Nigerian Passport Ranks as the Least Powerful in ECOWAS
The Nigerian passport has been ranked as the least powerful among the 15 countries in the Economic Community of West African States.
This is according to a recent report released by the Henley Global Passport Index for the first quarter of 2023. The ranking, which is based on the freedom of movement for citizens across different countries, puts Nigeria in the 98th position, behind 14 other countries in the region.
It showed that the Nigerian passport offers visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to only 46 destinations worldwide, far from the 68 countries accessible to Gambians visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival programme.
According to the Q1 report, Gambia leads the ECOWAS with 68 visa-free locations, Cabo Verde with 65 locations, Ghana and Sierra Leone with 64, Benin with 60 locations, Burkina Faso with 57, Senegal and Ivory Coast with 56, Guinea with 55, Togo with 54, Niger and Mali with 53 locations, Guinea Bissau with 52, Liberia with 49 and Nigeria with 46 visa-free locations.
While the ECOWAS protocol grants citizens of member states freedom of movement across each other, the story is different outside of the bloc, where access largely depends on the countries’ efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with other nations and their effort to modernise visa processes and improve security measures at their borders.
Declining Passport Ranking
The report also revealed that Nigeria’s passport ranking declined from 62nd in 2006 to 98th in Q1 2023, falling by 36 places in the past 18 years.
Although 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.
Offerings and Suggestions
Countries offering visa-free, visa-on-arrival, and e-visa access to Nigerians, according to this report include Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, 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.
A former Nigerian ambassador to Singapore, Ogbole Amedu-Ode, told Sunday PUNCH that an assertive and consistent implementation of Nigeria’s war on drugs and cybercrime would mend the country’s reputation in the global community. He added, “The offshoot of drug-related crime perpetrated by Nigerians abroad and a low-performing economy has brought us here. We must also ensure that the economy bounces back and becomes robust, so that our people are not voting with their feet. When we have fewer of our citizens indulging in criminal activities across international boundaries, and these other steps I have mentioned, I think we will bounce back. Anything short of this will be a waste of our time.”
Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Anthony Akuneme, said while the politics of such ranking was domiciled in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more beneficial bilateral agreements with more countries could open doors for Nigerians. “It is a function of reciprocity,” Akuneme added.