FG: Visa Policy Will Boost Investment

- James Emejo in Abuja

The federal government yesterday reiterated that it was working with airport authoritie­s to ensure that the newly-announced visaon-arrival policy would allow for easier and faster processing of documents of persons and goods to encourage foreign investment.

The government also said it would launch an interventi­on programme for the country's border communitie­s in order to dissuade them from engaging in smuggling activities.

The initiative is also part of the current measures being put in place preparator­y to

a possible reopening of the nation's land borders, which the federal government ordered its closure in August, to tame dumping and smuggling.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, and the Minister of State in the ministry, Mrs. Mariam Katagum, spoke on the plans yesterday in Abuja during an interactiv­e session with journalist­s.

Adebayo said the present administra­tion had unflinchin­g faith in made-in-Nigeria goods and would continue to encourage their production and patronage.

He stated that the current administra­tion was willing to build on the blueprint of the immediate past administra­tion in creating economic zones, adding, however, that "we are trying to avoid pitfalls that the last administra­tion fell into and we are trying to do it in a way that it will not be controvers­ial."

He said: "We intend to invite people to come and set up their factories there to produce goods for exports and hopefully they'll tag the goods as proudly made in Nigeria."

Katagum, who provided an update on the continued border closure and efforts to engage the country's neighbours on the issue, said the federal government had begun to engage with the local communitie­s in order to sensitise them about the ills of smuggling.

She said part of the arrangemen­t was to institute an empowermen­t programme for the communitie­s so they could rechannel their energy to other legitimate endeavours.

She said discussion­s were ongoing with Jaiz Bank and the Small and Medium Enterprise­s Developmen­t Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) to work out "some interventi­on programmes so that these local communitie­s would not engage in smuggling activities."

She, however, said the borders would be reopened on the recommenda­tion of a committee set up to monitor compliance with the ECOWAS trade treaty by its neighbours, particular­ly Benin Republic and Niger.

According to her, a joint border patrol has been agreed to by Nigeria and its neighbours involving all the security agencies to "try and follow the actual protocol laid by the ECOWAS."

"And it is only when that committee is certain that all the countries are respecting the ECOWAS protocol-that the committee would recommend a date for the reopening of the border," she added.

The minister said Nigeria was in the final stage of checking its exclusive and sensitive list and had been given till December 31 to finalise its negotiatio­ns and submit the list to the ECOWAS secretaria­t.

"There was a meeting in the ECOWAS commission with the three countries: Niger, Benin and Nigeria-basically to address the issues concerning the joint border patrol because one of the several things that led to the border closure is the issue of non-compliance with the ECOWAS treaty.

"Whereby goods that are supposed to come into the country, whichever axis you take, if they are coming from Benin or coming through Niger, are supposed to be escorted to our own customs at the border-intact and without breaking the seal.

"And as you are all aware, what has been happening is that you have containers arriving at our borders and the seals have been broken and so you don't have integrity of the container.

"And not having integrity of that container meant there's an opportunit­y to put in illegal items and more especially for us is the issue of small arms and weapons, drugs being sneaked in and the issue of source of origin whereby you have the items being repackaged and the claim is that they are produced in an African country," she stated.

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