Rigid Visa Processes

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Recently, Nigeria introduced visa on arrival policy, whereby a foreigner can obtain visa on arrival in Nigerian. But the conditions given for a foreigner to obtain visa on arrival is still very rigid, according to industry observers.

Nigerian Immigration source told THISDAY that over the years, Nigerian government talked glibly about tourism but it has not put in place policies and incentives that would promote tourism and there seems also not been efforts by the federal government to support states of private organisations that promote and develop tourist sites or tourist attractions in various parts of the country.

Until recently that Nigeria started looking frantically for alternative sources of foreign exchange after the protracted low prices of crude and now looking in the way of tourism and agriculture as source of foreign exchange, the country is still very conservative about the liberalisation of visa process like in many other countries that are promoting tourism and encouraging visitors from other parts of the world.

Ironically, many people from neighbouring countries and other parts of the continent troop into Nigeria on a daily basis through the nation’s porous borders, while valuable visitors that could bring in the highly sought after foreign currencies are restrained with rigid visa regulations.

But recently, the Nigeria Immigration Service issued a statement stating that it has introduced visa on arrival policy and in practice the policy has started working. Last year, during the Calabar Carnival, many visitors from outside the country benefited from that policy, but it had to be anchored on one of the organisers, so an individual could not have travelled to Nigeria and followed the given process to obtain such visa, except through that organisers.

An Immigration source told THISDAY on Tuesday explained how visa on arrival is done: “If you are expecting somebody you apply to the Controller General of Immigration who will approve and with the approval the person would be given visa when he arrives.

“The visa on arrival is given to those, including investors who live very far from our embassies and visa fee is paid according to your nationality. The process and issuance of visa is determined by our country’s foreign policy. I must say that we were never interested in tourism despite our mouthing such words everyday because we were engrossed in oil. So you cannot compare our visa policy with that of Rwanda, Kenya or United Arab Emirates. We depended on oil so much. However, we would say that we make the obtaining of Nigerian visa very rigid because of security but the truth is that we were never interested in people coming to our country before because we were making money from oil.

Recently, the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede called on foreign investors to take advantage of the Visa-at-port-of-entry facility otherwise known as Visa-on-arrival to do business in Nigeria. He said that the facility, which is presently issued at the nation’s international airports, was introduced by the federal government as part of the measures to encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

“Speaking further on the issue, the Immigration boss also said that “in order to encourage ease of doing business in Nigeria the Immigration Act 2015 has given the CGI the powers to issue such visas to investors, frequently travelled business persons of international repute, executive directors of multinational companies, members of Government delegations as well as holders of UN, AU and ECOWAS Laissez-Passer.”

“The Act also empowers him to issue Permanent Residence Visas to foreign nationals who are married to Nigerians and to foreign investors who have imported an annual minimum threshold of capital over a period of time,” the statement said.

Another official of the Nigeria Immigration Service told THISDAY that Nigeria is yet to reap the benefits of the numerous tourist sites located at different parts of the country because visa process is very cumbersome.

“I can tell you that obtaining Nigeria’s visa overseas is very cumbersome; although the policy is usually reciprocal but from the reports we get from our different embassies in the world, our people just make it difficult to obtain our visa. I can tell you that even if our foreign policy changes they will hardly effect it. We need re-orientation in our country. We should think less about what we can get for ourselves and think about our country.

Travel expert, IkechiUko observed that Rwand Air has become the fourth African airline in just 10 years of its existence because of the support it is receiving from the country’s government, which include the ease of obtaining visa on arrival, a policy which encourages people to travel to such country.

Recently Africa’s richest man, AlhajiAlikoDangote had complained about the difficulty in obtaining visa from some countries in Africa, including those who wished to come and invest in those countries. Dangote noted that it is one of the factors that discourage investment in Africa.

It is believed that if Nigeria establishes another national carrier it would not have other choices than to make it easier for travellers from other countries to obtain Nigerian visa if government wants the new carrier to be competitive. Even now such a policy would help existing Nigerian airlines to connect passengers from non West African countries through Lagos and Abuja to long haul destinations. So in its bid to have other sources to obtain foreign exchange, Nigeria should boost tourism by further easing the process of obtaining Nigerian visa; not just to change the laws, but also to ensure that the new policy is implemented.