President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria is making progress to reverse the United States suspension of the issuance of “immigrant visas” to Nigerian passport holders.
He said this yesterday at the State House, Abuja, while receiving the report of the committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization chaired by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.
Buhari said he was happy that two out of the six areas of concern raised by the US had been fully addressed.
The committee was set up in February this year to address issues that led to the U.S temporary visa restrictions on Nigerian passport holders.
The suspension, which came into effect on February 21, 2020, does not apply to other U.S visas such as those for official, business, tourism and student travel.
Buhari assured 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’m delighted that this progress, especially the uploading of lost and stolen passport and travel documents has been acknowledged by the United States Government,” he said.
The committee, 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 said the implementation of these and other far-reaching recommendations as articulated 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 harmonizing 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 will be given serious consideration.
“The implementation of the recommendations as estimated by the committee will require enormous resources.
“In this regard, an implementation committee would be constituted to further study the recommendations and develop a workable implementation plan,” Buhari said.
He also promised the Federal Government’s commitment to sustaining the follow-up for the removal of the visa restrictions by the United States and developing a credible harmonized National Identity Data Management System.
Buhari 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 harmonize the various citizen identity data held by different Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
The Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization, Rauf Aregbesola, reported that Nigeria had fully satisfied two of the six areas of concern raised by the U.S, 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.