Seven months ago, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS
) announced the introduction of a liberalised online Visa on Arrival (VOA) facility to the public, especially foreign investors willing to invest in Nigeria.
This was part of the activities to be carried out for the implementation of the executive order as directed by Yemi Osinbajo, the vice President of Nigeria, who was then the acting president of Nigeria.
Muhammad Babandede, the Comptroller-General of the NIS, said that the measure was part of the resolution of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) aimed at attracting foreign investors to the country.
“As a critical member of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), the NIS has automated its visa application and processing services at all entry points. This is to ensure that all genuine requests for Visa on Arrival facility from any part of the world are processed and issued within 48 hours (two working days),” he said.
Since this policy was announced, many investors expressed mixed feelings. While some expressed their excitement and appreciation to the government for having thought out such policy to ease business transactions in Nigeria, others just accepted this with a pinch of salt considering other failed pronouncements that never saw the light of day.
However, after the announcement, investors earnestly waited to see if implementation was going to kick off immediately as promised by the government. Against all odds, things started falling in place.
The NIS immediately kicked into action. Investors were told the requirements to get their visas on arrival.
Investors needed to have passport valid for at least 6 months, duly completed visa application form online, two recent passport photographs, a Letter of invitation from a company/host in Nigeria accepting immigration responsibility, evidence of online payment for visa fee.
The NIS reiterated that only applicants with the above requirements would be allowed entrance into Nigeria following further interview at the various airports of arrivals.
The World Bank Doing Business team confirmed that indeed the policy works.
The World Bank’s 2018 Ease of doing Business index released Tuesday. October 31 showed that Nigeria implemented five reforms, the second highest in the period. One of the reforms was the successful implementation of the visa on arrival policy which bolstered one of the sub-indexes tracked by the World Bank-“The Entry and Exit of People.”
A visit by BusinessDay to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) few weeks back showed that the policy is indeed living the talk. As investors queued with their documents, the NIS officials looked through their systems to ensure coherence with the papers presented by the investors. Once the investors were cleared, they were automatically issued their visas.
An investor who craved anonymity told BusinessDay that he was pleased with the development and he hopes this will be sustained.
“When I heard about the initiative, I was a bit sceptical it will be effective. However, after going through the required processes, I was amazed that I didn’t spend more than two hours at airport before my visa was issued to me. I am really grateful to the Nigerian government for making businesses seamless for us through this progress,” the investor said.
“I believe the acting president did not want businessmen coming into the country to have to go through stress before they are given visas so he gave the relevant authorities matching orders and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had to swing into action.
“Now, once businessmen come into the country, as soon they access the immigration, they will see the visa on arrival cubicle. All they need to do is to go in there and provide the needed documents and within some minutes, they are issued their visas,” another investor told BusinessDay at the airport.
The domestic airlines operating in Nigeria who often need expatriates and engineers from various countries to conduct checks on their airplanes in Nigeria are also benefiting from this new regime.
Obi Mbanuzuo is the Accountable Manager and Chief Operating Officer, Dana Airlines
and Allen Onyema, Chairman and CEO of Air Peace
, commended the federal government for its implementation of the Visa on arrival. They say, since it was made effective, business has been seamless with regards to bringing in expatriates to conduct checks and maintenance.
Babandede explained that the online VOA application and processing facility is a product of robust visa reforms regime intended to bring Nigeria in tandem with global best practices and attract Foreign Direct Investors and skilled professionals into the country.
The controller-general said that the new process was designed to eliminate all unnecessary bureaucratic visa processing procedures in Nigerian Missions abroad.
He said it was also to serve the interests of would-be visitors from countries where Nigeria does not have a Mission, adding that a dedicated e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
had been deployed where visa applicants, their representatives or companies could forward their requests and details.
Muhammad Babandede said that applicants are advised to use functional e-mail addresses where copies of approval letter shall be forwarded upon a successful process and payment.
“Applicants are, however, to note that successful payment online is not an approval and should not proceed to Nigeria until you have received “Visa on Arrival Approval letter” duly issued by the NIS Headquarters, Abuja,” he added.
However, investors still identify a challenge with regards to pricing, compared to other African countries.
BusinessDay’s checks show that the price of visa for Addis Ababa cost between 30 to 50 dollars. The price of Kigali visa also cost 50 dollars but the Nigerian visa cost is 250 dollars.