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NIS in the eye of storm over complicity in the visa-on-arrival issues, appoint of private coy to collect revenues

Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandede

 

Rarzack Olaegbe

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has witnessed many changes since it was taken outof the Nigeria Police in 1958. However, this is the first time NIS will be in the eye of the storm over complicity concerning allegation over the indefinite suspension of the issuance of biometric visa-on-arrival to foreigners who enter Nigeria from countries without bilateral agreements with Nigeria.

However, investigations by the News Agency of Nigeria [NAN] at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, had revealed that the NIS had suspended the biometric visa-on-arrival and had issued the “ordinary visa-on-arrival’’ to visitors coming into the country.

But in a swift reaction, the Deputy Comptroller of NIS, James Sunday, in a media report had denied the suspension of visa-on-arrival allegation.

Besides, media reports had also revealed that NIS had appointed private organsiations, Online Integrated Services and New Works, to collect charges on its behalfwithout remitting same into the appropriate account at the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN], which contravened the Treasury Single Account [TSA] guidelines.

While Sunday denied the allegation of the indefinite suspension of the issuance of biometric visa-on-arrival to foreigners coming into Nigeria from countries without bilateral agreements with Nigeria, he did not deny the appointment of two private organisations, Online Integrated Services and New Works, contracted by NIS to collect revenue on its behalf.

On its website, OIS says “it is the official partner of a number of diplomatic missions and a specialist Nigerian visa and passport application agency. It also partner international schools and act as a bridge for Nigerian students who wish to acquire quality education in top-rated schools abroad”.

The other private firm, New Works, is not listed as a company on the internet.

However, the Deputy Comptroller explained that the visa-on-arrival policy is an Executive Order to promote the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria and as such cannot be suspended.

“There is no way NIS can suspend the biometric visa-on-arrival because the service is meant to improve ease-of-doing business in Nigeria. The biometric on visa-on-arrival is the same. What it means is that visa has been turned into electronic format. The federal government has no intention of suspending it.

“The biometric was introduced to intensify effort in making things easy for the foreigners and more features will soon be added to the visa in order to capture individuals biometrically”, he said in an interview.

The Deputy Comptroller further said that the government is making efforts to revive the economy of the country and that the Ease of Doing Business policy is one of the avenues to attain that feat.

The reason “we are doing the biometric is to intensify the security of the country and it is an international best practice”, he explained further.

Due to the non-activation of the foreign currency element of the TSA scheme after six years, all MDAs collecting foreign currencies are required to remit foreign-denominated currencies directly into accounts designated to them at the CBN.

However, reports have it that many MDAs have been contravening this by running accounts for this purpose in various commercial banks.

Industry expert and MD/CEO of Innovectives Limited, an e-payment company, Emmanuel Agha was quoted as saying NIS has a history of thwarting government initiatives.

According to Agha, for instance, the payment for the issuance of international passport has been removed from the TSA system. He noted that the non-commencement of the foreign currency phase of the TSA is perhaps because some persons in the current government were profiting from it.

Shedding light on the matter, the President of Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria [ISPON], Dr. Yele Okeremi said that if the allegation that some private firms were charging new arrivals into Nigeria, it is another threat against the success of TSA, which arguably is this current government’s greatest accomplishment.

On June 12, 2018, the federal government introduced the biometric visa-on-arrival, which costs foreigners $110, but was suspended a day later due to controversies concerning the charges.