from Africa in Transition

U.S. and UK Revoke Visas for Nigerian Officers Connected to Human Rights Abuses

June 27, 2017

Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015. While the military has made significant gains in its fight against Boko Haram, accusations of human rights abuses persist. Emmanuel Braun/Reuters
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A special Nigeria Army Board of Inquiry focusing on alleged human rights abuses reported that the American embassy and the British High Commission in Abuja have revoked or denied entry visas to certain serving or retired military officers. The board investigated charges by Amnesty International of human rights violations by the military in the fight against Boko Haram, abuses of internally displaced persons in the north east, and episodes involving the Indigenous People of Biafra. The Board report exonerated specific senior officers of charges of human rights abuses.

According to the report, the Nigerian Army HQ had initially conducted an investigation into the allegations and its findings were sent “to all relevant authorities, including the U.S. authorities through the defense attaché in Washington.” However, the head of civil-military relations, Major General Nuhu Angbazo, said that the U.S. “conveyed its dissatisfaction with the report and requested that a more comprehensive inquiry be conducted.” This prompted the creation of a special board of inquiry for this purpose. It was this board that subsequently exonerated the Nigerian Army.

Before the board was able to publish its investigation, however, the American and British authorities had revoked or denied visas to certain senior military personnel implicated in the allegations. The results of the board's investigation will no doubt be studied carefully in Washington and London. In the case of the United States, visa revocation is done on a case-by-case basis after a thorough, interagency process. U.S. privacy laws precludes the announcement of the names of those whose visas have been revoked or the numbers effected. Hence, knowledge of revocation usually comes from foreign sources, not American.

It is encouraging that the American and British governments are successfully using visa revocation and denial as a means to call attention to the need for official and legitimate investigations into credible reports of human rights abuses, like those made by Amnesty International. It is a tool that could also be used against individuals mired in corruption. For elites, military and civilian, the ability to travel to the United States and the United Kingdom is highly valued. Impediment to that travel commands their immediate attention.

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