President Buhari’s comment at ASWAN Forum in Egypt where he said, “To bring down barriers that have hindered free movement of our people within the continent by introducing visa at the point of entry in Nigeria to all persons holding passports of African countries with effect from January 2020” has generated much controversies. Commentators on either side of the argument might be right. This piece will holistically explore this topic. The author has also made a video broadcast on this topic which can be viewed at this link https://youtu.be/6r7LQifxKlc (Please watch and let’s reason together).
Visa at the point of entry in Nigeria will improve and enhance tourism to Nigeria. CEIC Data indicated that Nigeria’s visitor arrivals recorded 1,889,000 persons in 2016. Compare this to a country like UK where visitor arrivals from non-European Economic Area countries were 9.3 million. Tourism can be another source of foreign exchange to Nigeria. In same 2016, tourism industry contributed approximately £217 billion pounds to the UK economy. Increased tourism to Nigeria will boost the local economy and contribute significantly to our GDP.
Introducing visa at the point of entry is part of the African Continent Free Trade Agreement. So far nearly all the African nations have signed this agreement, while 27 African countries have ratified this agreement as at July 2019. This agreement did not come into force until 22 of the signing countries ratified the agreement. The journey of the African Continent Free Trade Agreement precedes both the military and civilian governments of Buhari.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which Nigeria is a member, allows visa free for all its sixteen member countries. Though it is visa free, but when nationals of member countries travel within ECOWAS region, their passports are stamped at the point of entry and departure. This is the what the African Continent Free Trade Agreement intends to achieve. This initiative will favour more Nigerians because we travel a lot within Africa for businesses and leisure. We need to exploit and explore Africa the more. Opportunities are abound even though some of the African countries are hostile to Nigerians, example the xenophobia in South Africa.
But there is the need to worry with this nobble idea of visa at the point of entry, which would likely lead to influx of Africans to Nigeria. The killer Fulani herdsmen is a good example. Most of these terrorist Fulani killer herdsmen came from other ECOWAS countries. They have wrecked serious havoc in Nigeria, but till date the Nigeria leadership treats them with kid gloves. Despite the killing of Nigerians by this group, there have been little or no arrest and no prosecution. In fact in one of the interviews President Buhari had with the American President Trump, he said the Fulani herdsmen carry only sticks, whereas they carry AK47 guns. Same Fulani herdsmen have been internationally declared as the 4th deadliest terror group. The body language of the Oga at Aso Rock tend to encourage this killer group. In contrast, President Buhari declared Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terror group in Nigeria, whereas IPOB operates freely and openly at other countries of the world.
Boko Haram terror group might have recruits joining them from other African countries, such recruits could slip in easily via the visa on arrival process. They might be receiving intelligence, logistics or funding from within African countries. They are still a serious threat to our national security. The fear of Boko Haram is the beginning of wisdom. The Nigerian army have not been able to crush them, rather our soldiers have resorted to prayers for the defeat of this terror group. There is nothing prayers cannot do, provided there is honesty, money meant for the soldiers are not diverted, and also budget for weapons are utilized appropriately, only then would prayers work. However, that is left for God to answer or otherwise.
Another cause for worry is that President Buhari might not be able to effectively police our borders. Take for instance that our borders were shut down against the smuggling of rice from some ECOWAS countries, but the borders at Katsina State (his own state) was open to smugglers. Hon Mohammed, member of the House of Representatives from Katsina State exposed the illegal smuggling that went on at Katsina boarder with Niger Republic. Therefore Nigerians have reason to worry about the issuance of visa on arrival to persons with African countries passport.
Other things President Buhari said in Egypt such as, Africa needs to intensify the fight against corruption caught my attention. He has not done well with his fight against corruption and therefore lacks the moral ground to preach to other African leaders to intensify their fight against corruption. He spoke about the empowerment of women and youths which he has not done in Nigeria. Recall what he said about the Nigerian women and youths. His actions contradicts his speeches.
I just want us to reason together.