Shettima wants stronger ties with the United Kingdom and the establishment of a bi-national commission.
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, outlined Wednesday why the UK government has stopped international students from bringing family members with them beginning in 2024.
Nigerians and other foreign citizens on study visas to the UK will no longer be permitted to bring family members with them by January 2024, according to a new policy enacted by the British government to reduce migration.
Montgomery stated that the decision was made to reduce the strain on the country’s housing system and to limit the influx of migrants.
“Many more students are trying to bring their dependents with them. But it’s not always possible to find housing and services to meet all the needs of all our existing student population. We’ll have to manage our migration in and out of the UK,” Montgomery said after emerging from a closed-door meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
On May 18, the new British ambassador to Nigeria submitted his letter of credence to former President Muhammadu Buhari.
Remember that the UK Home Office announced that overseas students, including Nigerians, would be barred from changing from a student visa to a work visa until their studies were completed.
However, international students, schools, and some British lawmakers have expressed mixed feelings about the decision, claiming that it will exacerbate labor shortages in critical sectors such as healthcare and jeopardize the country’s global standing as a top destination for international talent.
In response to State House correspondents’ questioning, the British High Commissioner stated, “I think, there are two issues here. The first is, it’s not always possible to find housing and services to meet all the needs of all our existing student population.
“And second, reasonable people would accept that we have to manage our visitor numbers and we’ll have to manage our migration in and out of the UK, just as the Nigerian government would do.”
Montgomery revealed that the number of Nigerian students studying in the UK has surged fivefold in the previous three years, despite accounting for 10% of those granted UK visas each year.
“That issue was not raised in the meeting (with the Vice President) just now. But I would like to put the media debate about it in a broader context. Last year (2022), for example, the UK granted three million new visas, of which 325,000 were to Nigerians.
“Nigerian visitors constitute over 10 per cent of people coming to London and the UK. It’s a fantastic success story for our universities. And we are really delighted that so many Nigerians are coming to the UK,” he remarked.
Montgomery claimed that his meetings with Shettima focused on the Bola Tinubu administration’s present policy agenda, which he claims is well accepted by UK investors.
“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.”
Meanwhile, during Montgomery’s visit, Shettima praised the UK government’s long-standing help and support for Nigeria, while also expressing hope for stronger business ties.
“I will urge you to facilitate the setting up of a Nigeria-UK bi-national commission.” he stated. This commission has the potential to accelerate and strengthen our two countries’ business relationships.
“We need to ramp up trade, taking into cognisance our proximity. There is no nation we are closer to than the UK, and our trade represents less than five per cent of the volume of our import and export.”
On the economy, the Vice President stated, “Most definitely, we are going to create an enabling environment for businesses to flourish in this country.”
He also emphasized the importance of changes in order to position the country’s economy for growth, particularly the elimination of fuel subsidies.
“This is just the beginning because it was fait accompli to withdraw the fuel subsidy. We either get rid of the fuel subsidy or the fuel subsidy gets rid of the Nigerian nation,” he remarked.
The British High Commissioner’s delegation included: Susan Mshana, Deputy Development Director; Alex Maclean, Counsellor, Lake Chad Basin; Jonathan Bacon, Political Counsellor; and Damilola Oyedele, Senior Political Advisor.