The travel ban on the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, was waived temporarily by the US state department after lobbyists mounted a campaign among congressional lawmakers, a report has said.
Naija News recalls that Abubakar, a former Vice President of Nigeria, entered the United States for the first time in 13 years last month.
A report has now emerged quoting unnamed US government officials as saying the travel ban was waived temporarily department after lobbyists mounted a campaign among congressional lawmakers arguing that the administration should not snub the leading challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 16 election.
This online news platform understands that the report which was filed by Reuters, said: “One person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Atiku was allowed to enter because the United States saw little benefit to creating bad blood with the man who might be the next leader of Africa’s most populous nation and the continent’s biggest oil producer,” Reuters said in the report.
Reuters said the PDP presidential candidate met with top US diplomats and lawmakers during his visit, to thank them for the temporary suspension of a travel ban linked to bribery scandals.
Naija News reports that the political opponents of the former Vice President including the All Progressives Congress (APC) have on several occasions used his absence from the US not just to taunt but to discredit him.
Abubakar’s row with the US authorities began after the FBI investigated a bribery scandal involving William Jefferson, former US congressman, in 2004.
The PDP Presidential candidate was accused of demanding a bribe of $500,000 to facilitate the award of contracts to two American telecommunication firms in Nigeria.
The FBI, a domestic intelligence and security service of the United States, had searched his residence in the posh neighbourhood of Potomac, Maryland, but no money was found.
The investigators had videotaped Jefferson, who was the congressman representing Louisiana, receiving $100,000 worth of $100 bills which he claimed was meant for Abubakar, but the PDP Presidential candidate has consistently denied the allegation.
According to Reuters, the PDP Presidential candidate engaged Holland & Knight, a lobbyist for the firm, “to help him secure a visa, in part by enlisting members of Congress to request one on his behalf.”
“Lobbyists hired by Atiku said they sought to overcome resistance at the State Department by securing support from members of Congress for the visit, as well as arguing that the top U.S. official for African affairs, Assistant Secretary Tibor Nagy, had an obligation to encourage democracy in the seventh most populous country in the world,” it reported.
A source at the US state department was also quoted as saying: “Assistant Secretary Nagy was pleased to meet with him and share the U.S. government’s expectations that Nigeria’s elections be free, fair, transparent, and peaceful, and reflect the will of the Nigerian people.”
It was learned that the source added that the department had not requested the waiver.
Meanwhile, Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigeria’s President, was said to have been very instrumental in the process which made the US grant Abubakar the visa.