A group of civil society organisations under the aegis of Forum of Non-Governmental Organisations in Nigeria yesterday stormed the US Embassy in Abuja to protest against US visa to the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Atiku Abubakar.
It would be recalled that recently Atiku recently appeared for an interview at the US Embassy in Abuja and that those who are billed to go on the trip with him would use the opportunity to address some US congress caucuses, as well as a high ranking official in the Donald Trump administration.
It was learnt that the PDP standard bearer was granted the visa and afterwards left for London.
It was also gathered that the former president Olusegun Obasanjo played a “critical” role in getting the American government to issue the visa to his former estranged deputy.
Addressing the protesters at the embassy, the convener and national chairman of the group, Mr. Wole Badmus, argued that granting the visa to Atiku would portray the US as “being supportive of illicit transactions and gross abuse of public office for personal aggrandisement.”
Besides, he said issuing the document would portray the US as endorsing Atiku’s candidacy.
“This is apart from the tacit and covert electoral gain such can confer him as the general correct perception in our country now is that Atiku is being denied American visa because of proven cases of money laundering and financial crimes against him.
“Sir, you may recall the outcome of the US Senate Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations chaired by Carl Levin. The committee submitted its report on 4 February, 2010. It is equally interesting to note that the probe was motivated by the US government’s concern about corruption in the Third World and its corrosive effects on the development of honest government, democratic principles and the rule of law.
“A summary of the report indicates that between 2000 and 2008, Jennifer Douglas a US citizen and the fourth wife of Atiku Abubakar, helped her husband bring over $40million in suspect funds into the United States through wire transfers sent by offshore corporation to US bank account.
“In a 2008 civil complaint, the US Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Ms. Douglas received over $2million in bribe payments in 2001 and 2002 from Siemens AG, a major German corporation,” he said.
He said it was for the reasons stated above that “we advise your embassy to decline visa to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.”
He added: Granting his visa request will amount to negation of the Patriot Act which makes the acceptance of foreign corruption proceeds a US money laundering offence.”
It would also be recalled that the minister of information and culture Mr. Lai Mohammed recently told the US to be cautious in granting a visa to the Atiku in order not to create the impression of endorsing him for the 2019 election.
He said the federal government was not unaware of the move by the PDP flag bearer to lobby the U.S. to lift the visa ban imposed on him.
He said while the US has the prerogative to decide who it allows entry into its territory, it should be mindful of the timing in order not to create the impression that one candidate was preferred to the other.
“Our position is that if the former vice president already has a US visa, we have no problem about it. What we warn the US government is not to give the impression that it is endorsing one particular candidate over the other. That is what is going to happen, if for instance the former vice president is granted a visa.
“We are not unaware; I think it is also in the public domain, that Atiku has engaged the service of some lobbyists in the US to facilitate the issuance of visa for him.
“As you all will be aware, for more than 12 years there has been a congressional bi-partisan investigation of corruption against certain individuals which had made it difficult for the former vice president to secure a US visa.
“I am sure you will all recall the Jefferson case and what they called the cold $90,000 in the fridge. This is not the making of this administration, it has been ongoing.”
“We are not unaware that Atiku has engaged the services of some lobbyists to persuade the U.S. to issue (a) visa to him,” said Mohammed.