A recent report from the Henley Passport Index, an international standard for passport evaluation, indicates that Nigeria’s passport has declined 38 spots in the world passport rating during the last 17 years. The Nigerian passport dropped from the 62nd most useful in 2006 to the 100th in 2022 despite being valid in 11 more countries. This demonstrates a consistent weakening across the 199 countries and 227 tourist hotspots that were analyzed. The Henley Passport Index ranks passports based on the number of countries its holders have visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry.
Nigerian citizens need a visa on arrival or an electronic visa to visit over 181 countries and territories. This is despite the fact that the number of countries that recognize the green passport has increased from 35 in 2006 to 46 in 2018. As of the time of this study, the following countries granted Nigerians visa-free, visa-on-arrival, or e-visa access: Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Cabo Verde, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Maur, among others.
Limited visa-free travel reflects Nigeria’s internal problems.
Several variables contribute to a country’s rise or decline in the Henley Passport Index international ranking, which is based on information from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This presupposes making strides to modernize the visa procedures and enhance border security in addition to strengthening diplomatic ties with other countries. Experts, on the other hand, argued that the robustness of the Nigerian passport is merely portraying the internal issues that the country is currently facing.
Also, Charles Onunaiju, director of research at the Centre for China Studies in Abuja, flatly stated that the limited visa-free travel opportunities for Nigerians are a reflection of the country’s internal problems under the current leadership. He said that the nation of Nigeria is suffering a number of problems as its residents, especially the youths, leave in quest of better opportunities abroad. According to Onunaiju, most embassies now apply rules to Nigerians that they don’t apply to other nations because they believe Nigerians are anxious to migrate.
The ranking may not properly reflect a passport’s strength.
Furthermore, Onunaiju noted that this catastrophic condition arose from the incapacity of the administration to harness the tremendous human resources present in the nation. Nigeria initially needs to intervene to improve the nation in order to get more respect and esteem from outsiders. However, the Nigeria Immigration Service is responsible for granting passports and is thinking in a distinct cause of action, he claimed. Mobility without the need for a visa is mainly the result of bilateral agreements reached between nations and among various regional blocs.
Meanwhile, NIS spokesperson Amos Okpu clarified that the ranking is based on passport admissibility, which means it is highly a function of mutual understanding and reciprocity among countries and thus may not accurately reflect the actual robustness of a passport, citing the EU and the ECOWAS as examples. Okpu acknowledged Henley & Partners’ dedication and effort in compiling the information, but he stressed the need to invest in Nigeria’s passport technology to guarantee conformity with ICAO regulations.
NIS’s priority is meeting ICAO’s standards and requirements.
Okpu noted that Nigeria’s status as an ICAO Public Key Directory member since April 2009 gives it a prominent place within the international community. Electronic Machine-Readable Travel Documents like e-Passports, e-ID cards, and Visible Digital Seals all need to be authenticated before they can be used, and the Public Key Directory is where this information is shared and exchanged. Okpu said definitively that the NIS’s main priority is to meet ICAO standards and include different passport security requirements in the database.