Demola Ojo in Cape Town
Nigerians living in South Africa in need of new passports can get them within 48 hours, according to the Nigeriaâ€™s Consul General to South Africa, Godwin Adama. South Africans who need visas to visit Nigeria can also get them within the same time frame.
Adama revealed this in Cape Town recently when WESGRO – the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape – hosted a business to business meeting as part of the activities of the Nigeria – South Africa Chamber of Commerce. The Lagos-based Chamber was in South Africa for a week to help promote trade relations between Africaâ€™s two largest economies.
According to Adama who assumed office a year ago, â€œOne of the issues before now was passports. When I came, I discovered that several Nigerians were agitated and this could lead to conflict because they apply for passports and the application will stay for two to three months without hope of getting the passport.â€
However, improved consular services at the Nigerian mission in Johannesburg have led to greatly improved relations between both countries.
â€œI can assure you now that a Nigerian that captures biometrics for a passport gets it in 48 hours latest. Those who come from outside Johannesburg get it and go back immediately. This is how it has been for the past six months and it will be sustained. What I did was to make sure that I have enough booklets from Nigeria to serve their purpose and it is working well.â€
On the issue of visa for those who want to visit Nigeria, Adama said, â€œAbout three months ago, we rolled out our biometric visa capturing processes in Johannesburg because it is more efficient, information is better documented and it helps in security. We are one of the few countries today that do biometric capturing for visa processing.
â€œIt has enabled us deliver visa faster to South Africans and other foreigners here who want to visit Nigeria. We capture and issue visas within 48 hours except there are local objections.â€
He explained steps taken to ensure seamless travel and trade between both countries. â€œWe go about meeting would-be visitors and potential investors in strategic gatherings across the country to intimate them that the visa processing is improved now. Some do not know because they use agents, and these agents are business people who make it difficult to the would-be visitors just to make them pay more.
â€œWith the system on ground, travellers need no longer use agents because they must visit the consulate to have their biometrics captured or no visa. It is longer business as usual,â€ he asserted.
He revealed that the recent recession in South Africa had affected trade and the number of visa applications from South Africans but that things have improved now and visa applications have increased alongside the South African economy bouncing back.
The Chamber of Commerce delegation from Nigeria which had about two dozen members was led by Chairman Phillips Consulting, Foluso Phillips. Businessmen across different sectors from banking to real estate as well as legal practitioners were in the team.
Representation from the Nigerian government came in form of Director of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, Adeshina Emmanuel, while Ogun State also sent a delegation across different ministries in the state led by Special Adviser to the Governor on Commerce and Industry, Funmi Ajayi.