confidential matters”.
He added: “We don’t discuss individual visa’s status of any person, whether it be a highly rated official, a presidential candidate or an average citizen.
“Anyone who applies for a visa should know that there will be some records that are confidential. It is classified as private documents by the United States Government, and we never discuss them in public.”
Mr Brooks enjoined candidates at all levels to focus on issue-based campaigns and avoid distractions.
“Often times, unfortunately, campaigns are full of distractions, things that are not that important to the lives and welfare of average Nigerians, especially the children that are with us today. What is important for them is to give them the opportunities to serve in order to thrive in today’s world.
“This means they need a good education. The school should be improved. I will also encourage parents and voters to ask the candidates what they plan to do to improve education. I think issue-based campaigns will be beneficial to all Nigerians,” he said.
Ms Akinwole, while speaking, said the association, funded by the United States Consulate trained 350 teachers in Oyo and Ondo States in 2018.
She said this was done with a view to igniting vibrant teachers and providing solutions to the observed “inability of students to apply the lessons they learn in classrooms to everyday life.”