Following concerns raised by stakeholders that Nigeria’s visa-on-arrival policy is different from that of other countries, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has said Nigeria’s model targets to curb insecurity and boost foreign investments.
Stakeholders in the aviation industry have called on the NIS to fully implement the policy on visa on arrival as it is done in other countries with similar programme.
The stakeholders told THISDAY in separate interviews that visa on arrival is a system in which travellers without prior notice, arrive at the airport with their passports and are given visa after documentation, if they are qualified.
According to them, visa on arrival is different from the system currently being implemented by NIS, where prospective visa applicants apply online and get approval before they are given visa on arrival, saying the NIS’ model is e-visa and not visa on arrival.
But spokesman of NIS, Mr. Sunday James, told THISDAY that applicants for Nigerian visa have to apply from their homes, stressing that approval must be given by the Comptroller General of the NIS, Mr. Mohammed Babandede, before the applicant is allowed into Nigeria.
“That type of visa is meant for businessmen who want to invest or do business in Nigeria. So, we expect to see the Certificate of Incorporation of the company that will say that it is responsible for the applicant’s visit. We must profile him to ensure that there is no security risk,” he explained.
He added that visa is a permit that allows visitors to travel and also a means of control and the issuance is discretionary.
“Nations issue visa, knowing the implication. Depending on diplomatic relationship; there could be adjustments on the condition of visa issuance. We also consider security seriously. We must know the applicants security status. So visa is a means of control. We are doing the right thing because our rating is high in the African Visa Openness Index compiled by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“So we control people while outside the country and when they come to the country. So we have to control them before they come into the country,” he stated.
On the number of foreigners who have benefited from the visa policy, he said in the first quarter of 2019, NIS issued 7,789 visas.
In the second quarter, it issued 22, 791; in the third quarter, 27, 060 and fourth quarter, 5, 611 visas.
The President of National Association of Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard, in his reaction to the visa-on-arrival policy, said Nigeria should not open its borders unrestrained for people because it would become difficult to control the influx.
Details released by the NIS showed that the visa on arrival is available to frequently travelled, high networth investors with business interest in Nigeria and citizens of African countries.
For African nationals to apply for a visa, they need to visit the NIS portal and follow the instructions after selecting the option, ‘Visa on Arrival’.
But the Chairman of Quits Aviation, a business jet terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Mr. Sam Iwuakoju, told THISDAY that the visa-on-arrival policy should be implemented in Nigeria without any pre-arrival process as is done in other countries since President Muhammadu Buhari had approved it.
He spoke to THISDAY on the benefits of visa on arrival, saying it would boost government’s revenue, enhance tourism, and increase passenger traffic to Nigeria, which would make Lagos airport the hub in West Africa.
He also added that Nigeria as the entertainment capital of Africa and the home of Nollywood would be visited by hundreds of Africans if visa process is made easier.
“Visa on arrival will be highly beneficial to our country and the economy. Other countries that are not up to Nigeria are doing visa on arrival. These include countries like Ghana, which is our neighbour, Kenya, Uganda, Seychelles and Rwanda. Also Mozambique and Ethiopia are operating visa on arrival. For Nigeria to do visa on arrival properly, there should be no pre-arrival process from Abuja. That is not proper visa on arrival but e-visa,” he stated.
Iwuajoku said Ethiopia economy grew by 30 per cent after the adoption of visa on arrival.
According to him, what NIS erroneously referred to as visa on arrival, is e-visa, which it adopted from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), noting that many Africans who want to come to Nigeria, encouraged by the promise made by the president, would be disenfranchised.
On his part, travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Mr. Ikechi Uko, told THISDAY in Lagos that visa on arrival would provide the trajectory for tourism industry in Nigeria.
He said to overcome security fears, government should limit visa on arrival to the five international airports in the country.
“To overcome security fears, government can insist that visa on arrival can only be obtained at the five international airports in the country. So if anyone wants to benefit from the policy, he will travel by air. This will enable concerned security operatives and immigration to comprehensively screen those that will benefit from the policy,” Uko said.