Contrary to speculations that November 2013 is the date the new UK visa bond of £3,000 would take off, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Andrew Pocock, weekend, said his government was yet to take a decision on whether to go ahead with the policy or not.
Ambassador Pocock, in a chat with press men in Abuja, insisted that even if his government decided to implement the visa cash bond policy, only a fraction of 150,000 Nigerians granted travel visa annually would be subjected to the policy.
Pocock said: “We don’t know, first of all, whether this will happen at all, but if 150,000 Nigerians travel to the UK every year, this scheme will probably only affect a couple of hundreds, which is a very small proportion of 150,000. So it’s not a catastrophe coming down the road.”
He noted that much of the uproar about the proposal was based on a misunderstanding of what the scheme was all about.
He said: “What I said to your foreign minister is that as soon as I know what has been decided in London, I will tell the Nigerian government formally and we will tell the people of this country.
“But we are a long way away from that and we know what the Nigerian government probably thinks about this. We have passed those feelings back to the government in London, and they are taking it into consideration.”
On the speculation that November has been fixed for the take off of the policy, he said “Let me say a number of things, I have said this in public and am happy to say it again. First of all, there is no policy, it is simply something that is being discussed in the UK .
“If we do need to set up some kind of policy, there will be a pilot scheme, a very small scheme to see how it works and to see if Nigeria is one of the countries.
“But even if this bond scheme is put into practice, it will affect only a tiny fraction of the traveling public of Nigerians.
“Just to put things in perspective, 200,000 Nigerians apply for a UK visa every year, about a 150,000 get a visa so that is between 70 and 75 percent of Nigerians who apply to get a visa.”
He assured that the proposed policy, if implemented, was intended to eliminate abuse of UK visa regime.
He said: “So if we did put in a bond which is intended to stop people from abusing the visa system only a very tiny fraction will be affected by this.
“So with all the things I have said it is not a policy, we still need to pilot it if it is decided we don’t know whether Nigeria will be involved and even if it is, we are talking of very small numbers. It is not merely as bad as it sounds but it doesn’t mean that every Nigerian has to pay £3,000 for a UK visa. It does not mean that.”
He blamed the uproar generated in the Nigerian media, saying, part of the difficulty was that it was linked to a newspaper in the UK which published it.
“ The media here picked it up and have not fully understood what the dimensions of it really were and as a consequence, an image was formed in the minds of both the people and I think the government of Nigeria, which makes this much more damaging.
“It actually is but all I can say is, of course, we will do something or contact you when we know what detail, if any.
“We are not going to spring this on you because its too important to our relationship.”