NIGERIA’S high commission in the UK has been shut for 10 days as from August 10 after two members of staff tested positive for coronavirus following a mass testing of all employees at the mission.
In a major setback for the mission just as it was getting on top of the passport situation, it has had to close down after a hiccup which started at the British Home Office. Yesterday, a three-man team from the high commission led by the head of immigration Oludare Folowosele, visited the Home Office for a routine meeting, where they were tested upon arrival.
One of the officials tested positive and it was decided to isolate him immediately, with the other two asked to isolate for 10 days. In response to the development, the high commission decided to test all its staff and after testing another employee was found to be positive, so the decision was taken to shut the mission.
A high commission spokesman said: “In line with Covid-19 regulation and the need to adhere to the rules and regulation of the host country, the mission will close down for the next 10 days in order to observe the mandatory isolation of those who were in contact with the affected officials. While the high commission regrets any inconvenience that this may have caused, we solicit the cooperation of the general public.”
Ayo Akinfe, the chairman of the Central Association of Nigerians in the UK (Canuk), confirmed the development, saying it was regrettable that this happened at a time when some form of normality was returning. He added that Canuk will keep the Nigerian community in the UK informed of developments at every point in time.
Olajumoke Ariyo, Canuk’s first vice chair and chairperson of its passport liaison committee, said: “It is unfortunate that we are suffering this setback just at a time when the backlog of applications is being cleared and people are getting their passports on time. Over recent weeks, we witnessed applications being processed on time and passports being sent to people using the self-addressed envelopes they provided.
“Hopefully, this will not disrupt the programme and after the 10 days expires on August 22, we will continue from where we left off. Canuk officials are working closely with the mission to ensure that we minute-by-minute updates on the situation and will communicate any news we get to our members and the community at large.”
In the meantime, Ms Ariyo’s committee has issued an emergency email address firstname.lastname@example.org and an emergency phone number 07930 541611. With the mission being shut, anyone requiring information is to get in touch with Canuk.
London’s high commission is the largest Nigerian mission anywhere in the world and processes more passports than anyone else. After being shut for a year, a huge backlog of 18,000 passport applications built up at the mission, which became the new high commissioner, Ambassador Sarafa Ishola’s first challenge upon assuming office.