Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The United States Government has said it notified all foreign governments of a change in its performance metrics for identity-management and information sharing criteria since March 11, 2019, which led to the visa ban on those countries.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had initially described the report of the visa ban as speculative, stressing however, that if it turned out to be true, the federal government would respond comprehensively.
But the US government disclosed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identified the worst-performing countries for further interagency review and for an assessment of the potential impact of visa restrictions.
In a proclamation published on the White House website, the US said that Nigeria and the five other affected countries were among the worst-performing in the world.
It stated: “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 proclamation read.
“DHS identified the worst-performing countries for further interagency review and for an assessment of the potential impact of visa restrictions.
“In addition, the United States government, led by the department of state, continued or increased engagements with many countries about those countries’ deficiencies.”
The US government noted that a number of foreign governments sent senior officials to Washington, D.C to discuss those issues, explore potential solutions, and convey views about obstacles to improving performance.
It said that as a result of this engagement, one country made sufficient improvements in its information-sharing and identity-management practices and was removed from consideration for travel restrictions.
It however said that there are prospects for near-term improvements for the six countries.
In the proclamation, the US President, Mr. Donald Trump, said the acting secretary of homeland security submitted a report on September 13, 2019 recommending the actions to be taken on the countries identified including “incentivising those foreign governments to improve their practices”.
The proclamation imposes a ban on the issuance of immigrant visas to Nigerian passport holders.
The proclamation however forced President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a committee to study and address the issues that made the US place visa restrictions on Nigerian passport holders.
Mohammed had initially described as ill-conceived, the plan by the US to add Nigeria to its existing list of visa travel ban countries.
Speaking to international media and other think tank in London, he had reportedly said: “On the issue of the travel ban our position is that it is still speculative because we are yet to be communicated. When we are communicated we will respond comprehensively.
“However, in our view it was not well thought out but based largely on negative narratives spread by naysayers.
“I know that we are working very well with our neighbours to ensure that terrorism is addressed. We are working with international community including the EU and the U.S.
“Our advice to the US is that it should have a rethink on the issue because any travel ban is bound to affect investment and growth in the country and those who will be affected are the most vulnerable people in Nigeria,” he said.
President Buhari at the weekend, reacted to the suspension of the issuance of ‘immigrant visas’ to Nigerians by the United States’ Government by setting up a committee to look into the matter with a view to meeting the requirements of the new US’ policy on visa issuance.
“The committee will work with the US Government, INTERPOL and other stakeholders to ensure all updates are properly implemented,” Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, reportedly said in a statement.
The new visa regime, which was announced by the US’ Government on January 31, comes into effect on February 21.