Britain said on Thursday that its exit from the European Union would bring very little or no change in its bilateral relationship with Nigeria.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Paul Arkwright, said this in his public lecture delivered at the Federal University, Lokoja.
According to the British envoy, what happens in Nigeria and the choices made by the Nigerian government will be more important for the economy than whatever BREXIT may mean for Nigeria.
“I am optimistic for the United Kingdom and I am optimistic for Nigeria,’’ he said.
Arkwright said oil and gas were not Nigeria’s most important resource but its people.
“The human capital that Nigeria has – Nigerians themselves and their drive, determination and ability to get things done often when facing considerable challenges – are what make me optimistic about Nigeria’s future,” he said.
The envoy said BREXIT would not in any way impact negatively on Nigeria and Britain’s historical and cultural links, the common language of English and the strong educational and business links.
“If anything, I see our connection becoming stronger; the United Kingdom is naturally looking to grow its market share, to encourage more businesses to come to Nigeria and to invest and to encourage more inward investment into the United Kingdom from Nigeria,” Arkwright said.
He said that 90 per cent of student visas and 70 per cent of other categories of visas were granted to Nigerians in 2015.
The High Commissioner expressed hope that BREXIT would mean more British travellers visiting Nigeria for the same reasons that Nigerians come to the United Kingdom.
“I want people to come and explore the business opportunities that Nigeria offers. We think there are roughly 20,000 British and dual nationals living in Nigeria now.
“That figure may, and I hope it will, grow as British businesses of all sizes are encouraged to look outward still further, to export and do business, creating jobs in Nigeria,” he explained.
Arkwright urged the Nigerian government to make the process of getting visas easier to facilitate exchange of goods and services between the two countries.
“More Britons will come to Nigeria if it was simpler to apply for and the process for getting a visa was quicker.
He expressed support for the ongoing efforts by the government to diversify the nation’s economy, saying that the country could no longer depend solely on oil.
The British High Commissioner urged the federal government to take the anti-corruption fight beyond arresting and prosecuting offenders and work more on changing the attitude and mind-set of Nigerians.
He pledged the support of the British government for the anti-corruption fight, saying that Britain would surely return to the government, funds and assets acquired with stolen funds from Nigeria.
Earlier, Prof. Angela Freeman-Miri, Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Lokoja, thanked the High Commissioner for choosing the university to deliver the lecture titled, “BREXIT: Lessons, Challenges and Opportunities’’.