United States has said that it notified all foreign governments including Nigeria about the identity-management and information-sharing criteria in 2019.
The government stated that the Republic of Chad improved on the performance metrics and was removed from consideration for travel restrictions.
The United States described Nigeria as one of the worst-performing countries on the performance metrics which it said led to the imposition of migrant visa restriction on Nigeria.
This was contained in the full report of the visa restrictions titled, ‘Proclamation on improving enhanced vetting capabilities and process’ published on www.whitehouse.gov
Apart from Nigeria, others on the list are Eritrea, Myanmar, Tanzania, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan.
The new visa regime announced by the United States Government on January 31, involves the suspension of the issuance of ‘immigrant visas’ to Nigerian passport holders. It comes into effect on February 21.
It read, “The process began on March 11, 2019, when the United States Government formally notified all foreign governments (except for Iran, Syria, and North Korea) about the refined performance metrics for the identity-management and information-sharing criteria.”
The United States Government 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.
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 United States Department of Home Security following a review and update of the methodology (performance metrics).
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 United States 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.
The Senate condemned the inclusion of Nigeria on the list of countries under United States 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 United States 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.