Atiku paid his way into the US, says report

A TEMPORARY suspension of a travel ban linked to decade-old bribery scandals paved the way for former vice president and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar to make his Washington DC trip last month, a report in Reuters said yesterday.

The report quoted diplomats and those with the trip.

It (report) said several U.S. diplomats and others familiar with the visit told the news service that Atiku, has been banned from entering the United States (U.S.) after he allegedly featured in two prominent corruption-related investigations.

Atiku’s visit to Washington was put together with the help of two U.S. lobbying firms. Holland & Knight. The firms were hired by Atiku personally in December to help him secure a visa, in part by enlisting members of Congress to request one on his behalf, according to a lobbyist for the firm. It has been paid $80,000 so far, the report said.

Ballard Partners was hired by the PDP at a rate of $90,000 per month in September, before Atiku emerged as the party’s candidate, according to U.S. disclosure filings.

The Nation, in a January 24 report titled: “APC enraged over PDP’s N388m U.S. lobbying deal”, said that the opposition party had voted huge cash to push its ongoing lobbying in the U.S.

In the report, former Aviation Minister Osita Chidoka said the contract was designed to “promote free and fair elections”.

For Atiku’s supporters believed that his visit to the U.S. on Jan. 17 and 18 without being arrested showed that the allegations were baseless.

“It is fake news, and we showed that,” said Harold Molokwu, who heads the U.S. chapter of Atiku’s People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria.

Several U.S. government officials said the travel ban was waived temporarily by the U.S. State Department after lobbyists mounted a campaign among congressional lawmakers arguing that the administration should not snub the leading challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari in the Feb. 16 election.

A source said Atiku was allowed to enter the U.S. because the authorities saw no need to antagonise him.

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