Photo Credit: Reuters

Africa News

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag bearer Atiku Abubakar visited Washington two weeks ago following a temporary suspension of a travel ban linked to decade-old bribery scandal, Several U.S officials said the travel ban was waived

temporarily by the U.S state Department after lobbyist mounted a campaign among congressional lawmakers arguing that the administration should not snub the leading opposition to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 16th election.

The U.S administration is yet to comment on Atikus status or his travel, however some U.S diplomats and others who were in the picture of the visit told Reuters that Atiku has been banned from entering the U.S for over a decade after he was figured to be featuring in two major corruption cases.

Meanwhile, for Atiku supporters, that Atiku finally sneaked into Washington on Jan, 17 and 18 without being arrested was a proof that he might have been pardoned or the allegation were baseless.

Accordingly, one person who was familiar with the matter and do not want his name to be mentioned disclosed, Atiku was allowed to enter because the U.S did not want to take chances eventually the election outcome turn out in his favour. This will automatically put them in logger head with the Nigerian Government being the oil producing country and African most populous nation.

Atiku’s swift visit to Washington last month was put together with the help of two U.S. lobbying firms.

Holland & Knight was hired by Atiku personally in December to help him secure a visa, in part by enlisting members of Congress to request one on his behalf, according to a lobbyist for the firm. It has been paid $80,000 so far.
Ballard Partners was hired by Atiku’s political party at a rate of $90,000 per month in September, before Atiku emerged as the party’s candidate, according to U.S. disclosure filings.

Lobbyists hired by Atiku said they required to overcome resistance at the State Department by securing support from members of Congress for the visit, as well as arguing that the top U.S. official for African affairs, Assistant Secretary Tibor Nagy, had an obligation to encourage democracy in the seventh most populous country in the world.

Atiku featured prominently in the corruption trial of former U.S. envoy William Jefferson, who was accused of trying to bribe Atiku in an effort to expand a technology business in Nigeria. Jefferson was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 13 years in prison. His sentence was subsequently reduced.