Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered Monday ex-public officials to immediately surrender diplomatic passports issued to them while they were in office. The Nigeria Immigration Service said the documents were revoked from a slew of former governors, ministers, senators, commissioners, National Assembly members, special advisers and assistants, local government chairmen and all retired public servants and heads of parastatals, according to local media reports.
“These categories of persons are hereby informed that these passports which were previously held by them have been revoked and should return them to the Nigeria Immigration Service headquarters [in] Sauka Abuja with immediate effect,” Comptroller General Martin Abeshi said in a statement Monday, according to Nigeria’s Premium Times. “Failure to comply with this directive will amount to an offense under the Immigration Act 2015. Such unauthorized possession will be impounded at our control posts on arrival or departure.”
The measure followed a previous directive on Aug. 24, in which Buhari ordered the Nigeria Immigration Service to retrieve all valid official and diplomatic passports from ex-government officials who were no longer entitled to possess such documents, which make it easier to acquire visas.
“The attention of the federal government has been drawn to the fact that some Nigerians who are not entitled to hold diplomatic and official passports are in possession of these documents,” Federal Ministry of Interior spokesman Yusuf Isiaka said at the time, according to Premium Times.
The action was intended to protect and uphold Nigeria’s global integrity and ensure law and order after an extremist Lebanese Muslim cleric mysteriously obtained a valid visa to visit the West African country. Ahmed al-Assir was arrested Aug. 15 by authorities in Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport while trying to flee to Nigeria via Cairo with a forged Palestinian passport and a legitimate Nigerian visa. Buhari, who was reportedly “furious” over the incident, ordered his Foreign Ministry to investigate how a visa was issued to the suspected terrorist, who was on the run for more than two years, according to Vanguard.
“The reported arrest of the wanted terrorist is a huge embarrassment to Nigeria, and the president has directed that the matter should be investigated,” a Foreign Ministry official told the Nigerian newspaper on Aug. 18. “We are amazed that such a high-profile terrorist would evade our radar. This is a major breach that cannot be allowed to go without investigation.”