A peep into President Buhari’s Visa Free Policy
By Ebuka Onyekwelu
Policies of government especially on movement in and out of the country, are made with utmost carefulness. While doing this, the interest of Nigeria comes first and must be seen to come first.
Already, we have the ECOWAS Charter and the AU Charter that put Africans who want to visit Nigeria in some vantage position and ease of getting into Nigeria, when they really have to. I have enjoyed this priviledge myself and have travelled to a handful of West African countries, just with my passport. I am also aware that some people travel even without passport. The point is, movement across West African countries is smooth, travelling by road across the borders is a huge experience, except for the rising security concerns. However, free entry, just for anybody from across Africa, is something that is difficult to understand.
Therefore, it is not clear what President Buhari wants to achieve with his Visa Free speech into Nigeria for Africans, in Egypt. What will visa free entry for all Africans, do for Nigeria? Is Nigeria in need of manpower, I mean, is manpower in short supply in Nigeria? The answer is a resounding no. In which instance, Nigeria don’t need to throw its borders open to all Africans. What will the visa free entry add to the Nigerian economy? Apparently nothing too. Is this visa free entry into Nigeria, for Africans with specific uptrend skill? Or just the usual political folly by Nigeria, in a bid to pose as Africa’s big brother of nothingness? Every relationship or interraction in international fora, is a give and take not a give and give. What you give is the politics and what you gain is your national interest. So, what exactly will Nigeria gain by granting Africans free entry into the country? I have thought about this but cannot easily get any worthwhile answer, that tends to confirm the soundness of the policy.
In terms of security, is it tactical for the President to invite all Africans, one may say, to enter Nigeria without visa? Is it strategic that while Nigeria is struggling with Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen violence, kidnapping and all kinds of organized violence, the country is opening its borders so that all can come in? Is it patriotic that while Africa remains at the bottom of the rungs of development in all spheres, but close to the apex of terrorism index, instability, etc, in the world, will free entry into Nigeria not add to the countries disturbing security situation.
So, if Nigeria has no need to source manpower outside its shores, because basically, Nigeria has more than enough manpower than it needs, do we need more people? Even more worrisome is the fact that the President did not specify the level of education or skill the visitors should have. In which case, Nigeria is saying dependents, unskilled and uneducated Africans should come in. This is shocking, considering that if it happens that a few million hungry and poor Africans of other country come into Nigeria, that will put Nigeria and Nigerians in a precarious situation. At least, if the President had said that Africans with so and so skill or training, should enter freely because Nigeria will do this and this for them so they can be professionally established in Nigeria, bearing in mind that they too will contribute and build the economy and create jobs; then that is blameless and exactly what progressive governments all over the world may do. But even so, the government of Nigeria must first value Nigerians with specific skills and training, of which it has not even noticed. How much more other people! So one really wonders the essence of granting free entry to just anybody.
President Buhari’s free entry of all Africans into Nigeria, is superfluous and potential self-annihilation. The offer is a threat to Nigeria’s security, a threat to Nigeria’s stability and a huge minus for Nigeria’s economy.
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