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Was Buhari responsible for the United Kingdom’s cancellation of Nigeria’s visa free status?

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    ANSWER: NO!

    Here’s a tweet that was quite popular yesterday, and that some people tried to use as campaign material against Buhari:

    We now know that the twitter handle posted a false claim regarding the Buhari government’s Foreign Policy record.

    The historical fact shows that the Buhari-led governmentt of Nigeria had arranged a visit for the UK Foreign Secretary at the time, Geoffrey Howe, in a bid to improve relations. Such was Howe’s enthusiasm for a thaw in relations with Nigeria, that he arrived in Lagos on September 10 1985, a few days after the coup ousting the Buhari government that invited him in the first place.

    Why Nigeria lost visa-free status

    The decision by the British government to deny citizens of Nigeria, India, Ghana, Pakistan and Bangladesh visa-free travel to the United Kingdom was the Thatcher government’s response to domestic British immigration concerns and had nothing to do with the policies of the Nigerian government. For the record, the Nigeria government in place when the United Kingdom announced its decision on September 1, 1986, was led by General Ibrahim Babangida, and not Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.

    It is on record that “the pressures on the inbound controls presented by the growth in numbers and rates of refusal for some nationalities meant that, by 1986, the case for new visa requirements became very strong and, on 1 September 1986, it was announced that there would be new visa restrictions for people of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Pakistan. For reasons which are not readily explainable the visa restrictions did not come into force until 15 October.” This is verifiable from Hansard, the written record of all UK parliamentary proceedings, and when you read through the specific (and dated) proceedings quoted below, you will find that not a single reference was made to the Nigerian government’s political actions as the reason for the UK visa policy change.

    (a) October 21, 1986 – Statement by the UK Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, on the new visa regime (followed by a debate): http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1986/oct/21/visas
    (b) October 27, 1986 – Full Debate: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1986/oct/27/immigration#column_120
    (c) Follow up responses by the UK Government Ministers to MP’s questions on the new visa regime: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1986/nov/20/visas#s6cv0105p0_19861120_cwa_209


    References:

    1. Keesing’s Record of World Events, Volume XXXI (Nov. 1985), page 33958
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_Immigration_Service#cite_ref-28
    3. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1986/oct/24/visitors#S6CV0102P0_19861024_CWA_120
    4. http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/06/uks-new-visa-policy-is-multi-edged-sword/
    5. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1987/dec/03/visas#s6cv0123p0_19871203_cwa_241
    6. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1986/oct/21/visitors#s6cv0102p0_19861021_cwa_266

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