After Donald Trump became the president of the world’s most powerful nation in January 2017, he gave executive orders to deny entry for citizens and visitors from some Islamic nations. This executive order also saw to the deportation of many Mexicans who came into the US questionably — with no form fair hearing.
For Nigeria, the news space was filled with stories on how Nigerians were being “unfairly” treated by the new regime. The first order, which dealt with reciprocity of visas as analysed by TheCable editors showed that at least two sections will affect Nigerians directly.
“Nigeria issues one-year multiple-entry non-immigrant visa to Americans, which is a non-reciprocation of the minimum two-year visa the country issues to Nigerians,” TheCable had reported.
“Although Nigeria also issues two-year visas to Americans, the continued issuance of one-year visas falls short of the US treatment of Nigerians. This little detail may now be reciprocated by the Trump administration.”
The executive order was reviewed by the president after being blocked by a federal judge in the US. The order may have taken different shapes, forms, sizes, but the implementation in the US has probably taken the same form.
The US now has an airline for the deportation of illegal immigrants. The airline, ICE Air, existed before Trump, but Americans now say the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been grossly empowered under the new president.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE US CUSTOMS
My full name is Oluwamayowa Emmanuel Tijani. My surname has its roots in Islamic teachings from northern Africa and some part of Saudi Arabia. Tijāniyyah or the Tijānī path is a order within Sunni Islam, originating in North Africa but now more widespread in West Africa,including Senegal, The Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Niger, Chad, Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan.
Based on this, friends had teased that the US customs will send me back to Nigeria as I took a working visit for the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings.
On arrival at the Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Washington, I had made up my mind for the worst, having heard stories of the Nigerian programmer who was detained on arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Fortunately for me, the customs officer was more drawn to the Emmanuel in my name, rather than the Tijani, before he goes on to ask me a number of questions regarding the trip, and stamped my passport for entry. I heaved a sigh of relief, and moved to pick up my luggage to exit the airport, alongside a number of business editors from across Nigerian newspapers.
There was one last hurdle to cross before leaving the airport, the customs were making one final check. I joined a rather long queue of visitors and made my way out of the airport after a brief check. When we (five journalists from Nigeria) got out of the airport, we found out that one of the editors a major national newspaper was missing. I went back to check on him, but could not find him.
I came back to the team to report that I also could not find him. We waited for over 30 minutes with no signs of him. We decided to approach one of the airport staff to make some enquiries about him. The staff said if he is not out, he may be for another three hours — and so was it.
The said editor was held up for over two hours for his accumulation of Islamic names, and was kept in holding room, with no form of interrogation at all. After the holding time elapsed. He was told that he showed no signs of extremism and was let to proceed into the US Capital.
Based on my experience on other fronts, Trump’s America is not much different from Obama’s. But on this immigration challenges, Trump’s America is nothing like Obamas.
EMEFIELE AND THE PRESSURE TO FLOAT THE NAIRA
At the World Bank, IMF meetings proper, Nigeria was heavily represented by Kemi Adeosun, minister of finance; Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works and housing; Udo Udoma, minister of trade and investments; Suleiman Adamu, minister of water resources.
As the meetings began, Nigeria led many discussions, including those around global growth and the resurgence of commodity prices around the world. The World Bank said Nigeria was having very strong effects on low income developing countries, stating that the country needs vigorous growth to return to positively affect these basket of nations.
The narrative regarding Nigeria seeking IMF loans was almost non-existent. Emefiele and Adeosun had made it clear to the multilateral agencies that Nigeria was going to get out of recession on the back of “home-grown solutions”.
However, the Washington consensus were bent on convincing the CBN governor on floating the Nigerian naira. Some said it was distorting the economy, while others opined that it was not sustainable to have multiple exchange in Africa’s largest economy.
The CBN however had a clear rebuttal to say it cannot go the way of Egypt for many reasons. The bank stated strongly that the Nigerian economy “has its own peculiarities, and we cannot kill our people in the name of floating the naira”.
ADEOSUN AND THE NIGERIAN NARRATIVE
For the minister of finance, the Nigerian narrative on her side had also improved. In October 2016, you would not believe, Nigerian staff in Washington were being owed about three months salaries. It was so bad, that one of the staff of the Nigerian embassy wanted to disrupt an IMF meeting the minister was attending as a panelist at George Washington University.
The staff in question was held back by journalists who were aware of her mission. After the event, it was confirmed that the minster knew nothing about the unpaid salaries. In fact, the ministry of finance has a culture of releasing salaries for Nigerian embassies across the world, three months earlier. Hence, March salaries will have been paid in January, so they could be totally cleared before March, to avoid any international embarrassment. But somehow, some people made sure the monies did not get across.
But in April, 2017, the narrative had changed. Nigerian staff abroad — at least in the US — are now being paid promptly. The narratives for Nigeria is changing on every side; from recession to growth, from IMF loans to home grown solutions, from unpaid salaries to fulfilled obligations.
We are making progress abroad, can same be said at home?