PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed confidence that Nigeria was making progress to reverse the United States suspension of the issuance of “immigrant visas” to Nigerian passport holders.
The President, who spoke while receiving a report of the Committee on Citizen Data Management and Harmonization, chaired by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, expressed delight that two of the six areas of concern raised by the United States had been fully addressed.
President Buhari had set up the committee in February this year, following the imposition of temporary visa restrictions by the American government on Nigerian passport holders.
In a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President noted that the suspension, which came into effect on February 21, 2020, didn’t apply to other U.S. visas, such as those for official, business, tourism, and student travel.
He commended the committee for its patriotic diligence in carrying out the assignment, assuring Nigerians and the international community of the timely implementation of the committee’s recommendations after due consideration.
He said: “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.”
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 a criminal investigation, administration of criminal justice as well as sharing of relevant information.
President Buhari noted that 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 the 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 would be given serious consideration,” President Buhari said.
The President also pledged 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.
In his remarks, Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said the body was set up on February 3, 2020, to among others, review the visa restrictions imposed by the U.S and develop systems and processes that would address the security concerns raised.
Another mandate, the Minister said, was to review the status of Nigeria’s numerous citizen identification data, including biometrics, held by different ministries, departments, and agencies, and propose strategies for the harmonization of the same.
He reported that Nigeria had fully satisfied two of the six areas of concern raised by the U.S, adding that two others had attained substantially progress, while progress was also being made on the remaining two.