The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, August 19, provided an update on the case of a radical preacher who tried to flee to Nigeria using a fake passport.
The news broke over the weekend when a fugitive terrorist, Ahmad al-Assir, who had been in hiding for two years, was detained in Lebanon while attempting to leave the country.
Nigerians were outraged by the fact that a criminal, tagged by some as an "ISIS leader" in Lebanon, had managed to receive a Nigerian visa. The presidency reportedly ordered an investigation into the matter.
Premium Times quotes the ministry's permanent secretary, Bulus Lolo, as saying that the process has already started and the Lebanese authorities have already been contacted on the matter.
"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."
In a separate development The Punch obtained a diplomatic report which indicates that al-Assir did not apply for the Nigerian embassy in Lebanon for a visa, which means the document could have been forged.
"Assir has been using the fake name, Rami Abdul Rahman Taleb, to evade detection by security agencies in Lebanon. He did not apply to the Nigerian embassy for visa, meaning that he must have forged the visa he had on his fake passport when he was arrested with his companion, Khaled Sidani, at the airport."
Meanwhile, the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, yesterday warned the public against linking Muhammadu Buhari with the controversy surrounding al-Assir.
The investigation ordered by the presidency is set to involve the National Intelligence Agency, the Defence Intelligence Agency and the office of the national security adviser.
A source told The Nation:
"As I talk to you, those at the nation’s embassy in Lebanon have been queried on how things went wrong. The embassy has been mandated to submit a comprehensive report to the federal government within 72 hours.
"The report is expected to cover how al-Assir applied for visa, the documents submitted, what he claimed as his mission to Nigeria, the procedure adopted in verifying his claims; whether or not there was any collaboration with security agencies in Nigeria; and the timeline for the issuance of the visa.
"The government is also interested if the ISIS chief was questioned on where he would stay in Nigeria, his host and the duration of his trip."
Another source added:
"Besides the report, the security agencies will also look into the list of those granted visa in the last few months to ascertain whether ISIS members had covertly applied.
"We are worried because Boko Haram has pledged loyalty to ISIS. And the botched trip of al-Assir is reawakening because it has confirmed Boko Haram’s claim."