Abuja – The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday approved a new visa policy for the country designed to boost tourism, attract foreign investment and create employment opportunities.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku said this while briefing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House, Abuja.
Explaining the policy, Moro who was also at the briefing, said the new visa regime contained new innovations and elements that would promote Nigeria’s strategic interests.
The minister said the new policy would facilitate easier provision of visa to foreign investors, strategic visitors and tourists.
He said that the policy would allow for a visa term of up to 10 years for strategic investors, while strategic visitors and government officials coming to Nigeria could have access to visas at the point of entry.
“Today we have a visa policy in place now that is targeted at boosting tourism, attracting foreign direct investment, opening up the economy for employment opportunities and above all, a policy that seek to secure our borders.
“If a business man or a tourist or a trade delegation or for that matter a government delegation even headed by the Presidents or Heads of State of these countries have reasons to visit Nigeria at short notice to do business with Nigeria and if by any coincidence, we don’t have embassies in such countries, such delegation or group can come to Nigeria and obtain their visas at point of entry.
“We have other categories, we have short term visas, we have temporary resident visas, we have permanent resident visas and of course, a new introduction now is that we have investment or skill transfer visa category in which case if you have a particular level of investment that you want to make in Nigeria that can add value to the economy of the country, you can be given certain categories of visa.
“And of course in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Audit Programme of the Ministry of Labour, if we classify certain skill as highly valuable to Nigeria that we don’t have here, then we can on the basis of such skill grant you visa. Again that is not without prejudice to the fact that we must be able in its implementation to secure employment for our citizens.’’
Moro said that the new visa regime would also open up Nigeria’s economy through enterprise and create employment opportunities for the people.
According to the minister, the new visa policy will also address the challenges of expatriate quota in the country, adding that before now, expatriate quota administration provided that for every expatriate employed, two Nigerian understudies were to be employed.
He said the new policy mandated any foreign investment threshold in the country to employ a specific number of Nigerians in addition to the understudies.
“The unfortunate situation we have found in the past is that it has become practically impossible to enforce visa regulations.
“The stark reality is that, under various guises, these companies bring in persons to undertake jobs that ordinary Nigerians should do.
“We have come to realise that even within the validity of this quota, Nigerians who are expected to ordinarily understudy and take over these positions are not granted the opportunity.
“The new policy is designed to address these shortcomings.’’
The council also approved a $1.4 million contract for the automated electronic platform for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said the platform would enable the scheme to function efficiently and effectively by reducing manual work.
Chukwu said the project would be co-sponsored by the Federal Government and the World Bank with 40 per cent and 60 per cent contributions, respectively.