Nigerians in India not allowed to start small businesses: Envoy

New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) Despite their bilateral relations being at the level of a strategic partnership, problems related to the Nigerian community in India are a dampener to India's relations with its largest trading partner in Africa. Nigerians are not allowed to start businesses in India even though Indians runs restaurants and shops all over Nigeria, says the country's high commissioner.

"Indian immigration is not being too helpful in terms of arrivals of Nigerians in India. We facilitate Indians going to Nigeria," Amaku complained.

"All over Nigeria, there are Indian restaurants and shops. But here, Nigerians are not allowed to start businesses. The regulations here are too stringent even for petty businesses," the high commissioner told IANS in an interview.

Amaku also pointed out that though Nigerian banks operate in many parts of the world, they haven't been able to establish a foothold in India.

"Nigerian's living here are even unable to open an account, so how can they start a business," Amaku asked, saying he regularly receives complaints from his compatriots living in India. The Nigerian community in India, spread over cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Jaipur is estimated to be around 10,000 strong.

However, the actual numbers registered with the high commission are much lower and this partly explains the plight of Nigerians in India. Most of them are unable to start even small businesses like barber's or food shops because of local laws. Many Nigerians in India end up overstaying their visas and unable to pay the penalty, fall into the clutches of the law or become easy prey for criminals.

The Nigerian High Commission had brought this problem to the notice of the delegation of Nigeria's House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora which visited here last year. The visiting members of parliament were informed that more than 500 Nigerians were in various jails across India, while most Nigerians resident in India lacked special skills that could enable them to compete with local skilled manpower.

India has a larger, law-abiding Nigerian community, some of whose retailing success stories here can be effective counters to its negative public image in India, the envoy said.

The All-India Nigerian Students and Community Association, a non-official arm of the Nigerian embassy, helps members of the community living in India by liaising with local police. Official figures show that nearly 40,000 Nigerians obtained Indian visas during 2012. Students coming to India for higher education make up a significant percentage - around 20 percent - of Nigerians in India.

Following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Nigeria in 2007, bilateral relations were upgraded to the highest level of a strategic partnership, including defence cooperation, under which Nigerian military personnel are able to train in India's defence establishments.

On the plane of bilateral economic ties, the high commissioner underlined that the level of engagement between both countries is currently not commensurate with "worth and size of the relationship". Despite Nigeria becoming India's largest trading partner and oil supplier from Africa, with bilateral trade reaching volumes of $16-17 billion per year, there are still no direct air services between the two countries.

A lesser known fact elsewhere is that Indian films are quite popular in Kano, Kaduna and other northern states of Nigeria and local channels regularly telecast Indian films. India will help set up a film city in Kano state of the west African country, whose booming movie industry will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next month.

(Biswajit Choudhury can be contacted at biswajit.c@ians.in)

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