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Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
With the official launch of the federal government’s new visa policy yesterday in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari, the president has disclosed that the document would propel Nigeria to attain a globally competitive economy, improve the country’s business environment and boost tourism.
Under the new policy, Africans willing to visit Nigeria without visa can now obtain visas on arrival at four entry ports excluding the land borders.
Tagged: “New Visa Policy,” the new document launched in the State House by Buhari in company with the Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mr. Mohammed Babandede, broadened the scope of visa obtainment in Nigeria from the hitherto existing six categories to 79.
Buhari had on December 11, 2019, announced in Egypt while attending Aswam Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development that Nigeria would soon launch a visa on arrival policy for Africans.
Speaking at the launch yesterday, Buhari said the document sought to complement federal government’s efforts towards protecting Nigeria’s national identity as well as the defence of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
He said the new policy was aimed at attracting innovation as well as specialised skills and knowledge to complement what is locally available, submitting that the document would propel Nigeria to attain a globally competitive economy, improve the country’s business environment and boost tourism.
According to him, the new policy also provides the platform to achieve what he described as African integration without compromising national security.
“The Nigeria Visa Policy 2020 is intended to attract innovation, specialised skills and knowledge from abroad to complement locally available ones.
“I am confident that the implementation of the Nigeria Visa Policy 2020, will support the attainment of a globally competitive economy for Nigeria by building on the efforts of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council. The policy is expected to improve the business environment, attract Foreign Direct Investment and boost tourism without compromising national security.
“This Nigeria Visa Policy 2020 provides an avenue to achieve African integration by the introduction of visas on arrival for short visits to Nigeria for holders of passports of African Union countries,” Buhari said.
Briefing journalists after the launch, Aregbesola said the visa on arrival policy could only be obtained in four international airports in the country, listing them as the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Aminu Kano International Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport.
Aregbesola echoed Buhari that the new policy would not by any means compromise national security because the package is made up of adequate measures aimed at checkmating violations and abuse.
“The implementation of the NVP2020 will not compromise national security as adequate measures have been provided both before and after entry into Nigeria,” he said.
According to the minister, the new policy comprises special offers to Nigerians in Diaspora with dual citizenships.
“The NVP 2020 introduces special visas for Nigerians in diaspora who either by birth, marriage or naturalisation, have assumed dual citizenship. Such category of Nigerians will now be able to make use of the passports of their adopted countries to visit Nigeria without the need for short stay visa,” he said.
Aregbesola added that although there were three initial visa classifications, which he enumerated as short visit, temporary and permanent visa categories, these categories were later increased to six classifications, adding that the six categories have now been raised to 79 to address every aspect of human needs from entry to exit.
He explained that the process has been digitised in a way that the involvement of human elements in the process is drastically reduced as applications and payments will be made online, adding that there will be no encounter with any man until the beneficiary eventually arrives at the immigration desk.
Aregbesola further explained that the visa categories were expanded to 79 groups because Nigeria wants to be detailed with enhanced security, pointing out that if anyone beats a security watch at one point, he will be caught at the other end.
“Why 79 classes of visa from six? The reason is simple. We want to be detailed in the classifications of people who we have to bring into our country so as to limit the chances of any of them escaping our watch.
“Secondly, it is to expand our economy. Let me give you an example. I won’t mention a name. A university wrote me as the Minister (of Interior) to request for a specific number of visa allocation so as to enhance the number of students coming to that institutions,” he said.
According to him, the 79 categories cover various spheres of activities which include: visa to boost economy, visa for education for students, visa for religious tourism, medical tourism visa, journalist visa, among others.
Asked what measures have been put in place to curtail the abuse of the new visa policy through the land borders, Aregbesola who said in line with ECOWAS treaty, there is free movement among member states, was swift to add that any West African citizen entering through the land borders must possess the usual valid travel documents. He added however, that such arrangement is only applicable for people paying a short visit to the country.
Also speaking, Babandede said the new policy was conceived to address the Nigerian experience in line with the traditions of nations to handle issues on visa in accordance with their needs, insisting that the new policy cannot compromise national security.
He also explained that the biometrics of every beneficiary of the new visa on arrival policy would be taken at the port of entry with the five fingers which he said would make it easy for such an individual to be tracked by the INTERPOL.
According to the NIS Comptroller-General, once the biometrics are taken, affected persons can be monitored every 24 hours, adding: “everything about you is exposed. There is no way Nigerian security can be compromised.”
Under the new policy, the federal government introduced a multiple-entry, multi-year visa for Nigerians by birth who had to renounce their citizenship.
According to a tweet by the Special Assistant on Digital/New Media to President Buhari, Mr. Tolu Ogunlesi, the visa is available to people who renounced their Nigerian status to become citizens of other countries.
Journalists, entertainers and sportsmen wishing to visit Nigeria will now also get single-entry, short-visit visas.
“If you’re a Nigerian by birth but have had to give up your citizenship because your new country doesn’t allow dual citizenship (China, Israel, India, etc), you are now eligible to get a multi-year, multiple entry visa that allows you to visit Nigeria easily,” Ogunlesi tweeted.
“Israelis by birth can acquire dual citizenships but people acquiring Israeli citizenship by naturalisation – which is what would apply to a Nigerian who acquires Israeli citizenship – must first renounce their original citizenship.
“Nigeria today launched special Short Visa classes (single entry) for the following categories of people: journalists, clerics, sportspeople, artists/entertainers/musicians, religious tourists, humanitarian workers, etc.”