January 11, (THEWILL) – The Nigerian passport has dropped 38 places in global ranking in the last 17 years, a Henley Passport Index (HPI) report revealed on Tuesday.
The HPI ranks passports according to the number of countries their holders can access visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival programme.
Although the Nigerian passport gained 11 more destinations, it fell from 62nd in 2006 to 100th in 2022.
This shows a steady decline in strength amongst the 199 countries and 227 travel destinations studied.
While the green passport now grants visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 46 countries, up from the previous total of 35 in 2006, Nigerians cannot access over 181 travel destinations without a visa, visa-on-arrival or e-visa arrangement.
As of September 2022, travellers with Nigerian passports can only traverse 25 countries visa-free.
However, that number rises to at least 46 destinations when visa-on-arrival or e-visa programmes are added to the mix.
Countries offering visa-free, visa-on-arrival and e-visa access to Nigerians as of the time of this report include 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, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Others include Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Timor-Leste, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Fiji, Micronesia, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
According to the HPI, which is based on data from the International Air Transport Association, a fall or improvement in ranking is the result of several factors.
They include the country’s efforts to strengthen its diplomatic relations with other nations and its efforts to modernise its visa processes and improve security measures at its borders.
However, experts reasoned that the strength of the green document is only reflecting the internal challenges bedevilling Nigeria.
A Research Director, Centre for China Studies, Abuja, Charles Onunaiju, argued that the measly visa-free access Nigerians enjoy globally reflects the internal woes the country is experiencing under the present government.
“We have a challenge. Since Nigeria is becoming inhospitable, especially for young people with no opportunities, there is desperation to go abroad.
“Almost all embassies are now enforcing regulations on Nigerians they don’t impose on other nationals. That is very clear. People feel that almost every Nigerian wants to leave here. That’s partly true because the nation has mishandled the potential in it. Our leaders have not harnessed the vast human resources available to us.
“If we want to earn respect from outside, we must begin from home. If we want the world to take us seriously, we must get our acts together,” he said.
But Nigeria’s passport issuing agency, the Nigeria Immigration Service, said visa-free mobility is largely a reflection of bilateral agreements between countries and within regional blocs.
The spokesperson of the NIS, Amos Okpu, said, “This ranking is based on passport admissibility. And that is largely a function of mutual understanding, reciprocity among countries, which does not necessarily reflect the true strength of a passport. A good example is the European Union and the ECOWAS.
“While we appreciate the work done by Henley & Partners, we are more concerned with deepening our passport technology to meet up with the standards of the ICAO; ensuring that our passport complies with ICAO guidelines.”
Okpu argued that Nigeria has been a public Key Directory of the ICAO since April 2009 and, therefore, sits in a respectable position in the comity of nations.
The Public Key Directory is a central repository for exchanging the information required to authenticate electronic Machine-Readable Travel Documents such as e-Passports, electronic ID cards and Visible Digital Seals.
“What we put more emphasis on here is our standing in the ICAO. When ICAO alerts us of any lapses with our passports, we get to work. Nigeria has been part of the Public Key Directory since 2009 and it took us complying with several passport security specifications to be reflected on that directory,” he added.