ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria asked the United States on Thursday to abandon new visa restrictions on the West African country set to take effect on Feb. 21.
U.S. President Donald Trump included Nigeria and five other countries in an expanded version of his travel ban list early this month, sparking outrage from many of them.
U.S. officials have said the six countries failed to meet U.S. security and information-sharing standards, necessitating the new restrictions.
Nigeria’s interior minister, Ogbeni Aregbesola, made the request to drop the ban to the U.S. ambassador in Abuja, the ministry said in a statement.
“Nigeria is too important an ally of America to deserve such a sanction,” Aregbesola said, according to the statement.
“We are positive that (the) visa restriction is a temporary one, it will soon be put behind us,” he said, adding that Nigeria had complied with most of the concerns raised by the United States.
The statement did not say how U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard responded to the request, but it said she assured Aregbesola of “her country’s determination to continue to collaborate with Nigeria”.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is the biggest country on the list whose citizens will be suspended from U.S. visas that can lead to permanent residency.
The original travel ban, issued in 2017, barred nearly all immigrants and travellers from seven countries with majority Muslim populations.
The policy was revised amid court challenges, but the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld it in 2018.