The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, has unveiled Nigeria’s plans to digitise tourist visa before the end of the year.
Mr Babandede made the disclosure when the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Folorunsho Coker, and his team paid him a courtesy visit in his office, on Saturday.
He assured that the digitisation of tourist visa, which is ongoing, would further improve tourism and the ease of doing business in Nigeria as the tourist visa would be web-based.
“Everything will be digitised 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’s visa,” he said.
The Immigration boss disclosed that Nigeria is quite liberal with tourists’ visa 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.
Mr Babandede hinted that there are challenges in making tourists visa liberal because tourism has become the weakest link for entry into Nigeria.
However, he said, tourist visa will be possible without compromising national security.
The immigration boss said the Migration Information Data Analysis System (MIDAS) recently launched by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, will assist with statistics of tourists visiting Nigeria.
“The MIDAS will benefit a lot of people and organisations, 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 teams 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 emphasising 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 images 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 digitisation 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.