By Nasir Dambatta
The setting was Thursday, November 24, 2022, and the place was Nigeria Immigration Service headquarters in Kaduna.
I was hosted by the new Immigrations Service Comptroller at the Kaduna Command late in the afternoon of that Thursday for just a cup of coffee and exchange of pleasantries. But the reporter in me wouldn’t let the rare opportunity slip.
It was less than an hour after being ushered into the new Comptroller Sani Liman Kila’s office that I threw an offhanded question. “Nigeria’s economy is struggling in recent months. What is the contribution of your agency to the economic stabilisation efforts?”
Kila smiled with a tone suggesting a kind of protestation and said, “I hope you’re not here with the hidden agenda of an impromptu interview? You journalists have difficulty retiring because of this news bug”. We laughed over it as we sipped Turkish Coffee in his cosy office.
He cleared his voice and said: “The Nigeria Immigrations Service has generally reformed its operations, especially in its effort to help Nigerian economy get a major boost through Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs)”.
He gave me a low down of how expatriates are now getting more excited about doing business in Nigeria, especially, under the federal government’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ policy because the Nigeria Immigrations Service is complementing that effort.
Years before now, expatriate businessmen and women had gone through very tough odds getting visa just to make millions of dollars worth of investments in this country. They got frustrated by extremely slow visa process and they were grumbling. Intending expatriates businessmen were expectedly discouraged from taking a plunge in establishing businesses in Nigeria. The situation was quite stressful.
“The Immigrations Service observed the problems associated with administrative bottlenecks and the agency applied holistic approach to the hurdles. The ultimate goal was to bring about the most seamless Visa process in the system. And the NIS did just that”, Kila said in the informal interview.
How has this liberalisation by the NIS been successfully achieved?
Hear Kila: “The Service rolled out Visa on Arrival, otherwise known as VOA, as a strategic move towards a seamless process”.
What is the VOA all about? He explained to me in the layman’s language. It’s a unique opportunity for expatriates wishing to invest in Nigeria to apply for visa from the comfort of their bedrooms and pick their copies on arrival at any of the international airports in Nigeria. Kila gave me a long list of foreign investors that are enjoying the benefits of this economy-boosting policy across North and South of the nation. He first recalled the multimillion dollars Olam Farm investment in Kaduna, among a host of others.
I recall what he said months ago at an event organised in Kaduna on the liberalisation of Visa thus:
“The visa is the key element that permits a non-Nigerian and a non-ECOWAS citizen to enter Nigeria for defined reasons. Critical among the reasons for visits to Nigeria is the investment potential that Nigeria possesses. Taking into cognisance the diverse nature of the Nigerian business environment, the capital market and the commitment of the federal government on ease of doing business in Nigeria, the Nigeria Immigration Service has liberalised its visa policy to accommodate all types of legitimate investors. The introduction of the new visa policy in the year 2020 and its attendant operational guidelines has paved the way for seamless visa acquisition processes which has made it attractive to foreign investors to come and invest in Nigeria.”
He also highlighted the complementary roles that the agency plays hand-in-hand with the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), of which the NIS is officially a member.
It is evident that the Nigeria Immigration Service has been doing quite enough in supporting Nigeria’s economic growth by way of foreign investors having added advantage of the federal government’s Ease of Doing Business policy.
On the whole, it was an interesting encounter that any reporter would live to remember in his/her career history.
Dambatta, a veteran journalist, writes from Kaduna, Kaduna state.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily