PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari took Nigerians by surprise when he announced a “Visa on Arrival” policy for all Africans travelling to Nigeria as from January 2020 at the Aswan Forum convened by the Chairman of the African Union, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el Sisi.
The surprise element laid in the fact that no discussion had ever been initiated on the subject at any level prior to the announcement.
As one of Africa’s touted vibrant democracies, government usually moots a subject of that magnitude well ahead of time to enable it gauge public opinion.
In most cases, the National Assembly takes it up and a consensus is formed in the pursuit of the overall national interest of the country.
We fail to see the national interest that Buhari’s unilateral announcement, which has already been followed up by the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS; seeks to promote. We do not see what value this policy will add except in the negative sense.
Nigeria is already struggling with a soaring population growth which passed the 200 million mark in 2019. With a current Gross National Product, GDP, growth rate of 1.8 and a poor internal revenue profile which keeps the Federal Government mainly dependent on external borrowings, Nigeria cannot afford to throw its gates open to strange newcomers.
With very few employment opportunities even for our citizens we should actually be very protective of our country from the influx of foreigners. These people, not being Nigerians, will never transfer their loyalties to our country or commit to its collective aspirations.
Another reason that we find Buhari’s gesture shocking is that he had always blamed foreigners for the security problems of the country.
The Boko Haram/Islamic State terrorists in the North East, the so-called bandits of the North West and armed Fulani militias killing, raping, kidnapping Nigerians and displacing farmers from their communities are portrayed by the Buhari regime as mainly foreigners.
What then is the patriotic rationale for this sudden bonanza?
Why is the Federal Government singing the security benefits of border closure only to announce this VoA? Most of these people, once in Nigeria, are liable to get lost in the population, knowing that our security agencies lack the capacity to monitor or trace them.
The sneaky and sudden manner in which this policy was announced is highly suspicious.
We find Buhari’s VoA policy unacceptable because apart from being detrimental to our overall national interest, it was not discussed or agreed by the generality of the Nigerian people. It should be suspended forthwith.
Nigeria is a democracy, not a tin-pot dictatorship.