LAST week, Nigerians woke up to the breaking news of a visa row with the United States. The Donald Trump administration announced that as from Thursday (August 29, 2019) Nigerians whose visa applications were approved would pay extra visa fees ranging from $80 to $303 (depending on the class of visa) in addition to the non-refundable $160 to $260 application fees paid for non-immigrant visas, before they can travel to the US. The US Embassy in Nigeria made it abundantly clear that the extra fee imposition was a “reciprocity” gesture which is a normal diplomatic retaliatory practice when a country feels that a foreign country has treated its citizens unfairly.
According to the Embassy: “The total cost for a US citizen to obtain a visa to Nigeria is currently higher than the total cost for a Nigerian to obtain a comparative visa to the United States”. And for that, the reciprocity fee “is meant to eliminate the cost difference”. This is in tune with US law. Hardly had the announcement been made than the Federal Government, in uncharacteristic expeditiousness, responded. The new Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, instructed the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Muhammad Babandede, to immediately reduce the $180 that American citizens were required to pay for a visa to Nigeria to $150.
First of all, let us commend Aregbesola for his quick and effective response to the American threat which would have impacted negatively on prospective Nigerian travellers to America had the Federal Government applied its usual slow response to issues that expose Nigerians to hardship. We hope he will bring this verve to the entire security architecture waiting for attention from his Ministry. This is obviously a benefit of putting a new broom in a dusty room. We must also learn from President Trump’s zero tolerance to issues that impact negatively or unfairly on the welfare of American citizens anywhere in the world. We want this attitude to be adopted by our leaders. It is largely because we almost never react appropriately in this manner when Nigerians are victimised by foreign countries that we are treated as slaves or beasts of no nation all over the world.
Our foreign missions are among the most irresponsible in the world when it comes to protecting the interests and welfare of Nigerians in their respective domains. Our embassies leave our citizens with inadequate consular care in countries like South Africa, India, the UK and other parts of the world. When your country does not care about you, there is little basis for patriotism. In any case, why should we make it so difficult and expensive for American citizens to visit Nigeria? Most of them are usually tourists and businessmen whose visit positively impact our economy.