Explainer: Biden’s Reversal of the Nigerian Visa Ban and its Significance

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What Happened? 

In February 2020, then U.S President Donald Trump, added Nigeria to a list of countries placed under immigration restrictions. Speaking through a White House statement, Nigeria was accused of not complying with “the established identity-management and information sharing criteria assessed by performance metrics. Nigeria does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, which is necessary for the protection of the national security and public safety of the United States.” The restrictions were designed only to apply to applications for permanent residency and not short term visitors.

While campaigning, then Democratic Presidential Candidate, Vice President Joe Biden decried the discriminatory undertone of the decision saying

“He targeted primarily African nations—including Nigeria, the largest economy and the most populous nation on the continent…It is a disgrace.”

What has Changed? 

Well, Former Vice President Biden is now President Biden. Hours after resuming office, Biden signed an executive order to reverse the decision in line with his campaign promise.

Jake Sullivan, the incoming National Security Adviser in a call with reporters said;

“This ban, which restricted issuance of visas to individuals from many Muslim and African countries, was nothing less than a stain on our nation.“


Why this Matters

The reversal of the policy by President Biden can be viewed as reflective of a change in US. foreign policy and the bid to construct a clear path for potential immigrants in contrast to the discriminatory undertone favoured by Trump. It is also believed that this policy shift will help the US make up the strategic ground it has lost to countries like China, Russia and India who have sought to increase their influence on the continent in recent history. Consequently, it is likely that it will manifest in increased aid and assistance for countries on the continent. This could particularly prove helpful in navigating the access to vaccines in the fall out of the global pandemic.