Contrary to reports that the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos Command seized and cause unnecessary delay of some athletes from Kenya, Burundi and other African countries on arrival in Nigeria, Nigerian immigration has alleged that the athletes actually entered Nigeria without money to pay for their Visas on arrival.
Immigration further alleged that the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) was supposed to make arrangements for their easy passage into Nigeria through online visa payment before their arrival, but failed to do this, which led to their delay at the Lagos Airport.
A source close to the immigration service in Abuja said today that a lot of the athletes ought to have processed their Visas online and make payments before arriving Nigeria, but failed to so, a situation, which led to their temporary delay at the airport.
The immigration source insisted that the command did not seize any of the athletes’ passports, but only collected them for issuance of sticker Visas on their passports, which was necessary for them to enter the country.
At the Lagos Airport, it was gathered that the technical partner of immigration, New Works had to issue each and every one of the athletes ID and reference numbers, which is always cumbersome because of internet connectivity.
This it was learnt was done immediately the payments were made by the representatives of the athletes.
The source insisted that immigration at the Lagos Airport were not responsible for the delay on arrival of the athletes to Asaba, Delta State, stressing that the officers carried out their duties professionally as expected from them.
The source said: “A lot of them came in at once and none of them could pay for visa on arrival, which is a policy of the Federal Government. As you know, we don’t collect cash at immigration any longer. The local organizing committee was not able to make the payment because it did not make enough preparation towards their arrival into Nigeria. They all came at once and New Works, which is our technical partner had to generate ID and reference number for each and every one of them to make the payment easier.
“But, as they were not able to generate the payment, instead of delaying them and keep them at the airport until when the payment is done, we collected their passports so that when the payment is done, we put the visas and stickers on their passports and return it to the organizing committee. We allowed them to come in, but collected their passports for sticker visas because if their passports were with them, there was no way we would have put the Visas on their individual passports.”
The Visa on arrival policy by Nigeria commenced in 2012 with some countries, but came into full stream in 2017 with the Ease-of-Doing-Business policy of Federal Government, which was introduced in 2017.
With the new policy, the era of immigration officers collecting cash payment from foreign tourists or travelers coming into the country came to an end. Payments are now made online for prospective travelers into Nigeria.
This policy had ease the rigors experienced by travelers coming into Nigeria had also increased the number of tourists into the country by 30 per cent in the first half of 2018 when compared to the same period in 2017.
The athletes from various African countries had converged on Nigeria for the 2018 African Senior Athletics Championship ongoing in Asaba, Delta State.