Nigerians face hard times in UK

THE SUN Newspaper- Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye

Don’t be shocked, as a Nigerian government official or even a prominent big player in the private sector, to see one-time big names in the media take over the venue of a meeting taking place in London. Don’t also be surprised when they begin to introduce themselves as UK correspondents of big media organisations back in Nigeria, all in a bid to extort money from you for stories that will never see the light of day.

This practice, in London, is not only in the media. It cuts across other professions too. It’s the pastime of Nigerians, who probably, travelled to the UK to further their studies, finished and got carried away by the stable power supply, available transport and other social amenities and decided to stay put for greener pastures that seems to elude them. Perhaps, because of shame they have refused to return home.

Meanwhile, the UK authorities, due to the economic melt-down, has been under pressure to weed out illegal migrants and make jobs hitherto looked down on by indigenes now available for them.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has not only been accused of being incompetent but also corrupt. This might explain the authority’s new crack down on migrants. Related measures are likely to affect many Nigerians ,including students already in the UK who have finished their studies and have refused to return to Nigeria.

Already, the authority is clamping down on all illegal immigrants, including Nigerians at random. There is no hiding place at home, whether on the train, bus and at work. Illegal immigrants can be caught any time. Once the officials approach you, they demand for your documents and are willing to go with you anywhere to get the documents, if they are not on you as at the time you were being accosted.
Some Nigerians who spoke on condition of anonymity said the authorities are demanding from employers names of employees to ascertain their immigration status.

A source said: “Due to the latest development, majority of Nigerians whose status are questionable no longer go to work and life is becoming very difficult for them.
“The UK Border Agency (UKBA) officials, when they embark on random inspection, pick up a lot of these Nigerians and keep them in detention camp before deportation to Nigeria.

“Life is becoming very difficult here in the UK. You know their economy is going down. The benefits people normally relied on have been cut down; so, some Nigerian families are really living from hand to mouth.
“The embarrassment of returning home without anything is the problem some of them are facing.”
Findings revealed that majority of those who have broken the immigration laws are those without the new e-passport. According to another Nigerian, “some of these people came in with other people’s passport, especially the old passport; so it is now very difficult for them to get an e-passport, if you cannot explain the status of the old passport.”

At the venue of the Security Conference organised by UK-based BEN Television, in London, where Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, spoke on government’s efforts at tackling insecurity in the country, it was shocking to find a lot of Nigerians with no clear means of livelihood at the meeting.
Maku, alongside Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, was almost mobbed by those who expected some form of welfare.

Not all bad news
While some Nigerians are having it rough, some professionals have actually distinguished themselves enough to earn the commendation from both the Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron and Prince Charles. An excited President Goodluck Jonathan told the leadership of Nigerians in Diaspora living in the UK and officials of the High Commission, during a dinner reception held in his honour to round up his two-day working visit, which included attending the London Conference on Somalia, how both Cameron and Prince Charles were impressed with the contributions of Nigerian professionals to the UK’s economy.
“Nigerians all over the world are interested in the development of their country. I really appreciate the quality of Nigerians here by your qualifications, though we also have all kinds of elements in prisons in the UK, which was one of the things I discussed with the Prime Minister. But despite that ugly picture, the Prime Minister was full of praises for Nigerian professionals in the UK, and so was Prince Charles. What it means is that you are doing so well if not those bad elements who have masked all of your good efforts,” Jonathan declared in the meeting.

The concerns of Diaspora Nigerians in UK
During the interaction President Goodluck Jonathan had with Nigerians in the UK, the Chairman, Board of Trustees Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), Europe Chapter ,called for clarity, in terms of which policy instrument NIDO represents. He observed that since the establishment of NIDO in 2000, “no clarity exists as to what the government wishes to use NIDO for, either as foreign policy tool or as trade and investment.”

Nweke, while appealing to government to look into the NIDO status, said the body was working on The Diaspora National Development Strategy, a blue print for engagement with government. He also recalled the establishment of a N200million investment vehicle, called Diaspora Investment Fund, in 2007 to promote trade and investment in the country. He noted, however that due to the global financial melt-down in 2008, the project was put on hold.

Nweke expressed NIDO’s willingness to revive the fund and appealed for support from President Jonathan to enable the body actualise the project.
Also, Chairman of CANUK, an umbrella body of all Nigerians in the UK, Bimbo Folayan, said Nigerians were estimated to be over two million, which is equivalent of a state in Nigeria or a country in some parts of the world.

He said: “This makes us one of the largest concentration of Nigerians outside the country. The pool of expertise skills and resources available in such a vibrant group of Nigerians in all works of life is better imagined than described.

“It is reassuring to note that Nigerians in the UK are making significant contributions to the development of our host country. Currently, we have a member in the House of Lords, three members in the House of Commons, 33 Councillors, Mayors and speakers. We are willing to serve in the development of our country when called upon.”

Nigerians in UK also demanded new mission to be opened in Scotland following the hardship they go through when in need of consular services.
Responding, President Jonathan said unless Nigerian embassies and missions abroad, which are today an eyesore and a disgrace, are upgraded to meet international standards, no new ones will be opened until 2013, despite the urgent need for them. He also assured that the N200 million Diaspora Investment Fund that was suspended, as a result of the global meltdown, will be resuscitated, as it was key in the revival of the economy.

“All over the world, the Diasporains play key roles in the development of their country through investments and the stimulation of their economy, like in India and the Philippines. Nigerians have been doing same, from the CBN records available to us; that is the one that passed through the official processes, aside the informal processes. That is why the global economic meltdown also affected the number of funds that came in into the country,” Jonathan said.
The President regretted that some of the embassies and missions were not reflective of Nigeria’s status on the continent and the world.

“Presently, we are working on opening more consulates; the ministry actually requests but we cannot open now until 2013, after upgrading existing ones because the condition of our embassies are not too attractive. The physical infrastructure need to be upgraded; we are a big name in Africa. Nigeria is considered a giant of Africa, so we will have to use this period to upgrade our missions. The minister has, however, said we have a house in Scotland that is not in use there; we will get back to you on that on a later date,” he said.
President Jonathan also assured the gathering of his government’s commitment to sanitise the electoral process, so that any elections won henceforth, will be credible. “Now, your vote must count and that is why you hear things like low turn out these days. Before now if 1, 000 register for an election, even the dead people will vote but today you must come with your voter’s card,” Jonathan said.
On the issue of the Diaspora Commission, the President said it would be resolved this year so that the country can benefit from the rich experience and experts outside the country will resolve it’s numerous problems.

According to him, why the process was slowed down was that government needed to streamline the over 400 parastatals that were either duplicated or gone moribund having lost it’s relevance.
“We have over 400 parastatals and a number of them were set up to handle issues that are no longer relevant today. Sometimes we budget for them and we don’t even have the money to spend. So we set up a committee to review them, with a view to merging them, but I believe within this year, the issue of Diaspora commission will be sorted out. The Diaspora commission, when in place, will address some of the issues you raised. Number one issue is how we will make use of Nigerians in Diaspora (NIDO), those with competencies that we need to transform the country. Presently, what we do is pick a few people to work with us, like the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Trade and Investment, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Communications, but once the commission is on board and with the NIDO database listing professionals on each field, we will be able to pick those we want,” the president said.

Nigerians in UK show concern over Boko Haram
Some Nigerians took to the streets in London a few days before the arrival of President Goodluck Jonathan, on a peace rally, to show displeasure over the activities of the Boko Haram and the harm it was causing the country.

Under the auspices of Nigeria Associations and Communities in UK, they said the peace rally was part of a worldwide united front against the mindless and barbaric acts of terrorism in Nigeria.
According to the trio of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, Mr. Shola Ogunseitan and Ms Theodora Ibekwe, in a letter to President Jonathan, “every available indication suggests that this campaign of terror against fellow Nigerians, regrettably, has strong visible presence in the northern part of our country. Furthermore, it is worth noting that these acts of barbarism and criminality is arguably designed and packaged to undermine and derail Nigeria’s nascent democracy and ultimately to destabilise the fragile unity existing among ethnic nationalities in our country. We note that these unfortunate developments are reminiscent of the 1966 pogrom that regrettably led to and culminated in a 30-month avoidable civil war.

This war claimed millions of children, women and men, the scars of which today remain very fresh and a dark spot in the minds of many. We believe that if these senseless killings and terror are not effectively nipped in the bud, in a more responsive and timely manner, our country risks the inevitability of sliding back into another far more disastrous civil war.”


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