Congratulations, Nigerians! By paying a mere three thousand pound sterling, you get a visa that enables you to live in the United Kingdom permanently. And it is all legit, courtesy, Ms. Theresa May, the UK Home Secretary.
Now, you can legally become an “eroya” (emigre) with all the rights appertaining to every Briton. Your money qualifies you for a modern day equivalent of the Middle Age’s papal pardon. After you’ve paid to the British Exchequer, you can give the Immigration Department the slip, and overstay your welcome in the UK. The Home Office promises to look the other way. When, like little foxes, you make little holes in the pockets of the Exchequer, your sins will be forgiven. Nigerians should have a more favourable attitude toward the proposed visa bond.
For such a little amount, you can pretend to stay for six months only, and end up staying permanently. You can even form a pressure group to enforce your rights to the facilities that you paid for. Nigerians, just chill, appreciate your good fortune, then hurry up, scrape money from anywhere, everywhere — beg, borrow, liquidate your “esusu” (thrift) contribution or work overtime — and get the visa to the Anglo el dorado. To think that this break comes without the drills and hassles you go through for the American visa lottery.
From November 2013, citizens of British Commonwealth nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, who propose to visit the United Kingdom through the six-month Tourist or Family Visitor visa plans, must post a refundable three thousand pounds sterling financial bond. Incidentally, these countries contribute the highest number of illegal immigrants to the UK. This bond is to ensure that they will return to their countries when their visa expires. But if they abscond, they forfeit the money to the British Government. And it will be used to defray costs they would incur for using British public services as they extend their stay beyond the six months allowed by their visa. Media reports indicate that of the 2.2 million people who visited the UK in 2012, about 101,000 were Nigerians. But the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Andrew Pocock, insists that the figure was 125,000, about 70 per cent of the number that actually applied for the visa.
Those, like Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, of the House of Representatives, who suggest retaliatory moves should read Buddha: “Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love!” Softly kill John Bull with cuddly love. Reject the tit-for-tat that Nigeria resorted to when South Africa asked Nigerians to pay N100,000 deportation fee. Don’t introduce a bond or whatever, but rather waive visa fees, and indiscriminately award entry visa to every Briton who wants to visit Nigeria. This will encourage them to come over to Nigeria in droves.
The Nigeria High Commission in London should recruit a kidnap crew that will grab Britons on the street, and coral them into aircraft bound for Nigeria. As more Britons come to Nigeria, they create more leg room behind for Nigerians who manage to post the financial bond. Just one housekeeping matter: Five Nigerians should replace every Briton that comes to Nigeria. If you compare the fortune spent by the Nigerian system to maintain a British expatriate, to the pittance a Nigerian ekes out in the UK, you will catch the drift of this logic.
May, obviously another “Snatcher” in the making, didn’t list the public services that illegal aliens enjoy in her country. She hasn’t explained why they begin to enjoy those services only when their visas expire. She also did not say if the bond refund will attract accrued interest, as the principle of equity demands. But she obviously wants high net-worth visitors. She is reported to have said: “This is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective (selective?), bring down net migration from the hundreds of thousands, to the tens of thousands, while still welcoming the best (the best?) to Britain.” She has even derived an algebraic formula for a geometric winding down of alien arrivals at Heathrow Airport. Such arrogance and insensitivity, from a nation known for its civility! She continues: “In the long run, we are interested in a system of bonds that deters overstaying and recovers costs if a foreign national has used our public service.” Her policy rather justifies overstaying.
Is it true? The rumour that John Bull is going broke, and is looking to fetch up by squeezing out water out of every rock in sight. If, as others suggest, the policy is an admission that the UK is looking for ways to screen potential terrorists, this method is laughable. Those terrorists can afford any amount imposed on visitors. But everyone knows that those nationals who engage in acts of terrorism against western institutions are not from West Africa or the Asian nations targeted by this selective policy, but from the Middle East. The House of Representatives has hinted that the bond policy could have negative impact on relations between Nigeria and the UK. Ms Nnenna Elendu-Ekeje, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, has observed that the policy contradicts the spirit of the Commonwealth, and David Cameron’s promise to improve trade relations between the two countries. She speculates that maybe the policy is just a vote-catching gimmickry for the coming general election. This suggests that the British electorate are becoming xenophobic.
There is cheerful news, though. After meeting with Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, Nigeria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pocock said that his Government has yet to finalise the bond policy; the details are still being worked out. This is diplomatese for a policy review. He adds that bonafide Nigerians who wish to work, study or do business in the UK will be welcome, though the bond will still apply to a minority of potential abusers. He must clarify those who fall into this category. Anglo-Nigerian relations are on a great roll right now, no one should be putting clogs in the spokes of a wheel that is running well. In addition, the UK Tourism Minister should ask May not to spoil his business.