The Foreign Affairs Minister stated this in Abuja.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, said the Federal Government will not hesitate to defend the interest of Nigerians on consular related issues with foreign countries.
Mr. Ashiru gave the assurance on Monday in Abuja following a proposal by the U.K. to introduce a bond of 3,000 pounds (N750, 000) for intending visitors from Nigeria and five other countries. Visa applicants are expected to pay the bond, which will be returned to them if they do not overstay their visa approvals.
Responding to a question at the 2013 Ministerial Platform, Mr. Ashiru said that the U.K. government was yet to officially notify Nigeria on the proposal, scheduled to start in November.
“Really, we have received no official communication from the U.K. government,” he said.
“When we receive communication from them, we will study whatever proposal they are trying to do but I can assure all Nigerians that President Jonathan’s government will defend the interest of Nigerians by whatever means it can.’’
The minister admitted that the biggest challenge facing the present administration’s foreign policy thrust was the welfare of Nigerians abroad. He said Nigerian missions abroad had been directed to pay utmost attention to the needs of Nigerians abroad, particularly the plight of Nigerians in various prisons abroad.
Mr. Ashiru acknowledged that many Nigerians were stranded abroad in prisons and that the affected Nigerians had continued to suffer various forms of discriminations in their host countries. He said over 9000 Nigerians are currently serving prisons terms abroad, with the largest number of 752 in the UK.
“Most of the remaining prisoners are concentrated in the Asia – Pacific region and a good number of them are on death row.
“We are concluding Prisoners’ Transfer Agreement (PTA) with all those countries, such as United Kingdom, Thailand, Japan, China, Indonesia, Switzerland, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Hong Kong, so that we can bring home these Nigerians to complete their prison terms.
“I wish to seize this opportunity to appeal to members of different groups; the media, civil societies, religious groups, traditional rulers, etc, to join hands in the education of our youths in an enlightenment campaign against trafficking in drugs, in particular, and other social vices in general.
“This assignment should not be left alone to Governments at different levels to handle.’’
On the much-talked about reopening of Information Centres abroad, the minister appealed to the Federal Ministry of Information to ensure proper funding for the centres.
“All I will appeal is that when it starts, they must be well funded; I do not want cases where you send information officers abroad and after nine months or six months the funding will be tied.
“You must ensure proper funding and we in the ministry of foreign affairs are in favour of this move because three or four heads are better than one. We believe that the more experts we have to help with image promotion, the better for us.’’