A top American journalist with Cable News Netwrok (CNN), Fareed Zakaria, has analyzed why the recent decision of the United States government to impose immigrant visa restrictions on Nigeria “does not make sense.” The US government had justified the restriction on the basis of national security concerns, claiming the affected countries have gaps in their security protocols surrounding travel which exposed the US to terror threats.
But in a report by Zakaria which aired on CNN and CNN International; and trended on social media, the anchor of the CNN weekly program, Global Public Square (GPS), made a case for Nigeria, saying the reasons advanced by US authorities to justify the ban were contradicted by American government data and statistics; hence the ban was unjustified.
Citing the authoritative US-based CATO institute, Zakaria said four of the six countries listed in the ban – Nigeria, Myanmar, Tanzania, and Eritrea – had no records on terror-related deaths caused by foreign-born attackers between 1975 and 2017. “The argument does not really make sense”, he said.
He added that Nigerians are the most educated immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa in the US of which 59% aged 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to migration policy institute, which is nearly, doubled the proportion of the Americans born in the US (33%).
Zakaria argued that if the government was truly worried about security from the countries, it would ban all visas, not just immigrant visas. He said the government’s decision to target only permanent visas, leaving the temporary visas, suggests other ulterior motives by Trump who is known to have made disparaging comments about Nigeria and other African countries; calling them “shithole” countries.
According to him, when Trump unveiled the new immigration plan in 2019, he said he wants English speaking immigrants who could assimilate easily and give back to the country. Zakaria said if that is what Trump wanted, Nigerian immigrants who make up the largest group of Sub-Saharan Africans in the US as of 2017 “check all those boxes. They are some of the most educated immigrants in America. Nigerian immigrants tend to work high skilled jobs, 54 per cent are in largely white-collar positions in business, management, science, and the art compared to the 39 per cent of people born in the US,” he added.
This, according to Zakaria’s analysis, means that Nigerian immigrants have significant spending power.
The American journalist also cited a new report by the New American Economy, which states that Nigerian immigrants in the US in 2018 made more than $14 billion and paid more than $4 billion in taxes. The report also states that Nigerian diaspora around the world sent back almost $24 billion in remittances, contributing to the Nigerian economy that is “more dynamic than many people, including Trump himself realise”.
According to the journalist, the Centre for Global Development reported that Nigeria is a country where the middle-class is increasing in education and aspiration. It is also America’s second-largest trade partner and the US wants to double its investments and trading in Africa.
President Trump had extended the controversial travel ban list to impose visa restrictions on six more countries. Nigeria, which happens to be the largest economy in Africa and the most populous nation on the continent, was included in the list. While the Trump administration claimed it included Nigeria on the list to keep America safe from terrorists, CNN concluded that the decision was penny-wise and pound foolish.
However, the US insists that the ban which goes into effect on February 22, 20202, is subject to review if certain conditions are met; explaining that the ban was based on its concerns over the need for information sharing and not about character definition of Nigeria as was being erroneously peddled.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in Abuja on Tuesday, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, said the US will like to see Nigeria work harder towards diversifying her economy and exploiting the huge entrepreneurial manpower abound in the country.
Regarding the visa restriction, the Ambassador said: “I need to clarify something for you here. The immigrant visa ban does not affect people who are currently resident in the United States. It does not cancel the status of anyone who currently lives in the United States. What Secretary Pompeo said was that it was meant to be temporary. And it is about problems with information sharing which are investigable, achievable and resolvable and we look forward to Nigeria in a very short time being able to meet those information sharing goal so that the decision can be reviewed.” The US envoys said student visas are not affected by the current visa ban.
Earlier, Ngige had raised the concern over the inclusion of Nigeria in the list of countries affected by the recent US visa clampdown, saying the action came as a rude shock to the ministry. He described the ban as unwarranted considering the contribution of Nigerian professionals to US’ economy.
“Some of these Nigerians are medical doctors, engineers and people with high level of proficiency in oil and gas fields. They were all part of the Nigerian residents in the US and it came to us as a rude shock when the United States government banned Nigerians and put us in the list of those countries whose residency status have been cancelled,” he said.
Ngige also said that it is on record that more than 70 per cent of Nigerians resident in the US are highly skilled professionals who contribute billions of dollars yearly into the country’s economy while repatriating equally impressive amount home to Nigeria.
He urged the envoy to help bring up the issue with her home government with a view to reversing the order which he said was clearly not justifiable. Ngige also urged the US Ambassador to try and secure more assistance for country in the area of eradication of poverty and child labour.
“We have called on the US Department of Labour to assist and we have given them a list of what we need. We are not asking for monetary assistance and we are not asking for American cash, but we need technical assistance and logistics like vehicles for those in the inspectorate division to be able to carry out their functions,” he said.
Ngige regretted that Nigeria has not been treated fairly by the United States government in its offer of assistance under the AGOA resolution. He said the US ought to take into consideration the size and population of Nigeria in deciding on the level of assistance to the country.