Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, unveiled a new visa policy for Nigeria, with 79 visa classifications.
The President also said five international airports with sufficient technology and devices that make it impossible for persons who are threats to pass through had been approved and designated as the ports of entry where visa on arrival could be obtained.
He listed four of the functional airports as Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt; and Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. The Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu, is, however, under rehabilitation.
President Buhari said the Nigeria Visa Policy (NVP) 2020, which is a revised version of the country’s visa policy, is intended to attract innovation, specialised skills and knowledge from abroad to complement local capacity. There are 79 visa classifications in the revised policy, one of which is the visa-on-arrival.
The policy is a follow-up on Buhari’s pronouncements in November 2019 that a new policy of visas on arrival would be granted to all African travellers, starting from January 2020. He said the policy would also enhance business opportunities and achieve African integration.
The new policy favours Africans with valid passports who wish to visit Nigeria for businesses and tourism as they are granted 90 days legal stay.
Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, explained that this would boost the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a treaty seeking to establish a continent-wide marketplace with increased trade and freer movement among member states.
Aregbesola also said the visa programme was cardinal to the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria.
Aregbesola explained why the classes of visas moved from six to 79: “We want to be very detailed in the classification of people who we have to bring into our country so as to limit the chances of any one of them escaping our watch. It is to enhance security, that is the number one consideration. Secondly, it is to expand our economy.”
Comptroller General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandelde, explained that all classes have procedures that will be strictly adhered to.
He said: “First it is important for you to know that there are procedures for entry and stay for different categories of persons and there are up to five for Nigeria.
“First class is ECOWAS citizens, ECOWAS citizens can enter without visa but there is a condition, they must enter through an approved and recognised ports of entry and with a travel document. On arrival, their document will be endorsed for 90 days, that is why we say they cannot enter in the night but from 6am to 6pm. “Second category are African citizens with African passport, from any part of the world, you can travel to Abuja for example and you will be issued visa at the port of entry. We have explained that visa at point of entry is stronger than those you get at the missions because, we have only 18 biometric issuing centers in the world.
“The third category are frequent business travelers. When you log into our website, when you click on visa on arrival, you will see only one opportunity, African or business traveler. If you are a business traveler you will click and upload your letter of invitation, pay, complete the application online and submit. We will look at it and send you an approval email, on arrival at the airport you will be issued your visa.
“The fourth category are those who want to take residence either temporary or long term, you have to go to the embassy to get the visa.”
On the complains about the number of foreigners in Nigeria, Babandelde said: “I want you to consider the number of Nigerians outside also. Nigeria must export its labour in the next decade, we are going to be the most populous nation in the world. If you know the number of Nigerians in other ECOWAS countries and the business the control, you will not develop hatred for migrants. As long as they live legally and do their jobs correctly, we should consider there are Nigerians elsewhere, it is important for us to know this.”