Wednesday, 4th October 2023

Visa on arrival policy: Imperatives of reciprocity

By Ogbonnaya Stephen
06 April 2023   |   3:02 am
Nigeria Immigration Service Comptroller General Mr Idris Jere patiently informed that in order to attract investors to Nigeria soil, the Nigeria government have considered some developed countries for their nationals to enjoy the Visa On Arrival (VOA) privilege into Nigeria.

Nigeria Immigration Service Comptroller General, Mr Idris Jere

Nigeria Immigration Service Comptroller General Mr Idris Jere patiently informed that in order to attract investors to Nigeria soil, the Nigeria government have considered some developed countries for their nationals to enjoy the Visa On Arrival (VOA) privilege into Nigeria.

Although it is not on public domain, this lopsided practice has been in effect for a while now. There are not a few Nigerians who travel to China, for example, strictly for business purposes and they contribute tremendously to the economic and financial welfare of the country, without dispute.

China GDP is sound because the participation of Nigeria business community is found among others. If you don’t appreciate your worth, there is every tendency that others will trample on you. And what you are willing to do for yourself may no one else attempt to do for you. Do it yourself sounds very instructive here.

There is no diligent international investor who really seeks return on investment (ROI) and whose inherent business acumen capacity will not compel to look the way of Nigeria soil – a 200 million population of meagre production status and voracious consumption land. They cannot afford to be this dumb. Ask the likes of MTN – the South African Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) giant company; ask Shoprite – again the South African retail conglomerate in the distributive chains; ask Uber – a San Francisco California USA corporate taxi hiring company… Y

our findings of their individual overwhelming testimonials will only provide you the tip of the iceberg of what Nigeria offers to foreign investors who painstakingly have discovered Nigeria. Unfortunately, our political leaders seem to be entirely oblivious of this awesome and enviable status of Nigeria in the comity of nations. Compare and contrast these attractive qualities that Nigeria possess with other African nations, you will be amazed what clear difference there is.

It is, therefore, a reprehensible policy that Nigeria political leaders disregard their value, sold it for a penny and then shortly will expect certain privileged treatment to either as a nation or individual citizens. Nobody will antagonize the extension of friendly policy to developed countries such as the USA, China, UK, Germany, Australia, and France, but it is absolutely not asking for too much if the alternate reciprocal flow is allowed to complete.

In fact, except for the unscrupulous elements whose purpose of travelling is not clear, questionable or clearly illegitimate, the VOA practice ought to have been widely applied to every nation that brings values to the tables. Again, it must be highlighted, the enormous revenue generated by way of visa fees by any nation that has found this a clandestine means of raking capitals.

The painful aspect of this is that some of the countries that have been into this yet uncheckmated, charge non-refundable visa money even when they disapprove an applicant’s visa. They have a template alibi – you are not considered eligible. Unfortunately, not every country embassy in Nigeria gives you this ‘right to protest.’

I will strongly suggest to Nigeria government to quickly reconsider or review this VOA policy with the intent on insisting that equity and reciprocity is invoked and observed, forthwith. It is rather irksome, pugnacious and indeed humiliating to an average Nigerian business person to be subjected to the rigorous visa application processes at the same countries whose nationals enjoy Nigeria VOA. Before they can be considered, sometimes lengthy period of time elapse. Nigerians go through hell to go to China, for instance, even though a large percentage of them go there to import goods running into millions of dollars. This is quite a paradox, an incomprehensible thing to any right-thinking person. Hundreds of dollars are paid to secure letters of invitation, and including a certain coded letter from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the provision of these do not yet guarantee expedited processing or ultimate application approval.

It only amounts to crass insouciance and sheer callousness on the side of Nigeria government to the plight of the citizens in this regard that while their good people are subjected to stringent conditions as visa requirements and are treated with levity and snobbery, they throw a lavishing banquet for the same countries that maltreat their people. All that Chinese and USA nationals need do is to book flights and inform Nigeria embassy 48 hours to the flight date, then get visa upon arrival in Nigeria. What a heck!

If proper evaluation is done on what contributions to individual nations are accomplished benefiting the host state by the visiting nationals of each county, the result will definitely shock the naysayers. Nigerians are excellent performers in all fields of endeavour the world over. This does not mean that there are no bad eggs amongst us, but it amounts to inequity and partiality when especially the Western media shuts their eyes on the amazing milestone achievements creditable to intellectuals and business tycoons of Nigeria extractions while they beam their searchlights on our weaknesses and shortcomings alone big time.

The Chinese nationals who recently bagged 6 years of prison terms in Nigeria also came in on VOA platform. Those Chinese nationals who were caught engaging in illegal mining in Osogbo, Osun State might have entered Nigeria on the strength of VOA program. It is an adage used to stimulate fairness, justice and level playing ground especially when participating parties are multiple… What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. This kind of imbalance principle smacks of slavish sentiment. It tries to strengthen forgotten memories of master-servant-servile relationships.

Finally, my commendation goes to the accommodating consulates of either the USA, Canada, and China embassies and others who do not waste time extending cordial hands to Nigeria media and grant due recognition of the important role our sector plays. In the same vein, I want to use this opportunity to encourage other embassies to emulate the above-mentioned consulates and organize and sponsor media workshops and programs whereby the selected Nigeria media personnel participate alongside foreign counterparts so as to brainstorm on topical local and bilateral developments and make constructive suggestions to the individual governments.

Thus, this worrisome pattern of disproportionate VOA practice can be largely highlighted and checkmated. This writer condemns unapologetically the unruly attitudes and illegal activities which any visiting foreigner engages in while outside his or her country. We should be law-abiding visitors and not stubborn lawbreakers. But while trying to mete out due punishments, the government must not throw away the baby with the bathwater.