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Re: FG Ignores Senate On Nigeria Visa On Arrival Policy, Begins Policy For Africans

Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA) Presidential Candidate, Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies speaking in Port Harcourt on 7th January, 2020, “On Nigeria Visa-on-arrival Policy” reminded Nigerians that the Upper house is one of two chambers of a bicameral – the other chamber being the lower house.

The Senate is the upper chamber of the Nigeria’s bicameral legislature, while the National Assembly (popularly referred to as NASS) is the nation’s highest legislature, whose power is to make laws, as summarized in chapter one, section four of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. This consists of 109 senators: the 36 states are each divided in 3 senatorial districts each electing one senator, while the Federal Capital Territory elects only one senator.

As FG Ignores Senate, begins Visa-on-arrival policy for Africans, she warns, that ideally, “the constitution provides several unique functions for the Senate that form its ability to “check and balance” other elements of the Federal Government. These include the requirement that the Senate may advise and must consent to some of the President’s government appointments; also the Senate must consent to all treaties with foreign governments. But when both paths begin to cross negatively, it’s as a drum beating too loud, when it gets ready to burst.”

“They that the gods want to destroy they first make mad”, they say. This week, “despite the objections raised by the Senate and reservations expressed by some Nigerians about its visa-on-arrival policy for Africans, the Federal Government has commenced the implementation of the new visa regime.” The information we got from Sunday PUNCH findings revealed that, “the visa-on-arrival policy commenced on January 1, as planned; and the Nigerian Immigration Service has deployed a new border management security system in four airports across the country.” This is rather contemptuous and alarming!

We may recall that, sometime, on December 11, 2018 at the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development in Africa, in Cairo, Egypt, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) announced the visa-on-arrival policy for Africans. In his words, “We in Nigeria have already taken the strategic decision to bring down barriers that have hindered the free movement of our people within the continent by introducing the issuance of visa at the point of entry into Nigeria to all persons holding passports of African countries with effect from January 2020.”

To the contrary, the announcement was greeted with several criticisms by many Nigerians who believed the policy might worsen the security challenges facing the country. At the Senate, a motion was then sponsored by the Senator representing Ekiti North, Olubunmi Adetunmbi, when he drew the attention of his colleagues to the fact “that the executive did not carry the legislature along before coming up with the policy. Adetunmbi, also the chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning, in his lead debate, argued that the executive did not seek necessary amendments to extant laws by the National Assembly before the policy would become operational.”

Similarly, “The Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, in his contribution, had said Nigerians were worried about the policy because of a spate of insecurity in the country caused by some foreigners coming in. We want to make sure that we take care of our citizens before we start taking care of the whole Africa,” he added. Senator Gabriel Suswam also said that since the President made a policy statement “it is now incumbent on him as Mr President to also direct the necessary authorities to bring the Immigration Act for us to amend.”

On his part, Senator Abba Moro, who is a former Minister of Interior, said “when international agreements were entered into by Nigeria, they should be properly domesticated to give them a bite of legality and legitimacy.” While, Senator Jibrin Barau, “has called on the National Assembly to provide legal backing to the policy, adding that the visa-on-arrival policy is being practised in developed countries and that it could open a country’s economy to emerging markets and investment opportunities.” However, Ahmad Lawan thereafter threw the matter up for vote and a majority of the senators voted against the policy.

In his remarks after the debate, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, thus called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to forward all treaties and agreements entered into by the Federal Government to the National Assembly for ratification. Again, sequel to the resolution of that motion, the Senate on December 17, 2019 summoned the Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbosola, and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede, to brief them on the policy.

However, “findings by Sunday PUNCH on Saturday showed that the immigration service had begun the implementation of the policy without any consent. It was further learnt that a border management technology known as the Migration Information Data Analysis System had been activated at all the international airports before the commencement of the policy.” Other newspapers information all week had also confirmed the same, mainwhile, the APC government presidency is neither bothered nor bulging to Senate demands.

Ideally, “The MIDAS collects, processes, stores and analyses migrant information in real-time across the border network and provides a strong statistical base for security, migration policy, and planning. It automatically captures travellers’ biographic and biometric data through the use of document readers, webcams and fingerprint readers for the purpose of identification, biometric verification, inspecting, authenticating travel document and collecting and analysing data of migrant information in real-time across the border network; before a traveller arrives at a border crossing point, the MIDAS is able to check incoming Advanced Passenger Information data against international alert lists from the International Police Organisation and other security agencies.”

The NIS has posted necessary information on the revised visa process on its website to guide prospective applicants. It described the facility as a class of short visit visa issued at the port of entry to frequently travelled high net-worth investors and intending visitors who may not be able to obtain the visas at the Nigerian Missions and Embassies in their countries of residence due to the absence of a Nigerian mission in those countries or exigencies of urgent business travels – “Intending visitors are required to obtain a visa approval letter before proceeding to Nigeria…”

But, spokesperson for the NIS, DCI Sunday James, told PUNCH correspondents in Abuja on Saturday that the service personnel were ready to implement the visa policy as directed by the Federal Government. He stated, “At the point of entry, biometric capture is carried out by the MIDAS, a technological tool that collects the data of migrants with Iris facilities for facial capture apart from the fingerprints for a two-step security verification process.” Stating, “All NIS personnel working at our service windows, especially at the entry and exit points, have requisite knowledge of the visa policy and service direction using the criteria for security, economy and transparency as a fool-proof measure.”

Currently, “operational in countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, the MIDAS was designed to be compliant with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Organisation for Standardisation. Speaking during the installation of the MIDAS at the Abuja airport in November last year, the Comptroller General of Immigration said that the system would curb transnational crimes.” And now it is being discarded.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that Aregbesola and Babandede may address the Senate on the visa-on-arrival policy in February, after they resume on January 28. The red chamber would go ahead with its plans to summon them, because Visa -on -arrival policy” is a sensitive issue that must be carefully handled by the Senate before any approval. “We could not do anything before we proceeded on the Christmas break but considering the importance of the matter, we will start taking steps to address it when we resume on January 28″, said the Senate.

Sebastine Hon, said the President lacked the power to begin the implementation of the visa-on-arrival policy without it being first enacted into law by the National Assembly. Hon said the implementation of the policy without the parliamentary validation through the making of a law would amount to usurping the powers of the National Assembly, adding that, “It falls outside the executive powers of the President. It falls within the Schedule to the Constitution that grants the National Assembly the legislative powers. So, it is something that is on the legislative list of the National Assembly of the Federal Government. It is the National Assembly alone that can take an action on such issue because it must first enact it into a law.”

Also speaking on the policy, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Prof Bola Akinterinwa, “describing it as the worst policy he had seen. He explained that it was a wrong time for Nigeria to take such a decision, especially when agents and mercenaries of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had just been dislodged from Syria and could be on their way to Africa to join forces with their ally, Boko Haram, in West African.”

He said, “Why would any reasonable government want to facilitate the entry of all manner of people. The criterion is if the person holds a passport issued by an African country. Many of these people (terrorists) have no fewer than two to three passports, and don’t forget that these days some countries are said to be aiding and abetting Boko Haram. This is the worst and very myopic policy that I have seen as a professional student, because it does not render any help in protecting our national integrity. I do not know whether the situation we find ourselves is truly redeemable with this kind of policy.”

An aviation security expert and former Military Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Group Capt John Ojikutu (retd.), said “the policy could break the standing rules on Aviation Security Defence Layers if the Immigration is the only government agency involved.” He said, “the National Intelligence Agency should share information with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, which would, in turn, share the information received with airport’s security network.” Normally, Airports are border areas and there is nothing yet stated that the visa on arrival passengers would get any enhanced security checks by the state security agencies or at the departure airports.

Adesanya-Davies says, when the elegant scheme of “checks and balances” fail, it is foolishness and stupidity of constraint. It’s good that the legislative checks the executive, and it’s good that the executive remains under the control of the legislative. Nobody ought to trust the executive enough to grant them unchecked power as in Nigeria. As a Yoruba proverb rightly puts it, “Aja to fe sonu, ko ni gbo fere Olode”, meaning “A dog that is dogged at getting lost, would not listen to the blasting horn of the hunter” as a typical stubborn goat. May God grant them all wisdom.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
God bless the Executive and the Legislative!

Comrade Kana Sani

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