This British ‘Pay As You Go’,By Dele Agekameh

agekameh 600The news was like a bolt from the blue. It was shocking, surprising and amusing as well. I mean the proposed £3,000 deposit by immigrants intending to enter Britain as from November this year. Immigrants of five countries – Nigeria, Ghana, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – have been singled out for this unfriendly treatment. Yet, these are members of the so-called Commonwealth countries that the British is so proud to sing about.
In history, we learnt that the Commonwealth was an empire where the sun never set, a figurative expression to describe an empire that was adjudged to be the biggest in the universe, stretching North, East, West and South of the pole. Today, though the spirit of the Commonwealth is still very much alive, the principles behind it have been tinkered with again and again to the point that it has almost completely been obliterated.
Now, it will cost a new immigrant from Nigeria a fortune, at least, more than a million naira to venture to England. I remember in the ’70s when Nigeria’s currency was at par with the dollar, it cost just a few naira to get on board an aircraft and jet to England and back. If I am not mistaken, it was about N180. With your Basic Travelling Allowance, BTA, and others, you might only need less than N1000 to get to UK and back for holidays. Today, the story is different. You probably need to sell your child into slavery before you can raise the required money to undertake a trip to either Britain or the United States, the preferred destinations for most Nigerians.
This is why one is not amazed at the flurry of criticism and resentment that has greeted this proposal. Olugbenga Ashiru, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, has been at the forefront of this groundswell of opposition to a policy considered discriminatory and obnoxious. Ashiru, who has proved to be a round peg in a round hole ever since he came on board a few years ago, has been doing everything to convey the message of the Nigerian government and the Nigerian people to the British government. He has been prompt and decisive.
‘The world has become a global village where all impediments to free movements should be done away with. Certainly, erecting new barriers to free movement is certainly out of the issue for now’
The other day, Ashiru summoned Andrew Pocock, the British High Commissioner in the country, to acquaint him with the government’s indignation and exasperation against a policy which is considered highly inimical to the interest of Nigeria. While this was going on, notable leaders of the National Assembly have been spitting fire and brimstone to the effect that Nigeria will reciprocate in a similar gesture if the British should go ahead to implement the unfriendly policy. That, in itself, will be a recourse to the Mosaic law, which says “a tooth for a tooth” or tit for tat, whichever is appropriate.
On the day the news made headlines in the Nigerian Press, a group of well-meaning Nigerians were almost cut off in the hullabaloo that followed. The Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, EO, Chapter in Nigeria, was to have a three-day training programme for both the old and new members who were recently successful in the interview conducted for them about a fortnight ago in Lagos. The three-day training was for the new intakes who would undergo what is called Forum Training, which is a cardinal operational part of the EO. As a new member, you are expected to belong to a “Forum”, which is the core of EO. That training took place at Protea Hotel, GRA, Lagos, on Thursday, June 27, 2013 from 8:00am till 5:00pm. The following day was Moderator Training, which is meant for those who intend to be moderators at various Forums. While the third day, Saturday, June 29, was reserved for Strategy Training for the Board members. All with the same time duration, that is, 8a.m till 5p.m on each day.
Julia Lankraehr, a globally-certified trainer by EO Global, was to fly in from London on Wednesday, June 26, to undertake the series of training. When she applied for entry visa, she put business as her reason for travelling to Nigeria. Then the Nigerian High Commission requested her to get a work permit to enable it to grant her a visa even though she was going to be in the country for only five days. It took a sleepless night on Monday, June 24, with officials in Nigeria making frantic calls to the High Commission in London before the matter was resolved on Tuesday, June 25. Who knows what would have happened if this crude policy had been in operation?
The EO is a global organization that has its headquarters in Virginia, United States of America. It was founded in 1987 by some group of entrepreneurs who thought they needed a common ground and platform to discuss intimate issues concerning their businesses, family lives and other personal issues that could keep individuals endlessly awake at night. Today, the EO parades well over 9,300 members scattered all over 146 chapters in 46 countries of the world. They are everywhere. The Nigeria chapter was inaugurated in Lagos on October 4, 2012.
Last year, the Nigeria Chapter of the EO was to attend an event hosted by EO, Cape Town, but all the delegates were denied visas in spite of the fact that all their papers, including hotel bookings, were intact. It was at the height of the diplomatic row between South Africa and Nigeria early last year. The humiliation suffered at the embassy was so much and time-wasting that I vowed never to submit any application for South African visa anymore in my life. Though I had several multiple entry visas to many countries on my passport, I paraded the place with others for more than three months before our empty passports were grudgingly returned to us without any convincing explanation. The most annoying thing there was that one could see some people whose means of livelihood or reason for travelling to South Africa could not be easily ascertained coming in and taking the visa. It was a terrible experience that I don’t find funny to relate to anyone. Even if you go to the embassy, you could be kept there for hours before you are asked to return another day. All for nothing in the end.
I am sure if the proposal of £3,000 was still being debated in Britain, by now, David Cameron and his people should know that dire consequences await them if they go ahead with this discriminatory policy which is capable of destroying the umbilical cord of the Commonwealth family. I am not saying that Britain should throw its doors open to every Dick and Harry, but then imposing such a draconian policy will only paint the country in a bad light as far as civilisation, decency and decorum are concerned. It is the inalienable right of man that all individuals should be treated with some modicum of dignity, the colour pigmentation notwithstanding.
It is apparent that the Britons alone cannot live in Britain. Other races must come and go. Forget that some citizens of other countries come into Britain and do menial jobs, if and when available. Britons also go to other countries to do jobs that the indigenous people could have done. After all, why do other citizens travel to other countries? Even the five countries mentioned in the new policy, you have Britons there. Why do they go there to do business rather than stay back in their country and get rotten? I have been to practically all the affected countries and there is no one where there are no Britons in their large numbers in spite of some of the atrocities these colonialists committed against the people in the past.
The world has become a global village where all impediments to free movement should be done away with. Certainly, erecting new barriers to free movement is certainly out of the issue for now. Therefore, I will suggest that Britain should find a better and decent way to deal with her perceived immigration problems rather than stir up a hornets’ nest.

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