LONDON (Reuters) – Nigeria had received no warning from Washington that it could be added to the list of countries that are subject to a US travel ban, Secretary of Information Lai Mohammed said on Monday. Such a move would be "premature" and would send the wrong signal to investors.
Information minister Lai Mohammed briefed the media on the city of Bama, freed from Boko Haram, during a press conference on December 8, 2015 in Abuja, Nigeria. REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde
US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would add more countries to his travel ban list. He did not disclose details, but according to a source familiar with the proposal, the preliminary list included seven nations – Nigeria, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan and Tanzania. [nL1N29R224]
An announcement was imminent, Mohammed said, adding that although Abuja had contacted the US government since he found out about the plan, his government had received no warning and no reason was given.
"We do everything we can," Mohammed Reuters said in an interview. "A travel ban will send the wrong signal to investors, it will suppress the welfare of the country and vulnerable people in need of medication, and schools will be hardest hit."
Nigeria, Africa's largest economy and most populous country, is an American counter-terrorism partner and has a large diaspora in the United States.
It is not clear what restrictions Nigeria might face when it is added to the list, and the US government has not commented on it so far. According to the current version of the U.S. foreign travel ban, citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as some Venezuelan officials and their relatives, are unable to obtain a variety of U.S. immigration and non-immigration visas ,
"Nigeria has done very well in the fight against terrorism," said Mohammed, adding that Washington is helping to drive militant groups such as the Islamic State out of Nigeria.
When asked if Nigeria wanted to close its land borders with neighbors like Benin and Niger last August to help combat smuggling, Mohammed said the move was a success and boosted food production in the country.
"Any attempt in the past 16 years to persuade our neighbors, particularly Niger, to comply with the ECOWAS transit protocol has met with deaf ears," he said, referring to the trade protocol that regulates the exchange of goods between the West African community States to which Nigeria belongs. "No country can allow it to become a dump for goods from elsewhere."
In 2015, the central bank banned the use of its foreign currency to pay for rice imports and granted loans of at least Naira 40 billion (USD 131 million) to help smallholders increase production before moving on last summer a complete closure of the border.
Mohammed said his government was happy with how the move had spurred local production. However, the closing of the border also worsened price pressure: inflation rose to 11.98% in December, well outside the central bank's 6% to 9% for the fourth month in a row.
"We only see this as temporary," he said, expecting inflation to be in the single digits by 2023.
Reporting by Karin Strohecker, graphic by Libby George in Abuja; Cut by Giles Elgood