At least 200 Nigerians resident in the United States were locked out of a scheduled town hall meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Washington DC on Tuesday.
The meeting was one of many activities planned for the state visit of President Buhari. It was, however, the only forum set aside for interaction between diaspora Nigerians and their president, and one of a few activities organized solely by the staff of the Nigerian Embassy.
Information about the meeting trickled out to some Nigerian organizations, including Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) and APC USA chapter, weeks before the President arrived.
Invitation cards bearing Nigerian colours and coat of arms were specially designed for the event, some of which were allocated to Nigerian organizations, and some individuals.
The cards specified that the town hall meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, July 21, from 6 to 8 pm and that it was to hold at the Nigerian Embassy. It also stated that invitees should wear business or national attire and that guests reply to one Bukar Kolo.
A source within the Nigerian community stated that the Embassy printed only 200 copies of the invitation cards. He did not explain why so many Nigerian who showed up for the town hall meeting were left standing outside the fence around the Embassy.
At least 200 people who travelled from distant cities were refused admission into the Embassy. Many of them, including Professor Peter Opara who came from Boston, had invitation cards.
The Embassy staff, who were assisted by members of the United States Secret Service to control the crowd, did not offer explanation for the lock out to their fellow Nigerians even as staff of other embassies in the neighbourhood looked at the spectacle with disgust.