By Sunday Oyinloye
Nigerian High Commission in United Kingdom is one of the most important Missions to Nigerians and Nigeria. The country obtained her Independence from UK in 1960, and since then, the two nations have maintained strong relations.
Former British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright gave a clear insight into this at the 40th anniversary of Nigeria British Chamber of Commerce in Lagos, April, 2017. He said UK’s bilateral trade relationship with Nigeria is still worth £3.8bn per annum
According to him, in 2016, around 140,000 people from Nigeria applied for visas to the UK. Of those that applied for student visas, 90% were successful. For those that applied for other visas, around 70% were successful
“There are as many as 250,000 Nigerian nationals or dual Nigerian – British nationals living in the UK at the moment. Some claim the total Nigerian diaspora in the UK is well over a million. There are perhaps 20,000 British nationals here in Nigeria” he further explained.
With the above statistics rolled out by the former High Commissioner, there is no doubt that both countries are strategically important to each other
The large population of Nigerians living in the UK makes the task of administering our High Commission in that country a very big task. More so, as majority of Nigerians living in the UK are law abiding, there are still few bad eggs that would always want to give Nigeria a bad name, a reason why the High Commission had been attracting negative publicity over the years
For many years, there have been allegations of corruption and other negative reports on the issuance of the Nigerian passport in London as well as the Mission’s credibility in the process.
Some greedy Nigerians were neck deep in passport racketeering. They forge documents to deceive unsuspecting members of the public for monetary gains. But the posting of Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola to our Mission in UK as the High Commissioner has dramatically turned things around. And this has been described as power of vision by some Nigerians.
Not only was he able to burst the ring of racketeers, he is also repositioning the High Commission to make it attract positive image. The High Commissioner has engaged in series of strategic meetings, all geared towards giving a new lease of life to the Mission and keeping the staff on their toes.
As expected of a true leader, he sympathized with those who suffered in the hands of the racketeers and also called for vigilance and following of due process by people who need consular services at the High Commission.
Listen to him “We shall continue to adopt extra vigilance to discover and eliminate corrupt actions associated with passport application and processing. This is in line with the zero tolerance of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to corruption as clearly spelt out in the Mission’s Charter”.
And just within a short time, Ambassador Isola has also embarked on reforms that would assist Nigerian students and staff at various universities in UK. There are more than 10,000 Nigerian students in universities across the UK.
The reforms are also to create conducive atmosphere for constructive and sustained engagements between Nigerian students and staff in the various universities in the United Kingdom and the High Commission.
The High Commissioner explained why he embarked on the reforms. “As country men and women, we have a patriotic duty to synergize and work together for the development of our country. We recognize the fact that Nigerian students and staff in the UK constitute the bedrock of an intelligential that can assist our nation in the onerous task of national development.” he said
The former Minister of Mines and Steel Development; former Secretary to Ogun State Government and one time Chairman of Abeokuta North Local Government has been using his decades of public service experience to provide the right leadership at the High Commission.
Little wonder the Nigerian British Business Forum (NBBF) has indicated its readiness to collaborate with the High Commission for the economic and policies development of Nigeria. NBBF is just one of the different groups and organisations that have indicated interests to collaborate with the High Commission for the development of Nigeria.
No doubt, Ambassador Isola has shown the traits of a man ready to further strengthen the bilateral relations between Nigeria and UK. Besides, the steps he has taken so far is an indication that he wants to reposition the High Commission.
However, the big question remains; can Isola maintain his present speed and high level performance?
Those who know him well said he would. But, time will definitely tell.