Im­mi­gra­tion to be­gin spe­cial screen­ing of Kenyans, Libyans, So­ma­lis, oth­ers

•La­gos air­port re­ceives over 200 for­eign­ers daily •Africans on re­li­gious tourism top vis­i­tors to Nige­ria

The Punch - - FRONT PAGE - oyetunji abioye, ade­lani ade­pegba and Mu­di­aga affe

There are strong indi­ca­tions that the Nige­ria Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vice will be­gin spe­cial screen­ing of vis­i­tors en­ter­ing the coun­try from Kenya, Libya, So­ma­lia and other African coun­tries that are bat­tling ter­ror­ism.

This, ac­cord­ing to find­ings, is in line with the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment of a new pol­icy that per­mits other Africans to get visa on ar­rival in Nige­ria, be­gin­ning Jan­uary 2020.

The Pres­i­dent, Ma­jor Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari (retd), on Wednesday at the Aswan Fo­rum for Sus­tain­able Peace and De­vel­op­ment in Africa, held in Cairo, Egypt, an­nounced the new visa regime for Africans.

“We in Nige­ria have al­ready taken the strate­gic de­ci­sion to bring down bar­ri­ers that have hin­dered the free move­ment of our peo­ple within the con­ti­nent by in­tro­duc­ing the is­suance of visa at the point of en­try into Nige­ria to all per­sons hold­ing pass­ports of African coun­tries with ef­fect from Jan­uary 2020,” he said.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment last year an­nounced visa on ar­rival pol­icy for selected cat­e­gories of peo­ple.

Over 2,000 of such visas were given to po­ten­tial in­vestors at Nige­ria’s main air­port in La­gos in July.

The gov­ern­ment has also been con­sid­er­ing new types of visas for ap­pli­cants.

How­ever, top im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials at NIS head­quar­ters in Abuja told Sun­day PUNCH on Satur­day that the ser­vice would be­gin the spe­cial screen­ing of vis­i­tors/ pas­sen­gers com­ing into the coun­try through air­ports and land bor­ders from coun­tries bat­tling in­sur­gency or have be­come tran­sit points for ter­ror­ists.

Ac­cord­ing to im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials at La­gos and Abuja air­ports, some of the coun­tries that have is­sues re­lat­ing to in­sur­gency whose cit­i­zens or res­i­dents may be sub­jected to strict screen­ing in­clude Kenya, So­ma­lia and Libya.

A top im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rised to speak on the mat­ter ex­plained, “With this new visa regime, we are go­ing to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to vis­i­tors and pas­sen­gers com­ing from coun­tries that have is­sues with in­sur­gency or ter­ror­ism. These in­clude Kenya, Libya, So­ma­lia and oth­ers.

“Be­fore now, we have an on­line visa ap­pli­ca­tion which vis­i­tors from mostly African coun­tries and oth­ers out­side Africa must fill and sub­mit on­line. When they get here, we still screen them be­fore we is­sue them visa and al­low them in.”

The of­fi­cial fur­ther said, “But some are tak­ing ad­van­tage of the visa on ar­rival to come for other ac­tiv­i­ties such as tourism and church ac­tiv­i­ties. This is be­cause some­times, they find it dif­fi­cult to get ap­proval from em­bassies.

“The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple com­ing are chi­nese cit­i­zens and other church wor­ship­pers who come to Sy­n­a­gogue church in La­gos. most of those who come for re­li­gious tourism are from Africa. They come in large num­bers, es­pe­cially from South Africa, Zim­babwe, Uganda and a few other African na­tions. They come strictly for churchre­lated pro­grammes.

“but we carry out ex­tra checks on those from coun­tries like Syria due to ter­ror­ism and oth­ers in Africa such as Libya. We also scru­ti­nise Kenyans, but the ma­jor­ity of those who come to Nige­ria are for church-re­lated pur­poses.

“They go through se­cu­rity checks and we have a stop list that guides us. On en­ter­ing Nige­ria, the sys­tem will alert us of a sus­pected ter­ror­ist be­cause we al­ready have their names with us. The sys­tem is in­stalled at the air­port. When any Kenyan comes, he goes through the se­cu­rity checks to en­sure he/she is clean. We send back in­ad­mis­si­ble per­sons. but with this new regime, se­cu­rity screen­ing will in­crease.” A

CCORDING to an­other top of­fi­cial, the 1975 Pro­to­col on Free Move­ment cre­ated the plat­form for in­ter­ac­tion among West Africans, East Africans, Cen­tral Africans and North Africans.

On how pre­pared the NIS is for the new visa regime, an­other im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial said, “We will soon get a for­mal di­rec­tive through a cir­cu­lar on the mat­ter from Abuja.

“How­ever, we have taken proac­tive steps to han­dle what­ever traf­fic by ex­pand­ing our op­er­a­tions in the D and E ar­rivals to ac­com­mo­date more for­eign mi­grants at the La­gos air­port, which is our flag­ship air­port.”

On­line visa ap­pli­ca­tion no longer com­pul­sory for africans

The NIS said it was no longer com­pul­sory for other Africans vis­it­ing Nige­ria to sub­mit an on­line visa ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore com­ing to Nige­ria, fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of the new visa regime. e

XPLAINING the de­vel­op­ment, the spokesper­son for the NIS, Mr Sun­day James, said, “Visa on ar­rival is not free; the one for Africans is given the pri­or­ity of be­ing is­sued at the point of en­try af­ter due dili­gent clear­ance with­out prior ap­pli­ca­tion un­til they get to the en­try point.

“It is a lib­er­alised process worth com­mend­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment for, an un­com­mon ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion diplo­macy in in­te­grat­ing African na­tion­als.”

The im­mi­gra­tion spokesman, how­ever, ex­plained that although it was no longer com­pul­sory for African vis­i­tors to ap­ply on­line be­fore com­ing into the coun­try, those in­ter­ested in ap­ply­ing on­line could still do so.

James ex­plained that the NIS was go­ing to tighten the noose on im­mi­grants in the com­ing days as it stepped up ef­forts to im­ple­ment buhari’s di­rec­tive.

The NIS said vis­it­ing Africans would be sub­jected to tight se­cu­rity clear­ance and air­port pro­to­col, not­ing that each vis­i­tor would un­dergo pass­port va­lid­ity ver­i­fi­ca­tion, watch list checks, sus­pect in­dex, wanted list records, In­ter­pol dif­fu­sion record and risk anal­y­sis in­dex.

The spokesman stated, “The is­sue of on­line ap­pli­ca­tion is a mat­ter of choice for Africans. On ar­rival at the en­try point, they will be sub­jected to im­mi­gra­tion se­cu­rity clear­ance, which in­cludes pass­port va­lid­ity ver­i­fi­ca­tion, checks on a watch list, sus­pect in­dex, wanted list records, In­ter­pol dif­fu­sion record and risk anal­y­sis in­dex, all in an ef­fort to step up na­tional se­cu­rity.

“So, visa on ar­rival at the point of en­try is not the way peo­ple think; no­body can in­fil­trate and en­ter the coun­try with­out proper se­cu­rity clear­ance and checks. The NIS is statu­to­rily ready to tighten se­cu­rity at en­try points while im­bib­ing in­ter­na­tional best prac­tices.”

ex­perts re­act

A re­tired Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice, Abubakar Tsav, lauded the pol­icy, say­ing it would en­gen­der trans­par­ent visa pro­cess­ing while mak­ing it eas­ier to mon­i­tor for­eign­ers in the coun­try.

He said, “It is a laud­able idea; it would make it eas­ier to know those vis­it­ing the coun­try and thus boost na­tional se­cu­rity.” A se­cu­rity spe­cial­ist, Kabir Adamu, said he was in sup­port of a more trans­par­ent and ben­e­fi­cial visa regime, not­ing that a lot of coun­tries prac­tised a trans­par­ent sys­tem that Nige­ria was try­ing to im­bibe now.

He called for en­hanced ca­pac­ity for NIS per­son­nel and mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to en­sure that those who con­sti­tuted se­cu­rity risks did not en­ter the coun­try.

La­gos air­port re­ceives over 200 for­eign­ers daily –Of­fi­cial m

EAN­WHILE, an of­fi­cial of the NIS at the mur­tala Muhammed In­ter­na­tional Air­port, La­gos said the flag­ship air­port re­ceived about 200 for­eign­ers ev­ery day.

These, he said, in­cluded Africans and other cit­i­zens of the world.

“Not too sure, I will need to con­firm the sta­tis­tics, but in some days, we have an av­er­age of 200 for­eign­ers that come in daily through the Mur­tala Muhammed In­ter­na­tional Air­port in La­gos. The visa on ar­rival is meant for gen­uine busi­ness peo­ple to ease busi­ness trans­ac­tions in the coun­try,” the source said.

The im­mi­gra­tion spokesman on Fri­day said Buhari gave the di­rec­tive to en­sure the coun­try broke the bar­rier and also in­te­grate the “African brothers.”

“Ideally, we are sup­posed to be a united black na­tion, but most times when our peo­ple want to travel to other African na­tions, they have this prob­lem of ob­tain­ing visas, so the gov­ern­ment has de­cided that on its own, it is go­ing to de­mys­tify that bot­tle­neck so that any African com­ing to Nige­ria does not need to ap­ply for visa in their coun­try be­fore com­ing. At the point of en­try, the im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer should be able to carry out his check and is­sue him the visa for a fee with­out de­lay,” he said.

On how many Africans visit the coun­try on a daily or yearly ba­sis, a top im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial said, “We have var­i­ous land bor­der posts in La­gos, Cross river, Borno, Oyo, Zam­fara and other states. So, it won’t be easy to col­late all these sta­tis­tics in a go.”

On pre­pared­ness for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the new visa on ar­rival pol­icy, which is about two weeks away, the of­fi­cial said, “I can as­sure Nige­ri­ans that the ser­vice has never joked with any gov­ern­ment pol­icy. We will im­ple­ment it to the let­ter. It was just like when they started ECOWAS, peo­ple did not be­lieve it would sur­vive.”

The Comptrol­ler­gen­eral of NIS, Muham­mad Ba­band­ede, had on Fri­day, said the visa on ar­rival pol­icy for all Africans an­nounced by Buhari would not com­pro­mise na­tional se­cu­rity. h e ex­plained that the pol­icy was meant to ac­cel­er­ate African in­te­gra­tion and bring down bar­ri­ers that hin­dered the free move­ment of peo­ple within the con­ti­nent.

He said, “The visa on ar­rival at the point of en­try is an ef­fort to ac­cel­er­ate African in­te­gra­tion. Nige­ria’s strate­gic de­ci­sion is taken to bring down bar­ri­ers that have hin­dered the free move­ment of our peo­ple within the con­ti­nent by in­tro­duc­ing the visa at the point of en­try into Nige­ria with ef­fect from Jan­uary 2020.”

A state­ment by the NIS spokesman noted, “The Comp­trol­ler-gen­eral of im­mi­gra­tion is as­sur­ing Nige­ri­ans of the ser­vice’s com­mit­ment to en­sur­ing high­level pro­fes­sional ethics in de­liv­er­ing the ser­vices with­out com­pro­mis­ing na­tional se­cu­rity.”

•L-R: Group Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, FBN Hold­ings Plc, Mr UK Eke; Chair­man, Dr Oba Otudeko; Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor/chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, First Bank of Nige­ria Lim­ited, Dr Ades­ola Ad­e­dun­tan; Deputy Gover­nor of Oyo State, Mr Rauf Olaniyan;and Chair­man, Fb­n­quest Mer­chant Lim­ited, Bello Mac­cido, dur­ing ‘Evening with FBN Hold­ings’ in La­gos...on Fri­day. Photo: Goke Fa­madewa

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