Following reports that a chieftain of the Islamic State IS, Ahmed Al Assir, was granted a Nigerian visa in Lebanon, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, David Parradang, may have fallen into troubled waters.
Al Assir was arrested by Lebanese authorities on Saturday as he attempted to fly out of the country on a forged passport. Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported that Al Assir was caught at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport while trying to board a flight to Egypt using a fake Palestinian passport. Lebanon’s general security directorate said Al Assir was planning on flying to Nigeria via Cairo.
A photo posted by the National News Agency after the arrest revealed that Al Assir had recently adopted a new look, shaving his long, unkempt beard and trading his usual religious robes and headwear for a more inconspicuous jacket and sweater. Some local news outlets suggested Al Assir had also had plastic surgery to alter his appearance.
Al Assir became one of the most wanted men in Lebanon after his militia went to battle with the Lebanese army in the port city of Sidon in 2013, resulting in the deaths of 18 soldiers and dozens of his (Al Assir) gunmen.
Reports however revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the issuance of visa to the wanted terrorist who has been on the global terror watch-list.
The Nigeria Immigration Service had, before now, received perpetual knocks for its poor handling of the issuance of passports to Nigerians, a situation which often saw foreigners holding valid Nigerian passports.
A competent foreign ministry official said immigration officers, popularly called Entry Clearance Officers, are often attached to embassies for the purposes of spotting people with questionable credentials and consequently barring them at the point of entry.
The service which came under knocks after last year’s botched recruitment exercise in which at least 15 applicants died had recently said between January and March this year, it refused no fewer than 12,152 foreigners entry into Nigeria because they had no genuine reasons for visiting the country. No one has been punished since the deaths of the applicants.
The immigration boss is said to be making frantic efforts to save his neck as the president has ordered a full-scale probe into the incident. A staff of the Service at the national headquarters confided in some journalists on Thursday that the NIS boss was already contemplating a major shakeup especially at the Visa department.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bulus Lolo, confirmed that the Federal Government had begun investigations on the issue. He explained that the Nigerian Charge d’Affairs in Lebanon had met with Lebanese authorities to look into the matter.
His words: “I have commenced my own investigation process. I spoke to our Charge d’Affairs in Lebanon and he has met with the Lebanese authorities.
“The Charge d’Affairs said the matter was being looked into but the facts that were emerging would suggest that what the media had reported was not entirely the true story.
“It seems that this individual is of Palestine extraction and has resided for a very long time in Lebanon.
“He has residency and as you know Lebanon for quite some time has granted full residency to Palestinian refugees.
“So, this may be one of such individual but that he did not use his true name is what is of interest to us.
“This is because the name he presented with the passport that was reported as Palestinian does not tally with what the Lebanese has as his name.”