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Atiku merely got temporary waiver to visit US in spite of ban

ABUBAKAR Atiku, presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was actually banned from entering the United States of America for several years and was merely granted a temporary waiver for his recent visit to the country.

According to a report by the Reuters News Agency, Atiku and the PDP had to had to hire two top US lobbyists to make a case for him to be issued a visa in spite of the entry ban placed on him pursuant to two corruption cases he had something to do with in the country.

“Holland & Knight (a lobbying firm) was hired by Atiku personally in December to help him secure a visa… It has been paid $80,000 so far,” the report read. Similarly, “Ballard Partners was hired by Atiku’s political party (the PDP) at a rate of $90,000 per month in September, before Atiku emerged as the party’s candidate”.

The ICIR had reported how the PDP struck a $1 million deal with Ballard to help the party with the 2019 presidential election.

The lobbyists who worked to get Atiku the waiver to enter the US, according to the Reuters report, had argued that the gesture would show that the United States wanted to encourage free and fair elections in Nigeria.

The report quoted a source familiar with the matter as saying that “Atiku was allowed to enter because the United States saw little benefit to creating bad blood with the man who might be the next leader of Africa’s most populous nation and the continent’s biggest oil producer”.

Atiku’s ban from the US had to to with the case of a former U.S. Congressman, William Jefferson, who, in 2009, was convicted and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for trying to bribe Atiku over a technology business in Nigeria. However, Jefferson’s sentence was later reduced.

Also, in 2010, a U.S. Senate committee accused one of Atiku’s wives, Jennifer, of helping him to transfer over $40 million into the United States from offshore shell companies. Part of the money was said to be bribes paid by a German technology company, Siemens AG. The company had pleaded guilty to the bribery charges and agreed to pay $1.6 billion in fine.

However, Atiku has consistently denied the charges, always pointing out that neither he nor his wife was charged with any criminal charges either in Nigeria or in the US.

Also, Atiku’s supporters, as well as the PDP, have used his recent US trip to try to refute the corruption allegations against him.

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In an interview, Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who doubles as the Director General of the PDP presidential campaign, said the Atiku decided to travel to America in order “for us to address the problem (of corruption allegations) and put it behind us” especially as “the other party (APC) was using it as propaganda”.

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