A situation has arisen where citizens of Nigeria are denied entry into the United States even though the recently introduced travel ban is not applicable to Nigeria. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has clarified that the denials were because of established practice and were not related to the new policies of the Trump administration. A "valid visa" is not a guarantee for a foreign national to gain entry into the US. Such a document allows him to arrive at an international US airport and grant of permission to enter rests with CBP.

The facts of the case

CNN reports of at least three instances of refusal of entry to Nigerians even though the travel ban is not applicable to Nigeria. One of the affected persons is a real estate businessman who travelled to Los Angeles on February 21 with a two-year multiple entry visa. At Los Angeles Airport, he was interrogated by an immigration officer who asked him to come for biometric tests to check if he had any criminal offenses. Subsequently, he was sent to a cold cell where he was held for four days, his phones were seized, his visa was revoked, and he was sent back to Nigeria.

The second case was of a student who had completed a PhD in Canada. He was stopped at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport as he was on his way to attend a friend's wedding.

He was denied entry and flown back to Abuja – the reason was the suspicion of border security that he might not return to Nigeria.

Then, there was the example of a bank executive at Abu Dhabi International Airport during pre-clearance to the United States. He was not allowed to travel to Florida along with his pregnant wife and two children.

Their passports were seized and they were handed over to an Etihad Airline crew to be sent back to Nigeria. When they landed in Lagos, they discovered that their visas had been cancelled.

These incidents are harming the image of the United States

A spokesman of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pointed out that there is an official list of more than 60 grounds for denying entry and some of these are related to reasons like security and health.

The Trump administration needs to clarify the situation on priority. The travel ban is applicable to only a few countries and others should not find it difficult to enter the United States. The guidelines for the CBP must be clear and without any ambiguity. Once a person holds a valid visa, he should not be denied entry unless he has been involved in activities that go against the interests of the US. If his record is clean, he must be allowed to enter. The number of people from Nigeria who live in the US has grown steadily over the years, and, in light of recent cases, there is growing insecurity among the community.