Visa on arrival: Immigration to begin special screening of Kenyans, Libyans, Somalis, others

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There are strong indications that the Nigeria Immigration Service will begin special screening of visitors entering the country from Kenya, Libya, Somalia and other African countries that are battling terrorism.

This, according to findings, is in line with the Federal Government’s announcement of a new policy that permits other Africans to get visa on arrival in Nigeria, beginning January 2020.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on Wednesday at the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development in Africa, held in Cairo, Egypt, announced the new visa regime for Africans.

“We in Nigeria have already taken the strategic decision to bring down barriers that have hindered the free movement of our people within the continent by introducing the issuance of visa at the point of entry into Nigeria to all persons holding passports of African countries with effect from January 2020,” he said.

The Federal Government last year announced visa on arrival policy for selected categories of people.

The government has also been considering new types of visas for applicants.

However, top immigration officials at NIS headquarters in Abuja told Sunday PUNCH on Saturday that the service would begin the special screening of visitors/passengers coming into the country through airports and land borders from countries battling insurgency or have become transit points for terrorists.

According to immigration officials at Lagos and Abuja airports, some of the countries that have issues relating to insurgency whose citizens or residents may be subjected to strict screening include Kenya, Somalia and Libya.

The official further said, “But some are taking advantage of the visa on arrival to come for other activities such as tourism and church activities. This is because sometimes, they find it difficult to get approval from embassies.

“The majority of people coming are Chinese citizens and other church worshippers who come to Synagogue Church in Lagos. Most of those who come for religious tourism are from Africa. They come in large numbers, especially from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and a few other African nations. They come strictly for church-related programmes.

The government has also been considering new types of visas for applicants.

However, top immigration officials at NIS headquarters in Abuja told Sunday PUNCH on Saturday that the service would begin the special screening of visitors/passengers coming into the country through airports and land borders from countries battling insurgency or have become transit points for terrorists.

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The government has also been considering new types of visas for applicants.

However, top immigration officials at NIS headquarters in Abuja told Sunday PUNCH on Saturday that the service would begin the special screening of visitors/passengers coming into the country through airports and land borders from countries battling insurgency or have become transit points for terrorists.

A top immigration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter explained, “With this new visa regime, we are going to pay special attention to visitors and passengers coming from countries that have issues with insurgency or terrorism. These include Kenya, Libya, Somalia and others.

“Before now, we have an online visa application which visitors from mostly African countries and others outside Africa must fill and submit online. When they get here, we still screen them before we issue them visa and allow them in.”

The official further said, “But some are taking advantage of the visa on arrival to come for other activities such as tourism and church activities. This is because sometimes, they find it difficult to get approval from embassies.

“The majority of people coming are Chinese citizens and other church worshippers who come to Synagogue Church in Lagos. Most of those who come for religious tourism are from Africa. They come in large numbers, especially from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and a few other African nations. They come strictly for church-related programmes.

“They go through security checks and we have a stop list that guides us. On entering Nigeria, the system will alert us of a suspected terrorist because we already have their names with us. The system is installed at the airport. When any Kenyan comes, he goes through the security checks to ensure he/she is clean. We send back inadmissible persons. But with this new regime, security screening will increase.”

According to another top official, the 1975 Protocol on Free Movement created the platform for interaction among West Africans, East Africa, Central Africa and North Africa.

On how prepared the NIS is for the new visa regime, another immigration official said, “We will soon get a formal directive through a circular on the matter from Abuja.
“However, we have taken proactive steps to handle whatever traffic by expanding our operations in the D and E arrivals to accommodate more foreign migrants at the Lagos airport, which is our flagship airport.”

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