A former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has disclosed that the American system values freedom of speech and thought, hence it could not have denied its visa to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali-Pantami.
Some weeks ago, a report by a Nigerian newspaper had claimed that the United States placed the minister on their terror watchlist over alleged ties with terrorist groups.
The Daily Independent newspaper retracted its story and apologised to the minister some days after.
In a Facebook post which was signed by its editor, the medium noted that it had realised that the information contained in the story has not been verified to be true.
“Our attention has been drawn to the story with the above title, published in the Sunday Independent newspaper of April 11, 2021. We have since realized that the information contained in the story has not been verified to be true. The Minister mentioned in the story, Alhaji Isa Ali Ibrahim, also known as Sheikh Pantami, is not known to be on American Terror Watch List, nor is he linked to terror organisations. We regret and sincerely apologise for the embarrassment our story has caused the Honourable Minister whom we hold in high regard,” Editor, Daily Independent wrote.
But while responding to an email chat with Punch on the allegation, the former Ambassador said Pantami’s sermons and other public statements could not be the only yardstick for putting him on its terror watchlist.
Campbell, who was an ambassador to Nigeria between 2004 and 2007, said: “As for Dr. Pantami’s sermons and other public statements, a consular officer would want to know when he made them–years ago or yesterday.
“There is also the question of whether he advocated violence and whether his apology is a repudiation of what he said.
“Is he now part of an international terrorist network? Or, are some of his views merely parallel to those of, say, Osama Bin Laden? As you know, freedom of speech and of thought is integral to the American system.
“So, actions (including inflammatory rhetoric) weigh more heavily than the mere expression of ideas or beliefs. Each visa decision is made on a case-by-case basis.”
The former envoy, who authored the book, ‘Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink’, said it is rare for the US to comment on visas of individuals because of its policy on privacy.