Don’t issue visa to Atiku now .…FG advises US

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The Federal Government has ad­vised the U.S. to be cautious in issuing visa to the PDP’s Presi­dential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abuba­kar who, for many years, has been de­nied the document.

The government said it is concerned in order not to create the impression of endorsing the candidate for the 2019 election by the U.S.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave the government position at an interac­tive session with media executives in Abuja yesterday.

Mohammed said that the govern­ment is 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 who 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 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 on corruption against certain individ­uals which had made it difficult for Atiku to secure a U.S. visa.

“I am sure you will all recall the Jefferson’s case and the cold 90,000 U.S. dollars in fridge.

“We are not unaware that Atiku has engaged the services of some lobby­ists to persuade the U.S. to issue 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 setback brought about by attacks on the mili­tary, the Boko Haram insurgents have 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.

Mohammed also denied the alle­gations that the government is 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.’’

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