PEBEC reforms on the entry and exit of people inspire excitement not just in the business person in Nigeria, but also in the passionate traveller … see more about PEBEC reforms from a traveller’s tale
By Kemi Onabanjo
When the PEBEC reforms were announced, I had a feeling of cautious excitement. I was excited because it felt like the country was making progress in the right direction and I was cautious because…you know, Nigeria. However, I have been very impressed with the execution of the reforms and how, almost 2 years after, the staff at the airport have not backslidden to their old ways.
As an avid traveler, the first thing I noticed was that there was an increased level of automation at the airport. At Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, I was very delighted to see the luggage scanners at the entrance of the airport.
This replaced the manual search tables where all your personal belongings (including the egusi that Mummy London requested for) are laid out for your crush to see – so much for being a ‘tush baby-girl’. All that privacy invasion is now a thing of the past! Disclaimer: No, I do not have a Mummy London and I do not export egusi in any quantities, but you get the point.
I do a lot of work-related domestic travel between Lagos and Abuja, and I have almost missed a flight (or two or three) because of the multiple checkpoints within the airport. One aunty will give you the boarding pass at the check-in point, then 5 footsteps away, another aunty will check the boarding pass and sign behind it (no idea why they do that). Another 10 footsteps ahead, there is an uncle waiting to put a sticker on the boarding pass and yet another aunty waiting in front to remove the sticker the uncle just appended.
Phew! It was all so exhausting, and each of these ‘checkpoints’ meant queues and delays and an increased probability of missing flights. Again, this grueling experience is a thing of the past now, because of the PEBEC reforms!
At the Abuja domestic airport, it is an expressway from check-in counter to the boarding gate – no stops at all! This has had a positive impact on my work, as there is a reduced risk of missing important client meetings. At least, I don’t have anyone to blame, but myself (and maybe Lagos traffic), for missing any flights now.
I think the most exciting reform must be the visa-on-arrival reform for foreigners coming into Nigeria. It is not yet perfect, but we are a long way from where we were before the reforms. As an alumni of a global business school with classmates from over 70 countries, I am constantly getting invitations to attend weddings, reunions and different events in different countries across the world.
I know PEBEC is yet to solve the issue of the restrictions on the ‘green passport’ and I still need to apply for visas for most of the countries I need to visit. However, the visa-on-arrival reform has given me the hope that one day, I too can invite my friends and classmates to Nigeria and they will be able to come easily (with the right documentation, of course).
I have a dream, that one day, I will host 20 of my classmates, from all over the world, here in Nigeria and we will have a blast! I will take them to Terra Kulture to see a play, Nike Art Gallery to see (and maybe buy) beautiful African art, Lekki Conservation Centre to go on the longest canopy walk in Africa, Lekki Craft Market to buy ornaments, a Nigerian wedding because ‘ain’t no party like a Lagos party’, 100 Hours Ikoyi to eat Amala and Mama Kemi’s house for the best seafood okro in the land! I have a dream, and I know that because of the PEBEC reforms, that dream can come true very soon!
Beyond my dream though, the visa-on-arrival reform has opened up Nigeria as a tourist and business destination of choice. It is now on the radar of my international friends and colleagues; the same radar that most East African countries with visa-on-arrival policies have been on for years. We still have a long way to go in improving the implementation of this reform but for now, Nigeria has become a real feasible option for tourists, professionals and potential investors. It has become easier for business meetings and investment project tours to happen on-ground in Nigeria. I honestly cannot do justice to quantifying the economic and social benefits of this increased access to the country in this article. That, my friends, is a story for another day!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.