Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday unveiled new visa policy with 79 visa classifications.
This comes amid news that five international airports with sufficient technology and devices that will make it impossible for persons with threats to pass through, have been approved as the only ports of entry where visa on arrival can be obtained.
The four functional airports for now are – Aminu Kano International Airport, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Port Harcourt Airport and Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
President Buhari said the Nigeria Visa Policy (NVP) 2020 is intended to attract innovation, specialized skills and knowledge from abroad to complement local capacity.
The document is a revised version.
The revised policy is a follow up to 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.
President Buhari said the review of the visa policy is intended to attract innovation, specialised skills and knowledge from abroad to complement local ones.
He added that the new policy is to also enhance business opportunities and achieve African integration through the visas on arrival for holders of passports of African Union countries.
There are 79 visa classifications in the revised policy, one of which is the Visa on arrival.
The new policy favours Africans with a valid passport who wish to come into the country for a short visit, for businesses and for tourism, as they are granted 90 days legal stay.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, explained that this will enhance visa policy by Nigeria, coming on the back of signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a treaty seeking to establish a continent-wide marketplace with increased trade and freer movement among its major economic powers.
Aregbesola stated that the visa programme is cardinal to the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria.
He said: “The new visa regime is expected to boost economic activities in the areas of tourism, aviation, entertainment, commerce and other areas where Nigeria has comparative advantage over other African countries. It also presents Nigeria with the opportunity to apply the principle of reciprocity with her visa policy in the nation’s bilateral and multilateral relations.
“The NVP 2020 introduces special visas for Nigerians in diaspora who either by birth, marriage or nationalization 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.”
Speaking to State House Correspondents on why the classes of visas moved from six to 79, the minister said: “Why 79 classes of visa from six, the reason is simple, 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. Let me give you an example, I won’t mention the name. A university wrote me as the minister to request for a specific number of visa allocation so as to enhance the number of students coming to that institution. Others would not even know how to handle such request. And for every foreign student you have, it’s a boost to our economy because they are not going to pay in naira, they will pay in foreign currency. And you know for every dollar you earn is a boost to Nigerian currency, economy and our reserve. So, we now have a specified visa for education.
“For religious tourism, we know and I won’t mention name, that they are people who come into this country purely for spiritual matters, we can’t deny it because it exists. There are people who come to simply go to OPA-Oranmiyan in Ife, Obara Gida Well in Daura, we want to be sure that such people are captured separately so as to monitor them and ensure that there is no risk attached and there is no threats to our security.
“I said earlier that there are three categories of visa, is either you are temporary visitor or a temporary resident or you are a permanent resident. That is the broadly three. But before now we broke those three to six but now looking at the vagaries of activities of our requirement, we split the six to 79 classes that will meet human endeavours and requirement in their visits.
“He (CG Immigration) mentioned something that they are people who just come here to buy both finished and raw materials like sesame seeds, for short visit you give them specific visa for such purpose. We can identify them on our system and through that we can monitor them.”
Speaking in concerns on the number of foreigners in the country, Aregbesola said: “On security and existence of non Nigerians around, let me remind you all that there is ECOWAS treaty which allows all ECOWAS citizens with valid travel documents to come to Nigeria and stay for short period of time. So to say we are not up to our responsibility in managing them might not be really honest. And don’t forget for the past six months, there was moratorium, an amnesty given to all foreigners to register themselves. The amnesty ended 12th of last month and we are still registering anyway, that is to tell you that for ECOWAS citizens, the treaty allows them to be here for a specified period of time.
“What we did not say is that the only port of entry where visa on arrival can be obtained is at the five airports. One is not functional, four are functional. For emphasis the airports that are functional are Aminu Kano International Airport, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Port Harcourt Airport, Murtala Mohammed International Airports because we have provided in those airports sufficient technology and devices that will make it impossible for whoever posses any threat to our nation from coming in.”
On his part, 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.”