By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
Nigeria’s Vice President Kashim Shettima on Wednesday, received in audience the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the closed doors meeting, revealed what he discussed with the Vice President, saying said they discussed economic opportunities that await both countries in the days ahead.
Asked if he would like to share with reporters what he and Vice President discussed, he said:
“I was very pleased to see His Excellency, the Vice President. It was very generous of him given his busy schedule. We discussed our long standing partnership between the UK and Nigeria. We have many areas of shared interest, including a good history of development cooperation; some excellent trade and investment arrangements and we have also have some good cooperation on security and defence.
“As many of you were seeing from recent talks, we also had good talks on home affairs and justice and we have great people-to-people links that means education, health, and we also discussed a number of issues to do with on how we can improve our relationships in the future”.
On what areas is UK looking at strengthening relations with Nigeria, Montgomery said:
“I think we already have a good economic dialogue, but I think there is a great potential to do more. As I discussed with His Excellency, the big economic decisions being taken by this government are really important and are being noticed around the world: the removal of subsidy; the exchange rate reform, all of that create a much better investment environment.
“I was in London last week; I was briefing my ministers, but I was also talking to British business in finance, banking and investment sectors. They are all responding very positively to these first decisions. We know that there are tough times that are going on at the moment, inflation and unemployment.
“The vice president and I also touched on some of the measures that might be possible to cushion the blow of some of these economic pressures.
“But I think the big issue is that these reforms help put Nigeria on a higher growth path; they will attract more investments and the United Kingdom and the city of London see Nigeria as a big opportunity going forward. I will be doing my part to try to boost those, enhance trade and investment.
Speaking further on the issues on students’ visa, he said: “So, that issue was not raised in the meeting just now but I would like to put the media debate on this in a wider context.
“Last year for example, the UK granted 3 million new visas of which 325,000 of those visas were between Nigeria and UK.
“So, Nigerian visitors constitute over 10 per cent of the people coming to London and the UK”.
On the issue of students’ visas, I will also like to provide the contest; that the number of Nigerian students coming to the UK has increased five fold in the last three years; it is a fantastic success story for our universities and we are really delighted that so many Nigerians are coming to the UK.
“On the issue about restrictions of people bringing dependents; that is not just for Nigeria but many parts of the world; many more students are trying to bring their dependents with them; and I think there are two issues here; the first is –it is not always possible to find housing services to meet all the needs of all our existing students population.
“Secondly, I think reasonable people will accept that we have to manage our visitor numbers and that we have to manage migration in and out of the UK; just as the Nigerian government does for your own borders”.