Fed Govt goes tough on visa issuance to stop terrorists
•Foreign missions to adopt strict policy
•Boko Haram fighters found in Libya, northern Niger
To ensure that undesirable elements do not enter the country, the Federal Government has directed it missions to adopt strict visa issuance policy.
The directive followed the botched attempt by the Chief Imam of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Ahmed Al-Assir, to enter Nigeria. Visa applicants from marked areas will, henceforth, be subjected scrutiny, sources said.
Security agencies have already stepped up investigation into Al-Assir’s possible contacts in Nigeria.
There will also be increased profiling of Nigerians travelling to suspected ISIS strongholds and visiting foreigners. An agency report yesterday said that Boko Haram has dispatched between 80 and 200 of its members to team up with ISIS in the Libyan city of Sitre.
The report added that Algerian security forces believe that Boko Haram members are currently fighting in northern Niger Republic.
There were concerns that some ISIS members might have sneaked into Nigeria to Boko Haram.
A government source said yesterday that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has directed all Nigerian missions abroad to “be strict with visa.”
“The end of carefree issuance of visa is gone, all the missions have been directed to subject applicants to thorough screening before they can enter Nigeria,” a source said.
“Special attention will be paid to ISIS prone areas and allies in some countries. We have records of the operation areas and affiliates of ISIS.
“Those coming from suspected areas will henceforth provide comprehensive details of their contacts, hosts and itinerary to the Nigerian Immigration Service(NIS).
“These are preemptive measures we have in place pending the conclusion of investigation into the visa row of Al-Assir.”
It was also gathered that security agencies have been analysing the preliminary report from the Nigerian Embassy in Lebanon on how the ISIS Chief Imam obtained visa with a fake Palestinian passport.
The probe is being handled by the Department of State Services (DSS), National Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) , Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the NIS.
A source familiar with the development said: “We cannot afford to take things for granted; we are studying the supposed itinerary of Al-Assir based on the decoy documents he used to apply for visa.
“There is a way we can track down his network in Nigeria. Definitely, it is obvious that he has some links in the country.
“The clues we are investigating border on whether some ISIS members have arrived in Nigeria or if Al-Assir was on a mass recruitment mission.
“You know he is also being interrogated by security agencies in Lebanon, we are going to compare notes with them.”
Al-Assir was arrested on August 15 at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport,Lebanon on his way to Nigeria through Egypt.
He has been on the watch-list of Lebanon’s security services since 2013.
At the time of his arrest, Al-Assir was holding a fake Palestinian passport with Nigerian visa.
Prior to his disguise, the Lebanese government had accused him of alleged involvement in the death of 17 Lebanese soldiers.
He had also been sentenced to death in absentia by a Lebanese Court.
Before Al-Assir’s ill-fated trip, the NIS had barred no fewer than 4,916 Nigerians from traveling out of the country between January and March.
Some of those affected were suspected to be travelling to enlist in some terrorist movements, including the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq and the Taliban.
Also, 12,152 foreigners were refused entry into Nigeria because they had no genuine reasons for visiting the country.