Fully vaccinated Nigerians returning to the country from overseas are not recognised by the country’s travel protocol, as they have to take PCR tests and self-isolate for seven days.
Travellers have expressed concerns over why the Nigerian government does not recognise the covid-19 vaccine it has administered to its citizens yet asked the United Kingdom to remove the country from travel blacklists on the back of the same vaccines.
BusinessDay’s checks show that the travel portal filled on entry into Nigeria doesn’t differentiate between unvaccinated and fully vaccinated.
All travellers are therefore required to self isolate upon arrival for seven to 14 days whether fully vaccinated or not and are asked to make compulsory payment for COVID-19 tests which must be taken seven days after arrival.
Recall that when the United Kingdom (UK) relaxed its COVID-19 vaccine policy for more than 50 countries, Nigeria was initially missing on the list. This met condemnations from the Nigerian government and travellers.
After much considerations, the policy was later reviewed to allow fully vaccinated travellers from Nigeria into the UK without needing to provide a pre-departure test, undertake a day 8 test or self-isolate for 10 days, although will still need to book and pay for a day 2 test.
Travellers are therefore worried that the Nigerian government which criticized UK’s initially restrictions are doing the same to its own citizens.
Ikechi Uko, travel and tourism expert described Nigeria’s action towards its vaccinated citizens as “hypocrisy,” noting that Nigeria demands reciprocity and respect but we do not even offer such privilege to its own citizens.
“If the COVID-19 PCR test at the airport is not a racket, then Nigeria should at least recognise its own vaccination process.
“The biggest disincentive for travelling now is the PCR process. The vaccination cards were introduced to ease these logjams but I guess the Nigerian government knows some people will not vaccinate but get the Card. Like we do with a yellow card,” Uko said.
He said the PCR tests add a lot of stress and cost to travelling now that it is difficult to put together a group tour for a family without contemplating the cost, time and Inconvenience of the tests.
Sindy Foster, principal managing partner, Avaero Capital Partners said Nigeria likes to shout about reciprocity when it feels it is the victim of discrimination; any attempt by any country to create policies that they perceive to negatively target Nigerians is rightly frowned upon but when Nigeria is the discriminator, it is silent on that topic.
“There was uproar on all fronts when the UK Government included Nigeria in the not fully vaccinated category (before the verification of the vaccination certification process). People were calling for Nigeria to reciprocate! But at the time, I pointed out that Nigeria does not recognise any vaccination program from anywhere in the world.
“There is no difference in the travel requirements for fully vaccinated or non-vaccinated in Nigeria yet there were calls demanding Nigerian government retaliate. In reality, it had nothing to do with the vaccine, or Nigerian or not-Nigerian. The policy affected all travellers from Nigeria equally,” Foster said.
While the federal government may argue that it is in the public interest for the status quo to remain so they can continue to keep covid-19 in check domestically, BusinessDay’s checks show that Nigeria only has fully vaccinated 1.1 percent of the population to date, whilst the UK has fully vaccinated 67.2 percent of the population.
Foster said if Nigeria were to reciprocate, there would be no change to non-vaccinated inbound passengers or indeed the payment they collect for inbound fully vaccinated passengers.
“They currently collect payment of one test fee for inbound passengers. This would remain the same. But the financial burden would be less for the passenger because of not needing to pay for an initial PCR test before departure to Nigeria or UK,” she explained
She noted that Nigeria would need to look at the demographic profile of the visitors to Nigeria to work out how many would be fully vaccinated, visitors. Given that ethnic minorities are reported to have below-average uptake of vaccines, it is likely it would not have as big an impact on the relaxation of rules for fully vaccinated.
The UK policy is expected to see an increase in trips from Nigeria to the UK for leisure and business.
Susan Akporiaye, the National President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, (NANTA), told BusinessDay that discussions are ongoing to recognise fully vaccinated citizens and there will be some reconsiderations on that because if the UK can consider fully vaccinated travellers and remove some requirements for fully vaccinated Nigerians, likewise all other countries should do same.
“The UK is trying to encourage more travels from Nigeria and the vaccine campaign and Nigeria should do same,” Akporiaye said.
According to Seyi Adewale, chief executive officer – Mainstream Cargo Limited, Nigeria generally operates from the principle of bilateral reciprocity with the UK, however, this is currently being aligned and the latest information via the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), reveals Nigeria is setting up a single portal to verify fully vaccinated Nigerians.
The UK Consulate is partnering with the responsible local agencies to assist the country to scale up and fast track this (portal) needs through advisory and technical support, Adewale said.