By Ahamefula Ogbu in Abuja
Awards N2bn power, health contracts Insists economy is in good shape
The Federal Government yesterday approved new visa and expatriate quota policy that will see to easing the entrance into the country of investors and tourists with a policy of granting visas at entry points for such categories
It also approved contracts worth N2,004,707,036.8 for the power and health sectors.
The contracts were for the overhaul of the GT17 gas turbines at Ughelli power plant said to have exceeded its mechanically given running time of 24,000 hours before servicing having worked for 45,000 hours and putting the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) on electronic platform for easy accessibility and monitoring.
The government also had an overview of the economy and returned a judgment that the economy was sound contrary
to some insinuations that the economy was not healthy, pointing at the rising external reserves of the country as an indicator.
Briefing State House cor- respondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting, Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku flanked by Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu and his Interior counterpart, Mr. Abba Moro, they explained that the new visa policy will see the granting of extended visa period of up to 10 years to genuine investors and tourists.
On the economy he said, “Presently we have no problem in terms of our finance management. There have been rumours here and there, especially because of delay payments, because of the new electronic payment system being implemented by the federal ministry of finance.
“There has been occasional delay in payments, in some departments. But, that has nothing to do with Nigerian financial position. Our economy is sound, our economy is grow- ing, the fastest in the continent and we also know that our own external reserve has gone up to about $35 billion now”.
Also visa would now be granted at points of entry at international airports for those who have genuine cause to visit the country in conformity to the changing dynamics of international travel, investments and economic gains.
Moro further explained that the policy which will come with the automation of the business office of the Ministry of Interior will see to the electronic checking of the abuses which expatriate quota have been subjected to in the past.
He stated that apart from the provision which makes it mandatory for two Nigerians to be attached to every expatriate that works in Nigeria, there were provisions and expecta- tions that for certain category of threshold of every investor, they will employ a certain number of Nigerians to build capacity and at the same time, create employment.
“Most significantly is the fact that we have been in recent time witnessing security challenges in our country and it becomes necessary that we must attack the problem from all sides and the way you enter and get out of Nigeria consti- tute a very vital component of fighting internal security.
“So today, we have a new visa regime that contains some innovations in the sense that new elements are being introduced in line with the strategic interest of Nigeria and of course most other areas still have to be based on the principle of reciprocity.
We have a visa policy in place now that is targeted at boost- ing tourism, attracting foreign direct investments, opening up the economy for employment opportunities and above all, a policy that seeks to secure our borders.
“We now have visa at entry point. So, if a businessman, a tourist or a business delegation or a government delegation has reason to visit Nigeria at short notice to do business with Nigeria and if by any coincidence we don’t have embassy in such country, such delegation or group can come to Nigeria and obtain their visas at port of entry particularly at international airports. Of course, this is without prejudice to ensuring our internal security.
“We have short stay visa, long term visa up to 10 years, we have temporary stay visa, we have permanent resident visa and of course a new introduction now is that we have investment or skill transfer visa category. In this case, if you have a particular level of investment you want to make in Nigeria that can add value to the economy of the country you can be given certain category of visa.
“In conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Labour if we classify certain skills as valuable to Nigeria that will don’t have here then we can on the basis of such skills grant you visa. By and large, with the approval of this new visa regime for Nigeria we hope that we will be able to attract more foreign investments to Nigeria,” Moro explained.
He insisted that with the new visa regime will take care of most of the lapses encountered in visa procurement as it aligns with current dynamics in international relations and travels.
Chukwu brought the memorandum to the Council seeking for approval for the “Regulatory and Business Practices Improvement and Information Management (E-NHIS) project of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
He said the approved project was based on the need to provide an efficient platform for scaling up the installa- tion of and implementation of electronic network that will facilitate transactions between Health manage- ment Organisations (HMOs), Healthcare Financiers (HCFs) Enrolees, banks and insurance companies.
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