The Federal Government is making efforts to ensure the US government delist Nigeria from the recent visa restriction. On Friday, January 31, 2020, the President of the United States, Donald Trump imposed an immigrant visa ban on six countries including Nigeria.
Justifying its decision, the US government in a proclamation signed by Trump stated that Nigeria does not comply with the established identity- management and information-sharing criteria assessed by the performance metrics. The US also said the travel restriction policy affected Nigeria because it does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information.
However, a source privy to the ongoing negotiation between the US officials and a committee set up by the Federal Government disclosed that Nigeria held a meeting with the US government on the night of Wednesday, February 5, 2020, in Abuja.
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola heads the commitee set up to liaise with the US government on Visa restriction.
The source, who spoke to the newspaper said the Federal Government had addressed the issues raised by the US government before it sanctioned Nigeria, adding that Nigeria was included the list due to “the absence of proper communication.”
The source said, “The US Consul General was invited and they held a meeting on the issue. The meeting was held on Wednesday night. They made progress
“The Minister of Interior, and the US Consul General were at the meeting. On the refusal to share information on security which the US accused us of, the Migration Information and Data Analysis System which have been activated at four of our international airports will take care of that. The Minister of Interior inaugurated it (MIDAS) since January 2020.
It was just officially inaugurated by the President about three days ago. “They also asked us to be reporting lost/stolen passports to Interpol but do you know that a platform for reporting that had been done but was not activated. That is unfortunate.
It has been done but not activated, so the US did not agree that we have done it. “The consular also advised that there should be proper, official and effective communication. The US said it was not enough for us to deploy MIDAS but we should communicate officially to them.”
The source maintained that the activation of MIDAS at Nigerian airports would take care of the biometrics data of anyone who entered Nigeria, adding that the data would alert the Interpol to k ow if person coming in is a terrorist or has criminal records. “Now that we have activated MIDAS, if anybody buys a ticket from any part of the world to come to Nigeria, their data is sent immediately to Interpol. You know it is mandatory for airlines to request for passport data page before selling a ticket to a traveller. “If we didn’t deploy MIDAS before the take-off of visa-on-arrival, all the terrorists in the world will come to Nigeria.
So, MIDAS was activated before visa-on-arrival was inaugurated. “Most of the issues raised by the US had been addressed but you know most Nigerians won’t act until we aresanctioned. The visa restriction for immigrant is a punishment for 2017 offence. “The way those people (US) do things is different from ours. Once you are given a deadline, you do not meet it, and you did not notify them ahead of the reasons why you would not meet the deadline, even if you do it a day after, they will consider it undone. That is what happened in this case.
“In 201 8, the US granted over 460,000 non-immigrant visas to Nigerians. The figure for 2019 has not been released. They still issue visas to Nigerians whereas the immigrant visas granted to Nigerians in the same year was about 5,000.
“The restriction is not as serious as it is being made to appear. Even despite that, the issues raised have been addressed. It means that immigrant visa is about five per cent of the visa which the US grants to Nigerians. “The visa ban is more about denting Nigeria’s image than the actual damage.
The problem of visa ban by the US was caused by the absence of proper communication and meeting deadline. It was not because we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.
The immigration visa ban on Nigeria and five other countries is expected to take effect on February 22, 2020.