Report has it that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), only got a temporary waiver to enter the United States.
According to Reuters, Atiku who has been on ban from entering the US for 13 years, was allow to travel to Washington D.C two weeks ago to meet top US diplomats and lawmakers due to a temporary suspension of the alleged travel ban on him.
Atiku’s visit to the US was like a shame to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that had earlier accused him of not being able to visit the US because of a ban against him.
The APC led government had warned the US against granting Atiku visa to enter the country as they used his inability to get a U.S visa against him, saying that he would be arrested if he steps into the U.S.
Now that he was able to visit Washington and even met with top US diplomats and lawmakers, their problem now appears to be that his entry was temporal.
Reuters however revealed that US government officials said that the travel ban on Atiku was waived temporarily by the US State Department following pressure on the congress by lobbyists.
The US Congress reportedly argued that the President Donald Trump administration should not snub the leading challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari in the forthcoming election.
An undisclosed source told Reuters that the lobbyist Atiku hired to secure a visa for him had won the support of the Congress, saying that the US also saw little benefit to creating bad blood with the man who might emerge as the next President of Nigeria.
The source further noted that the top US official for African Affairs, Assistant Secretary Tibor Nagy, had an obligation to encourage democracy in Nigeria.
“Assistant Secretary Nagy was pleased to meet with him and share the US Government’s expectations that Nigeria’s elections be free, fair, transparent, and peaceful, and reflect the will of the Nigerian people,” a State Department official said.
Atiku’s visa problem started when he was vice president, he was indicted in the corruption trial of William Jefferson, a former US lawmaker, who was accused of trying to bribe Atiku in a bid to expand a technology business in Nigeria.
Also, in 2010 the US Senate investigators revealed that one of Atiku’s wives, apparently his American wife, helped him transfer into the US more than $40million suspected to be proceeds from offshore shell companies.
Part of the money was allegedly a bribe paid by a German technology company Siemens AG. The company reportedly pleaded guilty to the bribery charges in 2008 and agreed to pay a $1.6billion fine.
Atiku and his wife have however not faced any criminal charges in the United States and the US had noted that they had no case against Atiku.
Reuters revealed that Atiku’s visit to America was facilitated by two US lobbying firms.
Holland & Knight was hired by Atiku in December to secure a visa for him through members of the US Congress. The firm was reportedly paid $80,000 for the job so far.
While the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hired Ballard Partners at the rate of $90,000 per month in September 2018 to secure a visa for the former VP.
“We are not asking the administration or anyone to take sides, but to merely demand the same level of freeness and fairness,” Ballard lobbyist, Jamie Rubin, reportedly told Reuters.