President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration is making progress in its efforts to ensure the reversal of the United States’ suspension of the issuance of “immigrant visas” to Nigerian passport holders.
The president also pledged Nigerian government’s commitment to sustaining the follow-up for the removal of the visa restrictions by the United States and developing a credible harmonised National Identity Data Management System.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the president was quoted as saying this while receiving the report of the committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonisation chaired by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.
Adesina’s statement was titled “Nigeria making progress to reverse US visa restrictions -President.”
The Aregbesola-led committee was set up in February to address issues that led to the US temporary visa restrictions on Nigerian passport holders.
The suspension came into effect on February 21, 2020.
Adesina said the President expressed delight that two out of the six areas of concern raised by the US had been fully addressed.
According to Adesina, the president commended the committee for its diligence in carrying out the assignment and assuring Nigerians and the international community of the timely implementation of the committee’s recommendations after due consideration.
‘‘I also note the progress made by Nigeria towards the removal of the visa restrictions as two out of the six areas of concern raised by the United States had been fully addressed, two are substantially satisfied while some progress is being made on the remaining two.
‘‘I am delighted that this progress, especially the uploading of Lost and Stolen Passport and Travel Documents has been acknowledged by the United States Government.”
According to the statement, the committee had among other things recommended the establishment of a National Criminal Information Management, fashioned after the INTERPOL model, and a National Criminal DNA Laboratory, to aid criminal investigation, administration of criminal justice as well as sharing of relevant information.
Buhari was said to have noted that the implementation of these and other far-reaching recommendations as articulate in the Report will fully address all outstanding issues that led to the visa restrictions.
‘‘An effective Citizen Data Management System is critical for socio-economic planning, improved service delivery and good governance, as well as national and global security. It also has the over-arching benefit of enhancing integrity of the nation’s citizens’ identity instruments for the purpose of information sharing.
‘‘Accordingly, the committee’s recommendations on the strategies for harmonising existing databases, improving the infrastructure for the National Identity Database as well as a review of the supervisory mechanism of the National Identity Management Commission would be given serious consideration.
‘‘The implementation of the recommendations as estimated by the committee would require enormous resources. In this regard, an implementation committee would be constituted to further study the recommendations and develop a workable implementation plan.”
He recalled that the Federal Government’s response to the temporary visa restrictions placed on Nigerian citizens by the United States in January this year, led to the setting up of the committee to review the restrictions and develop systems and processes that would address the security concerns raised.
‘‘In consideration of the fact that the concerns raised cast doubts on the credibility of the nation’s citizen identity data management system, the scope of the committee’s assignment was expanded to include strategies to harmonise the various citizen identity data held by different Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
‘‘I have gone through the highlights of the Report and must commend the Chairman and members of the Committee for painstakingly carrying out the assignment in spite of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘The recommendations as highlighted are capable of addressing the concerns raised by the US Government as well as lead to the development of a reliable national citizen identity data management system,’’ he said.
Aregbesola was also quoted as reporting that Nigeria had fully satisfied two of the six areas of concern raised by the US, two others substantially satisfied, and progress being made on the remaining two.
“It is our hope that the findings, strategies and implementation plans proffered, if fully implemented, will expedite the lifting of the visa restrictions while bequeathing to the nation an enduring identity management system,” the minister said.