Ambassador risks recall for issuing visa to terrorist

There are strong indications that the Nigerian Ambassador to Lebanon, Amos Oluwole Idowu, senior officers of the embassy and the Nigeria Immigration Service personnel at the mission may be summoned to Nigeria for issuing a visa to a Lebanese terrorist, Ahmed Al Assir.

It was gathered on Thursday that the NIS visa officers and other officials involved in the visa processes would be summoned to the country to explain why they issued a visa to the fugitive.

Assir was arrrested at the Beirut airport while on his way to Nigeria via Cairo, Egypt.

Findings indicate that visa applications are always addressed to the ambassador, who is the highest official in the embassy’s hierarchy.

Though consular officials are in charge of approving or rejecting visa applications, their operations are carried out on behalf of the ambassador who is responsible for the overall affairs of the mission.

The Federal Government had reportedly directed security agencies to investigate the lapses that enabled Assir to obtain a Nigerian visa.

Sources informed our correspondent that the planned summoning of the officers was part of the investigation ordered by the Federal Government.

Though the Nigerian embassy in Lebanon had denied culpability, saying the fugitive did not apply for visa and insisting that the Nigerian visa on Assir’s fake Palestinian passport was forged, it was learnt that the government was not convinced by the explanation.

“The government is not convinced by the explanation tendered by the embassy in Lebanon and that is why the security agencies had been directed to investigate the security lapses at the embassy; as it is, all the ranking officials would be summoned to explain their roles and defend their actions,” a source stated.

It was gathered that a probe panel headed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Bulus Lolo, had already quizzed many officers of the ministry as part of the probe.

A diplomatic brief had explained that Assir, who is of Palestinian extraction, had undergone surgery to alter his appearance so as to evade detection by security operatives.

He was accused of involvement in the death of 17 Lebanese soldiers and had been sentenced to death by a court in 2013.

The document further stated that the wanted terrorist had been using different aliases to evade arrest and that his current pseudonym was not on the watch list of the Lebanese security forces.

Assir had been using the fake name, Rami Abdul Rahman Taleb, to evade detection by security agencies in Lebanon until his arrest.

When contacted on Thursday, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ogbole Ahmedu-Ode, said there was no update on the investigation yet.

“Investigation is ongoing, there is no update for now,” he said over the telephone.

The NIS Public Relations Officer, Emeka Obua, could not be reached for comments on the roles of immigration visa officials in the saga as calls made to his phone failed to connect.