Nigeria-US: When terrorism dictates travel visa terms

By Billie McTernan and Konye Obaji Ori

Posted on Wednesday, 1 February 2012 15:52

Conflict between the military and Islamist group, Boko Haram has raised worldwide concerns at Nigeria’s security.

The repeated terror attacks by the extremist Islamist group saw the US Congress urging its consulate in Nigeria to be strict and more careful in its visa processing.

And with many questioning whether this may lead to a less transparent selection process when it comes to the consulate’s issuing of visas, the United States embassy in Nigeria has assured Nigerians that the terrorism tag associated with their country would not serve as a reason to deny visa to that country’s citizens.

”The Consulate would maintain issuance of visa based on the usual criteria, which revolve around an applicant being able to supply all the requirements and convince the consular officers that he or she is willing to come back to Nigeria on the expiration of visa,” US consulate chief, Carl Cockbum told reporters in Lagos, Tuesday.

“The truth is, after the September 2001 attack on the United States, a lot of things changed. The US Congress decided that consular officers have to be very strict and more careful in visa processing.”

The US State Department increased checks on Nigerian citizens intending to visit the country in 2009 after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, then 23, attempted to blow up a plane as it neared landing in Detroit on a flight from Lagos via the Netherlands.

The move sparked an outcry as many Nigerians felt it was unjust given the planned attack was the action of one person from a population of almost 160 million.

Nigerians were of the view that the new regulations were biased against them, as there are currently more inmates, suspected to have carried out acts of terror, in Guantanamo Bay from Europe, yet flight and visa restrictions have not been increased for citizens of those countries.

Although the US Congress has asked its consulate in Nigeria to be strict and more careful in its visa processing, it seems this time round it is treading more carefully.

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