Three months to the commencement of the £3,000 visa bond regime due to be imposed on Nigerians travelling to the United Kingdom, the Federal Government may have perfected plans to impose a £5,000 visa bond on prospective British citizens visiting Nigeria.
This is in retaliation to the new but controversial immigration policy of the UK scheduled to commence in November 2013.
The Home Office of the United Kingdom, recently classified Nigeria, India, as “high risk” and placed a £3,000 bond on every Nigerian visiting Britain.
The bond will be forfeited to the British government if an immigrant overstays his permit.
More than two million Nigerians are residing in the UK.
Uproar had greeted the immigration policy described as “discriminatory” since its announcement in June.
Nigeria is one of the countries put on the British “high-risk-list”. Others are India, Ghana, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The countries are slated for the pilot scheme of the new immigration policy to check immigration abuses.
A reliable source at the Nigerian High Commission in London told National Mirror that the refusal of the British Government to backpedal on the visa bond compelled Nigeria to fight back.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, had earlier assured that Nigeria would react appropriately if the policy was eventually implemented.
The source, who is a senior officer of the High Commission but did not want his name mentioned, told our correspondent in London that Nigeria had officially protested to the British government over the policy.
He, however, said that there was no sign that the British would rescind the decision.
“As a responsible country, we have protested officially against the discriminatory policy to the British government. But from all indications there is no going back on the policy. We have tried to make them see reasons on the need to review the new immigration policy, but it is like a done deal.
“Don’t forget that Nigeria has threatened to retaliate if the policy is implemented. So, we are only waiting for the implementation and the modalities of the new British immigration policy. But I can assure you that the Nigerian government won’t fold its hands. We would even raise the stake beyond the £3,000 they are asking Nigerians to pay as bond. We are looking at £5,000 as visa bond for UK citizens visiting Nigeria. This is our plan, which is subject to the approval of the Federal Government,” the source told National Mirror yesterday.
This stand is bound to strain the diplomatic relations between Britain and its former colony, Nigeria.
Early this year, British Prime Minister David Cameron chided Nigeria for passing anti-gay bill and threatened to cut aid to the country.
Also, Cameron recently berated Nigerian leaders for the mismanagement of the country’s huge natural resources.
But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesman, Ogbole Amedu Odeh, denied knowledge of the £5,000 visa bond.
“I’m just hearing that from you. I’m not aware of any £5,000 visa bond for British citizens,” Odeh told National Mirror on phone yesterday.
“Nigeria has not got official correspondence from the British government. Anytime Nigeria gets official communication on the policy, we will react appropriately.”
Meanwhile, Nigerians in the UK under the umbrella of the Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom, CANUK, have said that if this bond is implemented, wrong people will be targeted.
In an interview with National Mirror in London, CANUK Chairman, Bimbo Folayan, said: “On the visa bond, we’ve expressed our feelings that this is not a right policy. We feel that the wrong people are being targeted. We believe that this will be counter-productive and we think this is more political, more economical than immigration related.
“We have protested to the Commonwealth Office, they have listened to us and they promised to get back to us.
“Because of the present situation of British economy, it is probably another way for the Home Office to make money. But that will be to the detriment of genuine travellers. The £3,000 bond will only swell the purse of the British government.”
They, however, opposed the planned retaliation of the British immigration policy by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Folayan added: “Our position is that two wrongs cannot make a right. I believe that Nigerian government should not retaliate wrongly. Three times this year, I have gone to Nigeria with British investors. So, it means if I’m going to Nigeria, I will have to look for £5,000 visa bond for each of the visitors.
“So, this can only hurt Nigeria. This can hurt investment inflow in Nigeria. We do not support the £5,000 proposed visa bond. Either way, from the British government or Nigerian government, we do not support the policy.
“Policies are made and can be changed. If this is injurious to the economy of the UK, they have to change the policy. I don’t see anything cast in stone on the matter.”
The group, however, said that there was no basis for Nigerians to come to UK illegally.
“The region of the world that is enjoying growth is Africa and that is where the focus is. In UK, we are not recording so much growth and the economic forecast is not too promising.
“So, everybody is feeling the pain. There are not many jobs in the UK any more. There is actually no basis for any youth to leave Nigeria and live in UK illegally because, one, there are no jobs. Two, if you come illegally, that is even worse because you cannot get a job without relevant papers like work permit whereas there are opportunities in Nigeria,” Folayan said.
Nigerians also decried their being labelled as “high risks”. “Nigeria is not high risk. The vast majority of Nigerians living in UK are students, workers and those born in the country. That is not to say that there are no illegal immigrants.
“We strongly feel that Nigeria is not a high risk country regardless of the statistics they might have gathered. We object to targeting a few countries, calling them ‘high risk’.
“We do not support illegal immigrants. We actually encourage Nigerians in the UK to regularise their papers. We’re also in the forefront of encouraging Nigerians living in UK illegally to embrace the opportunity that have been provided by the International Organisation of Migration, IOM, for them to go back home and live more meaningfully than staying in UK without getting a job because of lack of regular papers.”
The group noted that the £3,000 bond would only embolden desperate people rather than serve as deterrent.
Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.