The role of government is to promote the welfare as well as the social and economic wellbeing of the citizenry. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides in Section 16(2) that the State shall direct its policies towards ensuring the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development. Indeed, legislation is a veritable tool to promoting the ideals and objectives of governance and ensuring that strategic objectives are met and exceeded.
Investopedia defines Foreign direct investment as (FDI) as investment made by a company or individual in one country in business interests in another country, in the form of either establishing business operations or acquiring business assets in the other country, such as ownership or controlling interest in a foreign company. Foreign or external investment ensures that the requisite capital and resources necessary to spur national growth are available for the realization of set objectives.
The ability of any government to attract foreign direct investment is a reflection of the level of the acceptability of its policies and investment-related processes as well as evidence of the suitability of local initiatives to external investors. As a developing economy, Nigeria relies heavily on the inflow of foreign direct investment to promote economic activities, enhance infrastructural development, create employment opportunities and generally enhance social-security initiatives. Developing countries compete to attract the most investment from external sources. This is achieved by putting in place legislation and policies that engender the confidence of external investors in the investor-friendliness of a particular government’s policies and initiatives, including measures put in place to safeguard such investments.
A recent Central Bank of Nigeria report indicates that Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria increased by 887.32 USD Million in the first quarter of 2016. Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria averaged 1366.45 USD Million from 2007 to 2016, reaching an all-time high of 3084.90 USD Million in the fourth quarter of 2012 and a record low of 501.83 USD Million in the fourth quarter of 2015. The quest for FDI has become more imperative in recent times with the drop in global crude oil prices and the attendant shortfall in the gross government revenue. The current recession which the nation is grappling with further reinforces the importance of promoting FDI as a supplement to internal generated revenue. It thus behooves on the Government to put in place measures and strategies that would not only ensure the retention of existing FDI but also attract additional FDI from non-traditional sources. The implementation of the “Visa on Arrival” is one of such policies and means of attracting foreign direct investment by ensuring that genuine investors into the country are spared the hassle of the often cumbersome visa processing procedures abroad.
In validating the policy on “Visa on arrival”, Section 20 (7) of the Immigration Act, 2015 provides that “the Comptroller of Immigration shall authorize the issuance of Short Visit Visas at the port of entry to frequent travel business persons of international repute, executive directors of multinational companies, members of government delegation, holders of United Nations Laissez-passer, Africa Union Laisser-passer, Economic Community of West Africa States Laisses-passer, and holders of any other official travel documents of other recognized international organizations, who are on short visits to Nigeria”. The Short visit visa also known as Visa on arrival guarantees the issuance of visas to qualified persons upon their arrival in Nigeria as against the usual practice of applying through the Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions in their home or country of residence with the attendant bureaucratic bottlenecks. The imperative of the policy is to ensure quick and prompt administration of immigration permits and the elimination of all forms of bureaucratic impediments and the streamlining of the visa issuance process to ensure prompt treatment of relevant application by the Nigerian Immigration Service.
The process of obtaining a Visa on Arrival is initiated via an application to the Comptroller General of Nigerian Immigration Service. The application which is required to be submitted at the headquarters of the Nigerian Immigration Service should state the reasons for the applicant’s proposed visit to Nigeria, the expected date and port of arrival and the conveying Airline. The expected period of stay in Nigeria should be indicated and a return ticket attached to the application. Upon a favorable consideration of the application, the Comptroller General would issue an approval to the applicant which is endorsed to the conveying Airline and to the Comptroller at the relevant port of entry in Nigeria. It takes approximately 48 hours to process an approval. Experience has shown that the Nigerian Immigration Service has done well in implementing this initiative by ensuring that qualified applicants are promptly attended to and issued the relevant facility upon entry into Nigeria.
Laudable as this policy is, it is important to that it be given the desired publicity in order to achieve the desired objective. The overriding impression that Nigeria is a difficult place to do business can clearly be negated by emphasizing the gains to be derived from this novel policy.
It is expected that the process for the issuance of short visit visa upon the eventual arrival of expatriates in Nigeria continues to be devoid of any form of bureaucratic bottleneck and that persons in respect of which the Comptroller General of Immigration has approved the issuance of Visa on Arrival are attended to promptly at the port of entry.