New visa on arrival policy boosts Nigeria’s rating ― Babandede
• As Reps frown at scarcity of passport booklets
The Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mr Muhammed Babandede, on Tuesday, affirmed that the newly introduced visa policy on arrival boosted Nigeria’s global rating on ease of doing business, among the comity of nations.
Mr Babandede who disclosed this while responding to questions during the investigative hearing at the opening of a two-day investigative hearing on ‘Incessant malpractices associated with Diplomatic postings and deliberate draining of resources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’, lamented that the service lacks the capacity to post officers in 105 countries due to the population of Nigerians in Diaspora.
“We are only in 47 locations but we consider them high volume locations and we do two functions; we issue visas and travel documents. When we came on board we introduced the visa on arrival policy. I’m glad to say the visa on arrival policy has contributed to Nigeria’s high ranking in the ease of doing business, the global ranking.”
On the issue of scarcity of Nigerian passport booklet, Mr Babandede who affirmed the passport issue has remained the biggest challenge, disclosed that “all the visa fees, passport fees paid abroad to Diaspora, it goes into Federal Consolidated Account.”
In his keynote address, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila observed that “it will be the greatest tragedy if what it shows falls far short of the heights to which we aspire and yet hope to attain” at the international scene, the Speaker disclosed that the House has received petitions and pleadings from Nigerians at home and abroad alleging varying degrees of malpractice and malfeasance in the Ministry’s operations and its subordinate departments and agencies.”
While narrating his personal experience, Hon Gbajabiamila said: “Personally, let me say that there’s hardly a country I visited that there are no embarrassing stories in our missions. I visited many, right from my time as Minority Leader to House Leader and I can recall such stories.
He pledged the House resolve to work with all stakeholders responsible for fixing various challenges.
On his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffery Onyema argued that he has over the years intervened whenever he receives “complaints or I see a video criticising treatment in any mission.”
He explained that the $100 charge imposed by the Ministry was for those who want their “biometrics done without an appointment. If you wait for your appointment, you will get it and not pay. But if you want it the same day then pay $100.”
While admitting that the Ministry erred on the re-introduction of administrative charges which had been suspended for a number of years, the Minister argued that the move became necessary to bridge the paucity of funds as a result of a delay in the release of appropriated budgetary allocation.
In his remarks, chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Buba Yakub explained that the probe was in tandem with President Muhammad Buhari’s avowed stand on zero tolerance for corrupt practices by public officeholders.
While stressing the need to beam searchlight on Consular services offered by Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nigeria Immigration Service to citizens of Nigeria at home and in diaspora, Hon. Yakub underscored the need to ensure that the issues of posting of staff are done in accordance with laid down principles.