On February 4, 2020, the Federal Government announced the introduction of a New Visa policy (NVP 2020) applicable to expatriates seeking to visit or invest in the country as part of a wider reform ‘NIS boarder strategy, 2019 – 2023.’
In summary, the new Visa policy seeks to reform the existing Visa issuing process and guarantee easy access to immigration facilities by genuine visitors and foreign investors thereby removing the barriers that currently prevent investors, tourists and government delegations from visiting the country at short notice.
The Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture sees the new Visa policy as a welcome development worthy of commendation.
We concur with the opinion of the government that the policy holds enormous economic benefits to the nation as it is expected to attract innovation, specialized skills and expatriate knowledge to complement the local skills, improve the business environment, increase Foreign Direct Investment, boost tourism as well as support the attainment of globally competitive economy for Nigeria by consolidating the efforts of PEBEC if properly implemented.
However, we are greatly concerned about the ‘visa-on-arrival’ part of the policy as this may worsen the security challenges in the country if not properly handled. Although the Ministry of Interior assured that the process shall be operated under a highly automated system and applicant’s biometrics shall be linked to their online application, we are nevertheless concerned about the capacity of officers of the Nigerian Immigration Services, NIS to effectively manage the information on the data in a timely manner.
Secondly, since the practice entails that the applicant would have applied and cleared before arriving at the entry point for visa collection, there is a likelihood that within the intervening period of application for visa and the time of arrival for pick up of the visa, some attitudinal changes may have occurred, which may be difficult for the NIS officers to ascertain at that point of entry.
Furthermore, with the 79 different classes of visa in the new policy, Visa issuance may become more cumbersome as the conditions for each category shall surely vary. When an intending immigrant arrives at the airport, the NIS officers will have to determine his eligibility for the visa class applied for. Where this fails, Visa might be denied.
These days, immigrants with sinister motives (terrorists and fraudsters) have attained a high level of sophistication that requires advanced intelligence capabilities and high level of integrity on the part of those manning the entry points of any civilized country.
These officers should be ready to shun the allure of bribery which these ill-minded immigrants who will be desperate to access their destination and wreck havoc and untold suffering on the defenseless citizens resort to.
We therefore urge the Federal Government to further review the policy with regards to the ’visa-on-arrival’ strategy before full implementation given the level of insecurity in the country.
It is alleged that some of the insurgents/terrorists currently ravaging the country are mostly foreigners. It is of urgent importance that priority be given to the plugging of all loopholes to prevent exacerbation of the already precarious security situation nationwide.