My special appeal to Nigerians in, coming to UK- Nigerian High Commissioner to UK, HE George Oguntade
London, August 19, 2019 (AltAfrica)-His Excellency, Ambassador George Oguntade, the Nigerian High Commissioner to United Kingdom, UK, has made a passionate appeal to Nigerians resident in UK and those prospecting to migrate to the country as well as visitors alike to make it a priority to learn and understand more about the laws and culture of the country as part of preparations for their journey
In an exclusive interview with Alternativeafrica.com in London, the High Commissioner, a retired Justice of the Nigeria’s apex court, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, said it was not enough to spend all the time perfecting applications, looking for money and making other necessary preparations only to run foul of the very basic laws in the UK that could result in conviction or deportation
The appeal by the High Commissioner is linked to the avalanche of cases of children born to Nigerian parents being taken into care in UK after their parents are prosecuted for alleged excessive discipline.
The rise in children entering care in UK has been put down to problems in households, such as poverty, poor housing and excessive discipline
Ambassador Oguntade who noted that adequate knowledge of the laws, culture and environment in UK should be as important as any other preparations also appealed to Nigerians resident in UK and visitors alike to make it a point of priority to contact the High Commission immediately should the need arises
His Excellency, Ambassador George Adesola Oguntade, CFR, CON, High Commissioner of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the United Kingdom assumed duty at the Nigeria High Commission on 9th October, 2017. He is a retired Justice of the Nigeria’s apex court, the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
George Oguntade spoke to Adesina Idris on other salient issues such as the relationship between the commission and various Nigerian groups in UK, the problems associated with passport application and collection, support for Nigerians in need of assistance foreign direct investments from UK to Nigeria as well as his personal experience between the bench and diplomacy
The excerpts of the interview:
AltAfrica: It’s been a while that you were appointed as High Commissioner to UK, How has it been sir
H.E George Oguntade: It’s been a worthy experience. Life as a judge is quite different to life as an Ambassador. I have learnt things i didn’t know until i came here and i have found it very profitable knowledge
AltAfrica: How was the High Commission when you came: Was it as you expected or there were challenges?
H. E George Oguntade: My ambition was to render very useful service to the foreign service of Nigeria. As for the specifics, how to do things, i must confess that i laboured under an ignorance but over time i have learnt quite a lot with attendance at several meetings, greater understanding of the needs of the country and how much progress is being made and I tried to relate that to what is happening elsewhere and in that manner i was able to enhance my understanding of a modern country and its progress.
AltAfrica: Looking back, what are those things you can authoritatively say your tenure has achieved since you assumed office?
H.E George Oguntade: Firstly, i am most grateful to the president for the confidence repose in me in discharging the responsibilities assigned to me. It is a worthwhile experience merging diplomacy with the bench. Here my experience on the judicial bench comes in quite handy due to the fact that you do not make decisions in haste as every details is crucial the decision making process. Having the privilege of being Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK has offered me the rear opportunity of seeing Nigerians excel in every field of endeavour. It has also brought me in contact with global businesses in that it has facilitated Mr president’s drive for foreign direct investments. Nigeria being a member of the Commonwealth with its headquarters situated here in London has made it easier to be associated with promoting peace and international cooperation, respect for human rights, enforcement of the rule of law and improvement of lives through economic and social development. It has also strengthening bilateral relationship subsisting between Nigeria and United Kingdom
AltAfrica: There have been challenges since your arrival here, a good number of those are in the media. how have you been able to deal with that knowing fully the layers of consultations as against the bench where you were the Lord?
H.E George Oguntade: There are certainly problems here and there, but we’ve been struggling here to overcome them but i do not see that any of them is strange in any form and its not any worst than it was when i came in but we are making progress.
AltAfrica: One of the few things you did that was very profound and with immediate impact on every Nigeria here was the scraping of poster order as part of requirements for passport processing, what informed that decision?
H.E George Oguntade: This mission has problems of its own arising from the fact that the facilities here are not anymore modern, they are a bit outdated and its a place that requires refurbishing, investment and redoing of the building but all the same, it is our country, we are committed to the service and we are still doing the best we can
AltAfrica: It’s a common knowledge that dealing with Nigerians anywhere could be quite challenging, and the relationship between the commission and Nigerians, including various groups has been challenging too, how are you grappling with this?
H.E George Oguntade: Well if you talk of relations with individual Nigerians, my answer is that i have always tried in my dealings treated all alike irrespective of background or where they hail from and its been quite satisfying because i am getting on well with the individual tribes and sections of Nigeria
AltAfrica:What about the commission itself and these various groups?
H.E George Oguntade: Oh…..its been perfect. there has been no problems, we have been doing well with them
AltAfrica: One of the first major challenges you had on assumption of duties here was the leadership crisis within the Central Associations of Nigerians in UK., CANUK. we were privileged to be here when the elders council visited you. That was a very thorny issue how did you do it, resolved the crisis?
H.E George Oguntade: The point is that life as a judge exposes you to dealing with various groups and communities, and let me remind you that i have also left the judiciary about ten years ago and that period has enabled me to mix freely with all types of groups in the society. And more than that, i am a chief in the city of Lagos, a chief in Epe, so I’ve grown to learn how elders relate with others even if there are differences. You have to learn how to overcome and to proceed in your way of life without hindrance
AltAfrica: cuts in…so that has come in handy?
H.E George Oguntade: yes that has come in handy, my experience in life.
AltAfrica: One other issue i want us to touch is the death of so many British-Nigerians in UK. I don’t know whether these families are known to the commission or not. But they are still British Nigerians. What has been the relationship between the commission and these bereaved families, visit, commiserate with them, assistance if they require it?
H.E George Oguntade: Talking frankly, we have always related to them as equals. When you know that a group of people before you has their history rooted in Nigeria, you don’t attempt to find out or discriminate where this is from and i have always treated them equally as Nigerians and is been going on very smoothly with them
AltAfrica: cuts in…i am talking about one, two or three people whose children have been killed, lost their children in one tragedy or another, one got drowned recently, has the commission visited anyone of them, assisted them, may be financially in case they want to transport the body home….things like that
H.E George Oguntade: From time to time, these groups have solicited support of various kinds when incidence like death, accidents occur and to the extent that our funds permit, we have being answering to their request as a nation should in its duties towards its citizens
AltAfrica: One of your responsibilities here as the head of the commission is to facilitate relationship between business groups, investors and Nigeria, how good or and challenging has that been?
H.E George Oguntade: Well its been very challenging and interesting. From time to time we had companies and businesses come to us and made efforts to create relationships, business relationships, and as often as they come, we meet them, discuss with them and those we can link the home business people we do so and we are still doing so
AltAfrica:…And commitment wise, how many of such links do you think have translated to concrete investments in Nigeria:
H.E George Oguntade: Well, its not always the way of business men to go and start reaping profits and come back to you. Those who have done done well have stayed and are still doing very well and we are not in anyway adversely affected, we are happy that we’ve directed them in the proper way and many have gone to Nigeria to start businesses of their own
AltAfrica: This is a very big office, Are your challenges as big as the office or otherwise?
H.E George Oguntade:…Silence..I can tell you the challenges are as big as the office and sometimes bigger and that arises from many little problems but with time and with support from government at home we will be able to overcome them. I think the problems arise mainly from the size of Nigeria and from the diverse citizens, different groups and culture. You will have to harmonise, bring peace and set examples. That’s what we have been doing here.
AltAfrica: You’ve touched on very salient issue , that problems in Nigeria are not necessarily peculiar to us, something normally witnessed in countries or establishments with massive size, with your experience, how can we overcome these challenges/
H.E George Oguntade: My view of the matter is that this embassy is not the appropriate to start engineering unity for Nigeria. Nigeria itself is a big country, it has many groups and i think that that duty of bringing the country together as strongly as it should be is a duty better performed at the home level by chiefs, politicians, elders and not from foreign field like this place
AltAfrica: The issue of image of Nigeria will altermatively affect how much success you record on your job, how are you dealing with that
H.E George Oguntade: Well, my own standard is to treat every group, every tribe equally and not to ask questions weitheir you come from state A or state B. You are a Nigerian, you have approached the Nigerian mission and our duty is to respond to you and to see that taking together Nigeria is benefiting from what we’ve done to individuals from various state
AltAfrica: On the thorny issue of passport, what exactly are the responsibilities of the commission in the production of Nigerian passport
H.E George Oguntade: It’s very simple method. Our responsibility is to answer the request of every applicant to the extent that facilities are available to meet those request. So we have been responding equally to all tribes whether Ibo, Hausa or Yoruba, we’ve treated each equally
AltAfrica: The passport issue is very sensitive. when Nigerians experience disappointment during application or collection process, the commission bears their anger, how bad has that been
H.E George Oguntade: It’s unfortunate, and that’s the most painful aspect of it, but like the old saying, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. A mission must always bear the problems arising from different component unit of a country and when such problems arise, you would do the best you can but there are some difficulties that are very difficult to resolve particularly those necessitating funding and quick response to difficulties and when such arises and you look at the home front, you should be able to have a ready assistance. But it is not always that you have this particularly in the supply of equipment and passport related matters, it is always causing some anxiety here. I think that things would improve for the better if the response needed is always made available from the home front . We are here, we must not expose our country to ridicule and in the same way, the home service should also ensure that we are not placed before difficulties
In relation to passport and allied matters, i think that we have not been well treated here. Things have been too slow and not flowing well as it should to meet the needs of those who are here. And that often leads to problems
AltAfrica: Are the problems still there or you have found a way out
H.E George Oguntade: Well in recent times, we have seen signals that efforts are been made to remove the problems, we are just hoping that they will deliver promptly and in good time before things become too difficult again
AltAfrica: are you saying Nigerians should know that problems arising from passport delays arise mainly from home
H.E George Oguntade: Oh..certainly. It’s mainly from inability to send these materials here early enough. that’s the main problem but i don’t want to start sharing problem, i can only describe the problems we’re encountering, the things we need are coming too slowly
AltAfrica: What then is the state of relationship between the commission and home. You bear the brunt of the anger. How much information do the people have that their anger is misplaced, that the problems are from home not here in London
H.E George Oguntade: When you are in-charge of a business or enterprise, you don’t surrender your hands at sighting of little problem. You accept it as part of your responsibilities and try to do the best you can to minimise the difficulties confronting those who want to use these materials while at the same time putting pressure on those at home to speed up. That’s what we have been doing
AltAfrica: How much secrecy do you run here
H.E George Oguntade: How much secrecy?
AltAfrica: Yeah..how much secrecy
H.E George Oguntade: That’s a very difficult question
AltAfrica: How much secrecy. because the impression out there is that the commission is not transparent enough, there are too many things hidden here, that Nigerians are denied basic information that should ordinarily be available to them,that’s what informed the question, how much secrecy do you run here
H.E George Oguntade: Worldwide, diplomacy and management of affairs of diplomatic missions are conducted with great civility and confidentiality. They are never subject of public discussion. However, in terms of recruitment and employment under my watch, due process was carried out effectively with authorization from headquarters
AltAfrica: You are saying there’s no secret
H.E George Oguntade:..(.silence)…well no secret , no secret beyond those that could normally go out in a business like this
AltAfrica: We are aware that the commission has had course to intervene in many cases of kids born to Nigerian been taken into care due to many issues , some been cultural and sometimes discipline. We also know what the effect could be on the children and families involved. Where are we on the issue now and what has been the efforts of the commission in that regard
HE George Oguntade: When there are matters associated with the police and sometimes leading to arrest, we do the best we can to render assistance to Nigerians in such problems, but it is not expected that Nigerians will from time to time keep running into this problem, so we call them and warned them and ask them to refrain from infringing the laws of this country
AltAfrica: How does the commission interact with Nigerians coming in to the country because we know a lot of Nigerians are here in the UK without the knowledge of the commission and sometimes run fowl of the law. How much information is the commission getting out to educate the people that Nigerians resident here and visitors need to contact the commission as the only way they can be protected which problems arise
HE George Oguntade: I think so far, we have had many Nigerians, voluntarily themselves visiting the mission when they have problem and we have always encouraged them to do so. We have regularly also responded to their needs in terms of service and allied assistance
AltAfrica: We know certainly that the commission is not a charity organization …
HE George Oguntade:..cuts in..well that is well said. We are not a charity but we assist in a broad sense. And we have of course the representatives of various groups here like the CANUK, the Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom is called CANUK and it has occasionally requested that nationals who can adopt and foster the children should make themselves available. The session supports programme that enlightens Nigerian parents in the United Kingdom to respect the rules on child discipline and request for further enlightenment of Nigerian before coming into the UK about the difference in culture to mitigate the law of Nigerian children to foster care and adoption
AltAfrica: So you are appealing to them now to avail themselves that opportunity before they come into the country
HE George Oguntade: That’s right
AltAfrica-Your Excellency, time passes, you’re almost two years here now just like yesterday. There have been many before you in this post, and many will come after you. what is that one thing you want your tenure to entrench. That thing that you can say during my tenure, this is unique
HE George Oguntade: In a situation that we have here, as an Ambassador, i think that i would want my tenure to be noted as somebody who came, served and did his best. That’s the award i will give myself. I will not be able to the performances of previous Ambassadors but i will say that during my time i did my utmost and did not allow things to collapse
AltAfrica: Thank you very much sir for your time
HE George Oguntade: Its been my pleasure.