FG to consider principle of reciprocity in issuance of visas to foreigners – Minister


By Abiodun OBA


The Federal Government is to strike a balance on the principle of reciprocity in issuance of visas to foreigners seeking to enter the country without losing the economic value.

Minister of Interior Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, disclosed whilespeaking at a stakeholders’ consultative meeting on Nigeria Visa Policy on Saturday in Abuja.

Tunji-Ojo who said there was urgent need to remove all the bottlenecks which have continued to encumber access to the country by foreign investors and tourists alike, noted that government would leverage technology to automate the visa application process to reduce the duration for vetting and approval as it is with the analogue process.

He observed that for people coming into the country for a short stay for tourism using short-stay visas, there was no reason anybody should wait for more than 72 hours to get a Nigerian visa.

The Minister maintained that the essence of technology is to be a catalyst and to enhance efficiency.

He informed the stakeholders that the Ministry had already prepared a workflow that would be presented for critique and input to have a near-perfect solution that would make Nigeria succeed.

Tunji-Ojo commended all the stakeholders for sacrificing their weekend for the crucial national service, recalling that even on January 1, the Ministry was at work to ensure that it delivered on a national assignment.

He noted that the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was about ease of doing business, reshaping the nation’s borders for inclusivity and economic growth without compromising national security.

The Minister acknowledged that the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is the lead agency in border security and control, noting however, that the Service could not do the job in isolation of other critical stakeholders, hence the crucial consultative stakeholders meeting organised by the Ministry.

Tunji-Ojo said: “We sat down and analyse the countries with the highest growth rate in terms of (Gross Domestic Product) GDP and per capita income and realized that these are countries that have revolutionalised their visa and immigration policy.

“You look at United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and couple of other places. Capital in the world is limited and all the countries in the world are fighting for it. So, you cannot make access to your country too difficult than it should be.

“I have seen people from top mighty, the seemingly vulnerable in our society, give me a call just to demand favour to acquire visa. That is not how it should be, I think these are basic things that should be simplified, coming to Nigeria for tourism, this a beautiful country, the biggest black nation on earth, should not be unnecessarily difficult.

“This a country with enormous potential. We have the cultural attractions to attract people. We have investment climate that is attractive to any investor in the world and we have all it takes to attract the best of people in the world.

“If we spend all efforts in trying to bring people to come and invest in Nigeria and when we make it impossible for them to have simple access, it becomes a problem. If we want to grow as a country, we must demystify the bottlenecks and that is the reason why the Ministry of Interior decided that it is time to act now. We must solve this problem.

“We understand that visa entry permit is the responsibility of the Nigeria Immigration Service as stated in NIS Act 2015. But we can’t work in isolation, we can’t work alone, Foreign Affairs are critical partners to what we want to do. Our vision must align for us to get the result that we want to get.

“Ministry of Trade and Investment is key for investment promotion, we need to provide access for them come and invest in the country. So, Trade and Investment has a major role to play in this deliberation and of course Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) was set to actualize the ease of doing business in Nigeria,” he stated.

He noted that the ministry decided to call the meeting to be able to look at the nation’s visa categories and compare them to other countries which are doing fantastically well and are able to double their GDP and performing so well in terms of their per capita income.

While expressing concern about huge graduate unemployment in Nigeria, the Minister noted that unless the country attracts foreign direct investment, there would be no way to create jobs for the teeming youths across the country.

He stressed that the country’s population is increasing and that the least to do for the generations coming is to simplify the investment climate and create access to the country without compromising national security.

According to him, Nigeria is a beautiful country and the things people go to Asian countries and so many parts of the world to see are all here in abundance, noting however that nobody wants to struggle to go where to spend his or her money.

Tunji-Ojo said spending money is a enough sacrifice and struggling to get access to spend the money creates the state of double jeopardy, maintaining that the current administration would not all such situation to continue.

“The vetting process of our visa application process as I have always said, this is 2024, this is not 1984, technology has to play a major role. And of course, there must be synergy between all partners. That we issue visas does not mean other people do not have one or two roles to play.

“We must identify the roles of all stakeholders, automate the process, bring in technology, and make sure that there is real-time solution to real-time problems. You cannot keep proffering long solutions to digital problems and expect to be efficient.

“Also, the way we manage irregular immigrants is something to also talk about because it is very key to what we intend to achieve. There is a while lot of confusion at the point of entry- land borders, air, and sea borders. Looking at the while application process, the back-end and front-end and the whole  solution,” he said.


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