On Monday, September 11, 2023, the Enugu State Government went wild with the publication of a press release announcing the opening of a visa application office in Enugu by the government of the United Kingdom.
According to the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Chidiebere Onyia who signed the statement, the centre would strengthen ties between the state, Nigeria, and the UK.
Gloating over what is being touted as an achievement worth celebrating, Onyia recalled that the visa centre was part of Governor Peter Mbah’s requests during the visit to the Government House, Enugu, by the UK High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Richard Montgomery, in June this year.
Onyia further disclosed that the government received the news of the visa centre with delight and satisfaction, stressing that it would further enhance economic partnership and cultural exchanges between Enugu State and the United Kingdom.
Checks by experts who know the procedures for opening visa offices by the United Kingdom government have however revealed that that it was not possible for the government of Enugu State to make a request of the UK government over the opening of a vis office in June and have that approved in less than three months.
One of our informants, who is an immigration lawyer based in London, revealed that the establishment of visa application offices by the UK government is scientific and mostly influenced by the potential revenue opportunities expected to come from such an office.
Noting that the visa office is a profit-oriented affair, the lawyer said the government of the United Kingdom would not establish an office, pay the rent, and hire the personnel if they had not done all the measurements and concluded it was going to be a profitable enterprise.
This was validated by a press statement by the British High Commission in Nigeria, which clearly stated that each applicant was to pay the sum of N246,250, a sum that was said to cover services such as “premium lounge appointment, courier services, SMS notifications, general customer support services, and guidance.”
What this means is that the visa office is targeting premium customers and may not be available to the ordinary Enugu youth who may not be able to afford the premium service.
Another contact who works with the British Home Office also said approval for such an office cannot be obtained within such a short interval. He said the minimum the processes would take is from 12 to 18 months, where it was fast-tracked.
Responding to our query in a detailed SMS, our contact said:
“It is laughable for anyone to believe visa processing center application by a state can be achieved from the application stage to becoming operational in even one year.
“I cannot tell you the exact duration, but I am 100 percent sure it will take more than one year to move from application to approval. This is because the application will first of all be sent to the ambassador for consideration and approval after which he escalates such application request to the Home Office in London for final consideration and subsequent approval. Even before the Home Office approves such a request for a fully operational office, it normally takes some time as they are expected to draw up a budget for staffing the office which is usually done a year before it becomes operational so that staff emoluments and operational costs will be captured in the budget and also for staff that will be posted there to prepare themselves for such an international assignment.”
He concluded that the process must have been on for months, if not years before now by the previous administration and possibly approved even then but only became operational now after the prerequisite operational logistics approvals are concluded.
Our contact was so sure about what he was saying that he challenged the Enugu State government to release a copy of their application request as proof that it was done by them.
“Visa center approvals cannot be done because a governor requested the same of the British Ambassador; there are standard documentation processes involved, and these are not what anyone will conclude in a few weeks, even if the government is paying for the office accommodation and staffing for the centre,” he said.
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