Nigerian digital quest has reached the corridors of immigration. An announcement from the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, said that there is a plan to digitize tourist visa before the end of 2019.
Babandede disclosed this while hosting the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), at his office on Saturday. He said there is an ongoing effort to make tourist visa web-based in order to improve tourism in Nigeria.
“Everything will be digitized with no physical contact with anybody. Once you apply online, upload your application, submit, pay, and get approval, you start coming and within 24-48 hours, you get your tourist’s visa,” he said.
He said that consideration has also been given to those visiting the country for religious reasons.
“We give them visa-on-arrival for certain churches because we know their spending will boost our economy,” he said.
Much attention has been given to tourism recently by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, who launched the Migration Information Data Analysis System (MIDAS), to track tourist activities and keep the records. Babandede said MIDAS will help the NIS with the statistics of tourists visiting Nigeria.
“The MIDAS will benefit a lot of people and organizations, tourism will benefit from this. We are hereby inviting the NTDC to feed tourism content and activity into the MIDAS system for overall best tourism experience and sustainable economic development in Nigeria,” he said.
Coker noted that the absence of human interphase on the Visa-on-Arrival platform is an indication that there is need for digitization of the system to enable development. Many other African countries have cashed in on the Visa-on-Arrival system to boost tourism; Coker said that the digitization of the visa process is in order to increase the chances of people coming in to do business and improve its ranking on ease of doing business.
“The fear of going to Nigeria now isn’t about how do I get a visa, it’s a certainty that one will get the visa on arrival once one follows very simple procedures. This has changed both images of Nigeria and the ease of coming to Nigeria and doing business in our country,” he said.
However, Coker appealed to NIS to make more room for accommodation when it comes to data sharing. He said there is a need to deepen the collaboration between NTDC and NIS through the digitization of data collation.
“While thanking you on one hand, I will also ask on the other hand that some of the data we get is limited because we do not have a permanent presence at the borders.
“But the complete data that you have can assist us with the right data to the National Bureau of statistics and Central Bank of Nigeria. So we would like to plead with you that the data starts to flow again monthly toward us.
“We would essentially like to collaborate with the NIS to establish a seamless channel through which we can adequately furnish you with information on tourism activities to enable us to work better and ease bottlenecks,” he said.
He also raised concern about the embarkation and disembarkation cards for foreign visitors, which he said are difficult to write due to their small sizes.
“I humbly suggest that the card be uploaded online so that, from your electronic gadget, phone or laptop, you can fill the card online, this will better foreigners’ experience,” he concluded.
In August, the U.S. announced revised visa reciprocity for Nigeria, a hike in fees for visa application for Nigerians to commiserate with the price that the Nigeria government charges Americans for visa. According to the statement issued by the U.S. consulate, the U.S. government has engaged Nigerian government to request that the Nigerian government change the fees charged to U.S. citizens for certain visa categories. After 18 months of review and consultations, the government of Nigeria did not change its fee structure for U.S. citizen visa applicants.
This is just one of the examples of the difficulties in obtaining visas to Nigeria. For other countries, it’s far worse before now, and it’s one of the reasons Nigeria kept ranking low in the ease of doing business.
So the plan of NIS to introduce digital visa process that allows visa-on-arrival is a development that its benefits span across ease of doing business, development of the tourism sector, and probable reciprocity from other countries that Nigerians visit.