Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
The Federal Government has called on the United States of America to consider the long standing relationship between the two countries and reverse its visa restrictions on Nigeria.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, made the call in his office in Abuja, while receiving the American Ambassador to Nigeria, Her Excellency, Mary Beth Leonard and her team.
According to him, “the Government of Nigeria believes that the cooperation with the United States of America will help address Immigration and Consular issues in control of persons seeking to enter both countries through the issuance of visa, passport and other travel documents.”
The minister said as the Chairman, Presidential Committee on the Citizen Data Management and Harmonisation, he was bold to say that Nigeria had complied with most of the issues of concern raised by the US, including, but not limited to the uploading of over 700 stolen/lost passports on the Nigeria Immigration Service’s Database,’ saying Nigeria is not a pariah nation.
He said he believes Nigeria is too important an ally of America to deserve such a sanction, adding that the country should be commended rather than sanctioned.
Ogbeni Aregbesola further appealed to the US to review its visa validity to Nigerians from two years limit to at least five years as well as establish a third office in Nigeria in reciprocity with the country which has establishments in Atlanta, New York and Washington DC.
In a statement signed by the Director (Press & Public Relations), Mohammed Manga, he emphasised the need for both countries to strengthen the Security Governance Initiative between his ministry and American Embassy through proper enlightenment and awareness creation, adding that the relationship between both nations must be mutually beneficial.
The minister assured that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was not only committed to ensuring internal security and citizenship integrity of Nigerians and foreigners alike, but also to the fight against terrorism and transnational crimes and criminalities.
‘We are positive that visa restriction is a temporary one; it will soon be put behind us,’ the minister reiterated.
Aregbesola hinted that President Muhammadu Buhari would commission the Nigeria Immigration Data Technology Centre before the end of the year 2020, as part of the Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring that her data is linked with security agencies globally.
Corroborating the minister’s comment, the Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, said the country had improved on her border management through its Migration Information and Data Analysis System (MIDAS).
Earlier, the United States of America Ambassador to Nigeria, Her Excellency, Mary Beth Leonard said her team was in the ministry to share ideas on possible ways of addressing information sharing gap between the two nations.
She added that America had a very broad collaboration with Nigeria, which covers Immigration, safety issues and security.
The US envoy assured of her country’s determination to continue to collaborate with Nigeria, so as to further strengthen their relationship.