By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has launched a new Nigerian Visa Policy (NVP) by upgrading visa classes from six to seventy-nine
This policy, according to the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who briefed newsmen after the launch in the Villa, was launched on the heels of the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA), a treaty seeking to establish a continent-wide marketplace with increased trade and freer movement among its major economic powers.
The minister said, “The objective of the reforms that have birthed NVP 2020 is to strengthen Nigeria’s position as a key economy in Africa by attracting more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country’s economy which would in turn provide jobs for the people and lift Nigeria’s teeming population out of poverty in line with the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari to take 100million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.
NVP 2020 is also designed to support the attainment of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017 -2020) and is a pathway to achieving the Security, Economy and Transparency (SET) Agenda of Buhari’s administration.”
He added that the new visa regime was 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”, he said.
Aregbesola gave the assurance that the new policy would not be abused by the officials of the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) as adequate precautions had been taken to ensure near zero human contact in its process.
The minister also assured that the new visa policy will not in any way compromise national security because adequate control measures have been put in place to monitor immigrants.
He added that the implementation of the NVP 2020 will require collaboration with several Ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) involved in diplomacy, trade, investment, education, tourism, manufacturing, monetary policies, security, intelligence and many more
Some of the features of NVP 2020 include Visa 0n Arrival for African Union nationals, increase in the classes of visas from 6 to 79, creation of visa codes for all classes of visa and introduction of e-visas, he disclosed.
On the benefits accruable from the policy, the minister said it will afford the nation of a good opportunity to be a major consideration for investment in Atria and hosting of international events, particularly the ones scheduled to hold in Africa.
He also said that it will also serve as a major boost for Nigeria’s aviation, entertainment and tourism industries just as it is expected to take Nigeria some steps up in the African Visa Openness Report published annually by African Development Bank (AfDB) which would be a further boost on the global Ease 0f Doing Business league table.
Responding to complaints on the huge number of foreigners in the country, the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Muhammed Babandede, who also briefed newsmen, 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 they 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.”