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Okonjo-Iweala: Visa Policy Must Change

Posted by By Constance Ikokwu on 2006/06/30 | Views: 645 |

Okonjo-Iweala: Visa Policy Must Change

The new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday assured Nigerians that she would press for a review of the processes for obtaining the visa.....

The new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday assured Nigerians that she would press for a review of the processes for obtaining the visa of other countries to check the growing cases of Nigerian applicants being treated with contempt by some embassies and high commissions.

This move, according to her, will however follow from a review of the process towards obtaining Nigerian visa in other countries to reflect the economic programmes of the current administration.

In her first public speech since the cabinet reshuffle that saw her reassigned to foreign affairs from the ministry of finance, Okonjo-Iweala said “we must send the message out to the world that Nigeria is open for business so our visa and other policies must change to reflect this focus. We must help our private sector to get access to markets elsewhere. We must penetrate other markets, it is not enough to be a market for others.”

The Foreign Affairs Minister who addressed senior, middle and junior level staff at the ministry’s headquarters in Zone 3, Abuja, emphasised that “other countries must also reciprocate by ensuring that Nigerians who have genuine business and personal reasons for seeking visas are not treated with contempt, that they are treated with the seriousness and respect they deserve.”
Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that it cost the nation N6 billion when she was finance minister to offset the salaries of our missions abroad.

"There are about 95 overseas missions whose work has been hampered by poor funding resulting in non-payment of salaries and rents" she stated while reiterating that the conditions of those missions and its officers would be one of her top priorities.

Describing President Olusegun Obasanjo as “the nation’s number one foreign policy architect and ambassador, who is truly engaged in all aspects of our foreign policy”, she said the President is interested in the welfare of the overseas missions. Obasanjo, she stated, also believes that the ministry could be restructured to contribute meaningfully to the government’s economic reform programme. The restructuring, she said, would also involve the staff in Nigeria and that those affected will be paid their full entitlements.

“This President believes that this very important ministry is capable of contributing much more to the efforts of the present administration to create a prosperous, stable and respected nation. And that is why the President wants the ministry reshaped and restructured so that they can better contribute to the realisation of the Nigeria of our dreams, as set out in the economic reform programme.

"Nigeria must make the appropriate changes in terms of foreign policy, that would enable her achieve the objective of becoming the 20th largest economy in the world by 2020", the minister noted. It is also important that these changes reflect economic realities, she added.

“Our priority is to change foreign policy in line with the nation’s economic realities and to achieve this the ministry has been given the mandate to executive this foreign policy must also change,” adding that “we need more economics in our economic diplomacy."

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