In recent times, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has taken laudable steps to revamp its systems and processes. The NIS is differentiating itself and making exemplary strides to ensure seamless interactions with Nigerians and foreigners alike. The recently implemented New Visa Policy 2020 (NVP 2020) aims to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria, boost tourism and foreign investments, and attract global knowledge to supplement local capacity. The NVP 2020 introduced the automation of Visa On Arrival (VOA) for business tourists – a welcome development. Furthermore, on 5th June, 2020, the Comptroller General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede, announced that the Temporary Work Permit (TWP) would thereafter be issued through an electronic process, effective from 8th June, 2020.
The TWP is a single-entry permit which licenses expatriates with specialised skills to work in Nigeria on short-term projects, usually 60 days. This permit is particularly common in the engineering and manufacturing industries which require the installation and maintenance of unique equipment, as well as for research and development projects, and training of Nigerian staff.
Before now, as with many government initiatives, the process for obtaining a TWP for foreign staff was cumbersome. It required applications to be submitted physically and processed at the NIS headquarters in Abuja. The introduction of the online process has completely transformed the experience, as interested parties can now apply and pay online and receive approval within 48 hours. In addition, it eliminates the need for third-party agents who engage in hoarding and reselling permits and act as bottlenecks, rather than easing the process.
Nigerian companies are already battling with unique challenges posed by the operating environment which makes business really difficult. Faced with volatile exchange rates, epileptic power supply, infrastructural deficits, and limited financing options, the TWP process revamp is a breath of fresh air for these companies. Indigenous businesses can easily attract foreign experts, as they no longer need to go through heaps of paperwork and endless bureaucracy. Another contribution of this transformation is the cross-pollination of ideas within an industry that can lead to innovation in business processes and global competitiveness — a much-desired outcome for Nigeria.
For far too long, the growth of business and industry in Nigeria has been hampered by the lack of technical know-how. Expatriates holding this permit are required to provide practical instruction and train indigenes to take over from them, as they will only work on the projects temporarily. This transfer of knowledge helps to train the next generation of business leaders and give them on-the-job training in areas they might not have been taught through formal education. Nigerian businesses can now have the best of global talents to tackle their most challenging problems while also grooming future problem-solvers.
This development has come at a perfect time. The pandemic forcibly disrupted many of our norms and demanded innovation at the speed of light. The new TWP electronic process, as well as the automation of the VOA process will undoubtedly increase the efficiency of the NIS and set an example for other agencies.
The Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Jumoke Oduwole, who was present at the stakeholders forum joined the CGI in advising Nigerian businesses to stop patronising agents and follow the new processes, which are simple, timely and hitch free.
As consultants to the Ministry of Interior, pcl. is honoured to be playing a huge part in helping to shape the transformation of the NIS and other agencies, in line with the Ministry’s agenda.