An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has revealed to Premium Times that the reason radical Lebanese Islamic cleric, Ahmad Al-Assir, who was arrested last week as he attempted traveling to Nigeria, got an entry visa into Nigeria was because the country’s embassies do not capture applicants’ biometric data.
Biometrics cover a variety of unique identifiable attributes of people including fingerprint, iris print, hand, face, voice, gait or signatures, and are used for identification and authentication.
The foreign affairs official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said with the surge of security breaches and religious fundamentalism, biometric capturing has become a norm yet, Nigeria, currently battling Boko Haram insurgency, has failed to utilise the technology.
“While the measure tends to pre-empt influx of terrorists instead they (sic) depend on the use of stop list for potential visa applicants,” the official said.
He continued, “If we have a bank for storing the number of personal data which should be distributed to all our embassies; the prevailing spate of insecurity in the globe which has gone beyond just the antiquated stop list method would be checkmated.”
The official revealed that the antiquated list which Nigerian embassies rely on are not even backed with photographs or fingerprints.
He said Nigerian consular officers do not embark on adequate background check on all visa requests as no applicant appears for oral interview with visas even issued in absentia.
The official wondered why visa applications go through a third party state passport and why Nigerian embassies rarely verify addresses and telephone number(s) of the person inviting the visa applicant.
He suggested that the federal government take steps to abolish the policy of the issuance of visa within 48 hours and make room for efficiency through technology.
Some countries currently adopting the biometrics technology include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Gambia, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States of America.
The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bulus Lolo, told PREMIUM TIMES that he has personally launched his own investigation into the matter. He said the terrorist might have operated under a pseudo name.
Mr. Al-Assir, a radical Muslim cleric, was arrested on August 15, after he was caught trying to find his way into Nigeria through Cairo, Egypt, with a fake Palestinian passport and a valid Nigerian visa at the Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport in Lebanon.
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into how the wanted terrorist was able to obtain a valid Nigerian visa.