The Nigerian Federal Government on Sunday said that despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease hitting nine African countries, it would not suspend the visa-on-arrival policy for African nations.
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says that COVID-19 cases have been reported in nine African countries, including Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa.
Responding to inquiries, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) said that the policy introduced by the Federal Government to encourage immigrants from other African nations is still in place in order not to strain the relationship between Nigeria and other African countries.
The NIS Spokesperson, Mr Sunday James, said that “the visa on arrival is a policy of the Federal Government and there is nothing on ground to suggest its reversal. It doesn’t have anything to do with coronavirus; that’s a health-related issue. Once the Ministry of Health has done its work and we carry out our control measures, there is no need for that.
“Visa issuance is a diplomatic issue. You don’t suspend visa issuance because of an epidemic; you can only increase your control measure. Nigerians are still traveling out; if Nigerians are denied visa when they have good reasons to travel out that could cause a strain in diplomatic ties.”
This is just as President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday sent messages to Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Moon Jae-in of Iran and South Korea respectively, and the Prime Minister of Italy, Guiseppo Conte, expressing “deep sympathies” following increasing incidents of the deadly Coronavirus in their countries.
In the messages, President Buhari said the Nigerian government will continue to diligently carry out its duty to the international community by ensuring that the spread of the disease is curtailed.
The President also encouraged Nigerians to continue to show support to citizens of all the countries who are resident in Nigeria.
According to him, “There is no cause for panic. Italy, South Korea and Iran remain Nigeria’s allies in good and bad times.”
President Buhari, while commending the three countries on their efforts to contain the virus, expressed confidence that, “with the support of the World Health Organisation and other global agencies all working together to contain the virus, it will only be a matter of time before the world sees an end to this disease. So far, there have been no known cases of the disease on Nigerian soil, but for the penetration of a lone foreign national found to be a carrier of the virus.”
Buhari also commended the diligent efforts of federal, state health officials as well as ports and border personnel in keeping Nigeria safe from the epidemic.