Visa-on-arrival policy and Covid-19 lockdown

By Inwalomhe Donald

 

 

Coronavirus has negatively affected the implementation of visa-on-arrival policy introduced by President Buhari in 2020. The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has rolled out a new visa-on-arrival application process for all business travellers and African Union countries, except member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in line with Covid-19 guidelines in Nigeria. The Covid-19 pandemic poses a threat to everyday life of people worldwide. Travellers are particularly affected, as are people working in tourism. The United Nations reported that the COVID-19 crisis is a watershed moment to align the efforts to sustain livelihoods dependent on tourism to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure a more resilient, inclusive, carbon neutral, and resource-efficient future. The Covid-19 crisis and attendant lockdown have negatively affected the implementation of visa-on-arrival policy in Nigeria.

In this year, 2020, healthcare has become a major factor in making economic and political decisions, and healthcare plays a major role in politics, which is a continuous struggle for power among competing interests. Looking at health through the lens of political and economic determinants means analysing how different power constellations, institutions, processes, interests and ideological positions affect health within different political systems and cultures and at different levels of governance. Bambra et. al provide three arguments why health is political. According to them, health is unevenly distributed, and many health determinants are dependent on political action.

Healthcare, politics and economics have always been closely related. Coronavirus and modern communications technologies have made this relationship even closer. Power is at the core of politics, and economics is often used as a tool to increase political power. These are some ways in which health, politics and economics are closely intertwined. Economics plays a huge role in elections.

The connection between the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of the global market is even more significant for all countries. The virus also has major health implications for the political, economics and sectarian dimensions of global conflicts. Covid-19 highlights the extent to which health, politics and economics are intertwined.

In line with recommendations by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in its Africa Visa Openness report, more countries have begun making it a lot easier for other Africans to visit and President Muhammadu Buhari took great step when he announced a “Visa on Arrival” policy for all Africans travelling to Nigeria as from January 2020. The Nigerian Senate should understand that getting a visa to visit another African country typically meant being buried in a mountain of paperwork, and also expensive visa fees. When procured, the visas are typically only for a short duration. Even then, getting the visa isn’t enough to stave off extra hassles at entry points no thanks to the suspicions of immigration officers who sometimes appear bemused that another African is visiting their country as a tourist.

The policy authorizes visas to be granted on arrival at the airport or other entry points subject to satisfaction of specific Immigration requirements. An application letter from the host, stating where the traveller is coming from (If the host is a Company/Organization, it must be on a letterhead). The visa-on-arrival policy will not compromise the country’s security, as the Buhari government, together with relevant stakeholders such as the Office of National Security (ONS), International Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the Immigration Department will profile visitors to make sure that they do not have a questionable character before entering the country. This is despite concerns over the increasing number of foreign nationals in Nigeria.

In the Africa Visa Openness Report 2016, visa openness means how easy it is for African travellers to visit another country on the continent. A more visa-open country has a liberal or relaxed visa policy for travellers, so that visitors either do not need a visa when they enter or can get a visa on arrival. A more visa-restrictive country requires visitors to get a visa before they travel, in most cases from an embassy. Visas are used for different reasons, whether as a security measure to control the entry and duration of the stay of people coming into a country or to limit a visitor’s activities, generate revenue or show reciprocity to match the treatment other countries give to their citizens.

Visa openness is about facilitating free movement of people. It is about getting more people mobile, to carry out their business easily, spontaneously, quickly, with minimum cost. That applies whether you are a businessman or woman, a student or researcher, a cross-border trader or entrepreneur, reuniting with friends and family or just travelling to visit the sights.

Aspiration 2 of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 includes a goal to be a “continent with seamless borders” where “the free movement of people, capital, goods and services will result in significant increases in trade and investments amongst African countries rising to unprecedented levels, and strengthen Africa’s place in global trade.” Greater visa openness is a vital part of the solution  in getting Africa to reach that vision. There is a strong business case for visa openness in Africa, which in turn promotes the free movement of people and is at the foundation of deeper and closer integration of the continent.

Visas alone are not the whole answer when it comes to a more robust outlook.  At the AfDB, within the framework of its Regional Integration Policy and Strategy 2014-2023, they are working on supporting African countries to plug their skills gaps, promoting talent mobility and borderless business for  African entrepreneurs to move freely to set up shop. This first report of the Africa Visa Openness Index ranks countries on the openness of their visa regimes. The Index aims to be a tool for change, to inform and inspire leaders and policymakers to make visa reforms, simplify visa processes and apply positive reciprocity. The vision for Africa set out in Agenda 2063 and its Call to Action urge the creation of an African passport and an end to visa requirements for all  African citizens in Africa by 2018. Time is running out to meet that pledge.  At the November 2015 EU-Africa Valletta Summit, African leaders committed to support migration initiatives across the continent to bring back hope.

The great element lay in the fact that discussion on visa-on-arrival policy had been initiated by the African Development Bank and NEPAD. I see the national interest in Buhari’s announcement, which has already been followed up by the Nigerian Immigration Service, (NIS). I see the great value this policy will add in the positive sense. I find Buhari’s visa-on-arrival policy acceptable because apart from being positive to our overall national interest, it was agreed upon by the generality of members of African Development Bank and NEPAD. But coronavirus has negatively affected the implementation of this policy in Nigeria.

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