From EVELYN DADU, Abuja
The federal government has unveiled plans to digitize tourist visas before the end of the year to ease the hurdles of doing business in Nigeria, encourage tourists and investors.
Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, made the disclosure when he received in audience, Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Folorunsho Coker who paid him a courtesy visit.
Speaking further he assured that the digitization of tourist visas, which is to begin by December this year is intended to further improve tourism and ease the hurdles of doing business in Nigeria as the tourist visa would be web-based.
“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 visa,” he said.
The Immigration boss disclosed that Nigeria is quite liberal with tourists’ visas for people coming to the country for religious tourism.
“We give them visa-on-arrival for certain churches because we know their spending will boost our economy,” he said.
Babandede hinted that there were challenges in making tourist visas liberal because tourism became the weakest link for entry into Nigeria. However, he said, tourist visas will be possible without compromising national security.
He revealed also that with the recently launched Migration Information Data Analysis System (MIDAS) by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, statistics of tourists visiting Nigeria will be easy.
“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.
Mr. Coker, earlier in his speech, congratulated the immigration boss and his team on the innovations in the visa process especially the visa-on-arrival improvements.
He also congratulated the CGNIS on the contributions of NIS to the rise in Nigeria’s ranking on the ease of doing business.
He noted that the lack of human interphase on the visa on arrival (VOA) platform shows that the way forward lies in disruptive digital technologies for the acceleration of Nigeria’s development.
While emphasizing the importance of visa-on-arrival for tourists in Nigeria, Mr. Coker noted that the ease of tourists coming into Nigeria and doing business in the country lies heavily on the successes of the visa-on-arrival for tourists.
“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 the image of Nigeria and the ease of coming to Nigeria and doing business in our country,” he said.
The NTDC boss commended the NIS for the facilitation of data collection and services, especially at the land borders while imploring it to assist the corporation with complete data. “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 towards us,” he said.
Mr. Coker stressed the need to deepen the collaboration between NTDC and NIS through the digitization of data collation. “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 added that the embarkation and disembarkation cards for foreign visitors are difficult to write on because the boxes are too small. “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 advised.