The United States has given reasons for imposing visa restrictions on Nigerians and five other countries’ nationals.
It said Nigeria did not comply with the established identity-management and information-sharing criteria assessed by the performance metrics.
The US also said Nigeria did not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information necessary for the protection of the national security and public safety of the US.
The full report of the visa restrictions titled, ‘Proclamation on improving enhanced vetting capabilities and process’ posted in www.whitehouse.gov read in part, “Nigeria also presents a high risk, relative to other countries in the world, of terrorist travel to the United States. Nigeria is an important strategic partner in the global fight against terrorism, and the United States continues to engage with Nigeria on these and other issues.”
It further stated, “The Department of State has provided significant assistance to Nigeria as it modernises its border management capabilities, and the Government of Nigeria recognises the importance of improving its information sharing with the United States.
“Nevertheless, these investments have not yet resulted in sufficient improvements in Nigeria’s information sharing with the United States for border and immigration screening and vetting.”
Nigeria is the only country in West Africa sanctioned by the US Department of Home Security following a review and update of the methodology (performance metrics).
Other countries on the list are Eritrea, Myanmar, Tanzania, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan.
The new visa regime announced by the US government on January 31, involves the suspension of the issuance of immigrant visas to Nigerian passport holders. It comes into effect on February 21.
Strong reactions have, however, greeted the US visa restrictions with the Presidency announcing the setting up of a committee to address the issue.
The committee is chaired by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, a State House statement said on Saturday.
“The committee will work with the US government, INTERPOL and other stakeholders to ensure all updates are properly implemented,” the statement by the media aide to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), Mr Femi Adesina, said.
However, the Presidency noted that the restrictions did not affect other categories of visas like official, tourism or business visas.
The Presidency’s reaction to the development read in part, “On January 31, 2020, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced temporary travel restrictions on six countries including Nigeria.
“For Nigeria, it is the suspension of the issuance of ‘immigrant visas’ to Nigerian passport holders only.
“Nigeria remains committed to maintaining productive relations with the United States and its allies, especially on matters of global security. Accordingly, President Muhammadu Buhari has established a committee to be chaired by the Minister of Interior to study and address the updated US requirements.”
The Senate condemned the inclusion of Nigeria on the list of countries under US visa restrictions and promised to spearhead a diplomatic arrangement in collaboration with the relevant agencies with a view to addressing the issues advanced by the US for the ban.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, who described the US travel ban on Nigeria as “quite unfortunate” in an interview in Abuja, however, stressed the need for Nigeria to put in place citizenship integrity mechanism.
He said, “We need to address the issue of citizenship integrity because, at the moment, we are a nation of anonymous citizens. We don’t have records of our citizens and anybody can claim to be a Nigerian.
“We don’t have recognised records to be sure that anybody carrying a Nigerian passport is actually a Nigerian.
“I am not talking as a politician but as a patriot. We need as a government to address the issue of citizenship integrity. We should have a proper record of birth registration and identification of our citizens.”
The Senate spokesman described the ban as “a wake-up call”, noting that it would spur the nation to take seriously the national identity card project.
Basiru added, “The travel ban is a wake-up call, a rude one at that on the need for us to be alive to our responsibility to our people and ensure that we have citizenship integrity.
“We have been working on the national identity project for a very long time, and till today, I am not sure that we have 25 per cent of Nigerians on the database. Are we even sure that we conducted a proper integrity test on those that on the database to ensure that they are real Nigerians?”