Poor travelling arrangements by the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the ongoing 2018 African Senior Athletics Championship in Asaba, Delta State, is the reason some of the athletes on the continent were stranded at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, SaharaRepprters can confirm.
Some athletes from Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Benin, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Egypt, South Sudan, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Morocco, and Rwanda were stranded in Lagos because of visa issues.
Our correspondent gathered that the LOC, rather than ensure that the visa fees for the athletes were processed and paid online, did not liaise with individual countries of the athletes or their representatives.
It was gathered that when the athletes arrived in the country, the immigration officers at the Lagos Airport Command discovered that although their visas were processed online, there was no payment made as required by the law of the country.
When this lacuna was spotted, a source close to the service told our correspondent that the immigration officers at the airport had to check their status and collect their passports for onward processing.
The source insisted that the passports of the athletes were never seized as claimed in some quarters, but collected for issuance of sticker visas.
It was learnt that the passports were handed over to the technical partners of immigration, New Works, which had to generate ID and Reference numbers for the individual athletes and their passports, with the visas returned to the athletes immediately all the processes were concluded.
The source said: “A lot of them came in at once and none of them could pay for visa on arrival, which is a policy of the Federal Government.
"As you know, we don’t collect cash at Immigration any longer. The local organising committee was not able to make the payment because it did not make enough preparation towards their arrival into Nigeria. They all came at once and New Works, which is our technical partner, had to generate ID and reference number for each one of them to make the payment easier.
“But as they were not able to generate the payment, instead of delaying them and keep them at the airport until the payment is done, we collected their passports so that when the payment is done, we put the visas and stickers on their passports and return it to the organising committee. We allowed them to come in, but collected their passports for sticker visas because if their passports were with them, there was no way we would have put the Visas on their individual passports.”
Nigeria's visa on arrival policy commenced in 2012 with some countries, but came into full stream in 2017 with the introduction of the Ease-of-Doing-Business policy of Federal Government.
With the new policy, the era of immigration officers collecting cash payment from foreign tourists or travellers coming into the country came to an end. Payments are now made online for prospective travellers into Nigeria.
This policy had eased the rigours experienced by travellers coming into Nigeria and also increased the number of tourists into the country by 30 per cent in the first half of 2018, when compared to the same period in 2017.