Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in conversations about everything wrong with Nigeria that we may get blindsided to the advantages that come with carrying a Nigerian passport.
Most times, people don’t know, so they do not apply. The problems exist, but be educated on the advantages as well while they last so you do not miss out. These advantages apply to Nigerian citizens at home and in the diaspora.
1. Personal Travel Allowance (PTA): This is a facility available in most Nigerian commercial banks that allows you to purchase US Dollars over the counter, at the bank rate for the purpose of personal spending when you travel.
You may be required by the bank to show evidence of your ticket booking and perhaps visa. We used to be able to get it instantly over the counter, but these days, you may need to apply 3-4 weeks in advance.
Here’s why it’s hot. Spending Dollars or any other FOREX overseas should require you to purchase it at the (current) black market rate of 650/$. PTA gives you 460-ish at today’s rate (nothing is sure in Naija). Please note that at this time, it’s capped at $4,000 per person, per quarter.
If you are traveling as a family or as a group of friends and some members of your squad do not intend to use their PTA or are not even aware of it, well, again, use your imagination.
Before this current administration, this was extended to foreign medical bills and school fees payments but I hear those are getting difficult to access.
2. International Scholarships: I do not have the finer details but some State Governments, Government Agencies, Oil Companies and other multinationals offer international scholarships to indigent students of select host communities, Local Governments, States and sometimes the entire country, Nigeria.
Slots might not be many but they exist. Please keep researching this for your wards as you just might get it. I personally know some beneficiaries who had zero connections before getting access.
3. Dual/Multiple Citizenships: Nigeria is one of the countries in the world that allows you to hold the Nigerian passport and simultaneously hold others you wish to.
If you’ve lived all your life in Nigeria, you may think this is ‘normal’, but no, it’s not. Some notable countries do not allow this. You must renounce one citizenship before taking up another.
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Our neighbors, Liberia for instance, only just started the process of allowing her people of Liberian descent in the diaspora to come back home and claim Liberian citizenship, without the usual condition of renouncing their other citizenship(s).
A good number of developed and developing countries still do not allow dual citizenship. Nigeria gives you that freedom, so if you have the means and opportunity to acquire other citizenships, feel free.
4. Foreign Currency (Domiciliary Accounts): It’s almost a taboo in most countries to hold a local bank account in foreign currency.
I actually thought domiciliary accounts were normal until I tried to receive dollars in Brazil and the bank thought it odd that I’d ask for US Dollars in a country that was not the United States.
They proceeded to convert the funds to Reais (their local currency) and made me state (in writing) the purpose of said funds. Interesting.
In Nigeria, despite the current shortages, you can open foreign currency (domiciliary) accounts in Pounds, Euro and US Dollars and receive funds there via bank wire transfers.
We have enjoyed this facility for many years, though I do not know how much longer our Central bank can keep it going.
5. Visa-free Access to ECOWAS: Nigerian passport holders can visit all countries in the ECOWAS bloc without applying for a visa.
For those who skipped Social Studies, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) is like a whatsapp group for all countries in the West Africa region – Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Benin Republic, Togo, The Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Cabo Verde, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Cote d’Ivoire.
These countries may not be wealthy per se, but acquiring visas to these destinations can be quite difficult or bureaucratic for other non-ECOWAS nationals.
If you hold a Nigerian passport however, just pack your luggage and catch a flight. You’re covered.
6. You are allowed to leave the country: I know that this is an extreme example as it applies to just a few countries, but it’s worth noting since I’ve been yelling “Get a passport”.
There are countries that do not let their citizens leave or make it difficult to do so. They take “We’re in this together” to another level”. North Korea is known to shoot those who try to leave without permission.
Those seeking permission to leave must prove that they have family left behind that can be taken as hostages if they do not return as promised.
When a North Korean who legally left decides to return, they have to apply for a reentry visa to be allowed back into their country.
Some other countries make their passports expensive (up to a year’s salary) or impose hefty travel taxes, discouraging most middle class (and below) earners from bothering with it at all.
Iran restricts its males above the age of 18 from leaving unless they serve in its military for at least 2 years.
This reminds me of one guy that said “recruit 50 million youths”. Don’t let him see this abeg… or just get your passport now before it gets hard(er).
Iranian women cannot leave the country unaccompanied without the signature of their husband (if married), or father or male relative if unmarried. I do not know if this has been repealed yet, but it has been the case for a long time.
Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea require its male citizens to enlist in their respective militaries (or other uniformed services) before being allowed to travel even for studies.
This post is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the advantages of a Nigerian citizenship. There are other unadvertised benefits like study/trade treaties we have with other countries. No one talks about the specifics, perhaps because of what might happen when 200 million Nigerians pounce on a single juicy opportunity. But those who know and apply, will not be hindered.