NIGERIA'S FOREIGN MINISTER SUMMONS THE BRITISH HIGH COMMISIONER OVER THE PROPOSED IMPOSITION OF CASH BOND ON VISA APPLICANTS
The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga A. Ashiru, MFR, summoned the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Andrew Pocock, to his office on Tuesday, 25th June 2013, over the proposal by the UK Government to impose a 3,000 Pounds ''cash bond'' on first-time visa applicants from Nigeria, and other selected countries of the Commonwealth, which are regarded as “High Risk” countries.
2. At the meeting which was held at the Tafawa Balewa House, the Honourable Minister expressed the strong displeasure of the government and people of Nigeria over the policy, which he described as not only discriminatory but also capable of undermining the spirit of the Commonwealth family. The Honourable Minister recalled with nostalgia, the times when nationals of the Commonwealth travelled freely to the UK and to other member states. This, no doubt, deepened the strong historical bonds between the peoples of the various countries who were all regarded at that time as Commonwealth citizens. He further recalled that this time-honoured practice was unilaterally jettisoned by the UK Government in 1985, thereby weakening the bonds of the Commonwealth family.
3. The Honourable Minister further opined 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, just as it would hinder people-to-people contacts, which is one of the cardinal principles of the Commonwealth.
4. 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 (CHOGM) holding in Colombo, Sri Lanka in November 2013, a proposal to remove visa requirements for holders of Official and Diplomatic Passports from member states. The Honourable Minister, therefore, called on the UK Government to reconsider the proposed policy, which is incompatible with the strong and cordial relations built over the years between the UK and Nigeria. He however informed the British High Commissioner that the Federal Government of Nigeria has a responsibility to take appropriate measures to protect the interest of Nigerians who may be affected by the proposed policy, if finally introduced.
5. In his response, Mr. Pocock confirmed that the policy was still being developed and expressed regret that the yet-to-be announced policy was leaked to the media as the modality for its implementation has not been worked out. He confirmed that some elements in the report are correct and the policy, could, indeed, affect a few Nigerians, especially first time visa applicants. He further clarified that the proposed cash bond is not a general visa fee payable by all applicants. He, nonetheless, assured the Honourable Minister that the views and concerns of the Nigerian people and government would be conveyed to Her Majesty's Government.
6. In conclusion, the Honourable 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.
Ogbole Amedu ODE
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
25th June, 2013