£3,000 Visa Bond: FG Plans To Retaliate

£3,000 Visa Bond: FG Plans To Retaliate

There were indications on Tuesday that the Federal Government would opt for a retaliatory measure if the United Kingdom went ahead to implement its proposed £3,000 visa bond.

£3,000 Visa Bond: FG Plans To Retaliate

Nigeria was said to have made this known  during a private  meeting  between  Foreign Affairs Minister,  Olugbenga Ashiru,  and  British High Commissioner,  Andrew Pocock, in Abuja.

It was reported the Federal Government summoned Pocock over the policy which it  said was capable of harming the existing cordial relationship between the two countries.

Nigeria is one of the six countries  whose nationals would be required to pay the £3,000  bond under  a proposed policy that will take effect in November. The others are India, Bangledish, Ghana, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

It was gathered that Pocock  admitted at the meeting with Ashiru that the UK  planned to introduce the “financial bond as a way of tackling abuse in the immigration system”, but added, “No final decision has been made.”

Ashiru, who  was said to have recalled the days when nationals of Commonwealth travelled freely to the UK  and   other member states,  expressed displeasure over the policy which he  described as not only “discriminatory but   capable of undermining the spirit of the Commonwealth family.”

A source privy to the meeting said,  “The minister conveyed the reservations of the Federal Government to Pocock, who said the policy was still a proposal. The minister reminded him of  British investments in Nigeria and vice-versa.

“He asked him to think about the implications a retaliatory measure would have on the two countries. The minister stressed that Nigeria might also impose £3,000  visa bond on British nationals coming into the country too.”

After the meeting, the ministry issued a statement in which it recalled “the strong historical bonds between the peoples of the various countries who were all regarded at that time as Commonwealth citizens.”

It  further “recalled that this time-honoured practice was unilaterally jettisoned by the UK   in 1985, thereby weakening the bonds of the Commonwealth family.”

According to the statement by  the spokesperson  for  the ministry, Ogbole Ode, Ashiru told the British envoy  “that the proposed policy would definitely negate the joint commitment by Prime Minister David Cameron and President Goodluck Jonathan to double the volume of bilateral trade between the two countries by 2014.”

 It added, “Ambassador Ashiru pointed out that the decision of the UK government is coming at the time the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers have unanimously recommended for adoption at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting   in November 2013, a proposal to  remove visa requirements for holders of official and diplomatic passports from member states.”

Ashiru,  who appealed to the UK to reconsider the proposed policy, noted “that the Federal Government has a responsibility to take appropriate measures to protect the interests of Nigerians, who may be affected by it (policy), if finally introduced.

“The minister informed the British High Commissioner that the Federal Government values the very cordial relations and strategic partnership between the two countries and would not want the introduction of any new policy to affect these cherished relations,” the statement added.

In  its own  statement,  the British High Commission reiterated that  details of the policy were  still being worked out. “No final decision has been made,” the  Head of Press and Public Affairs Section, Rob Fitzpatrick said.

The commission said, “if the plan were to go ahead in Nigeria,  it would affect only a very small number of the highest risk visitors.”

The statement added, “The vast majority would not be required to pay a bond.  Those paying bonds would receive the bond back, if they abided by the terms of their visa.

“Let me put this in perspective.  Over 180,000 Nigerians apply to visit the UK each year.  About 70 per cent  or around 125,000, of those applicants are successful.  Travel between our two countries is a key part of our strong cultural and business relationship.  Financial bonds would be focussed on only a tiny minority of potential abusers.  It would not  be a “£3,000 visa charge” as some media reporting has alleged.

“As soon as more details of the policy have been decided, we will inform the Nigerian government and public fully and officially, in the spirit of our long standing friendship, and our wish to help bona fide Nigerian visitors to work, study or do business in the UK.”

Also in Abuja, the  Senate  raised its voice against the proposed visa policy  and  warned that Nigeria would have to adopt  the principle of reciprocity if the UK went ahead to implement it.

 Leader of the Senate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba,  said,  “ I will like to say immediately that diplomacy is based on reciprocity and it is not an option that is lost on us.  When we had misunderstanding with South Africa, Nigeria rose to the occasion.  We will always rise to the occasion;but I think the way out is for Nigerians to have more faith in their country.”

Senator Ita Enang, who is the Chairman   Committee on  Rules and Business and his counterparts in  the   Petroleum (Downstream)  and  Navy committees, also  said the policy would greatly hurt relations between Nigeria and Britain.

Anyanwu,  for instance,  advised   the UK authorities to  be considerate in their anti-terrorism policies in order not to hurt the ties between Nigeria and Britain.

She said, “I know it is a way of expressing their own frustration with the involvement of  some Nigerians in negative things.This is what I think, but it is going to be a very offending policy;  it is surprising that it is coming from Britain  because we have a special historical link with  them.

“I think that what Britain ought to do is to encourage us and fully accept Nigeria as part of its history and not to extend such a mild form of hostility towards us. We will have to respond in ways that are loud  and clear. We have to tell  them that enough is enough.”

Meanwhile, a Senior Advocate  of Nigeria, Mr Femi  Falana, has said he had contacted   some human rights lawyers in the UK  to challenge the  proposed  policy  when  passed by the British parliament.

“We will  challenge the British government under their own Human Rights Act  and  European Human Rights convention. The law does not allow the UK  to target the nationals of any particular country for extortion. The Federal Government must also be prepared to retaliate in like manner  if the policy is allowed by the British government,’’ Falana said.

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