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When Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria in January in advance of Nigeria’s March 28 elections, he observed that anyone who incited violence or interfered with the electoral process would be subject to U.S. visa sanctions. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the same point in an opinion piece she published in a Nigerian newspaper on April 20 in which she praised the Nigerian people and the election process.
As a result, the Nigerian media is speculating that the United States “appears set to sanction” First Lady Patience Jonathan, former Niger Delta minister Godsday Orubebe, and the governor of Katsina state, Ibrahim Shema. All three made statements that could be construed as inciting violence or as disrupting the polling and counting process during the campaign and election process. For example, the press reports Patience Jonathan as saying, “I’m telling you, anyone that comes and tells you [to] change, stone that person.” Shema has been taped calling on his supporters to kill the opposition, whom he described as “cockroaches.” Orubebe on television disrupted the collation of presidential election results while insulting Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Attahiru Jega, whose performance has even been praised by President Barack Obama.
The U.S. Department of State does revoke visas, and carefully follows required procedures. However, speculation as to whose visa is being revoked is exactly that – speculation. Visa revocation is covered by United States laws that protect privacy. Therefore, the Department of State never makes public the name of a person whose visa it has revoked, nor will it comment on whether an individual is under review for possible visa revocation. It also does not publish the number of visas it has revoked from the citizens or residents of a particular country.
So, we will never know from the Department of State if the visas of Patience Jonathan, Godsday Orubebe, Ibrahim Shema, or anybody else, have been or will be revoked.