Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
The United Kingdom says the Nigerian High Commission in London owes £7.1m ((N3.3bn) in congestion charges and parking tickets.
Giving a breakdown on Tuesday, the UK Foreign Office said Nigeria was owing £7, 063, 965 in congestion fees and £47, 165 in parking tickets.
The figure amounts to more than three times the entire 2020 budget of the high commission, which stands at N1.6bn
London charges a daily congestion fee of £11.50 ((N5, 405) if one drives a car within the central zone at any time between 7am and 6pm on weekdays.
The charge was put in place in 2003 to dissuade people from using their private vehicles and instead to patronise the public transport system to prevent traffic congestion.
Incidentally, London is the favourite destination of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), where he has spent not less than 240 non-consecutive days in the last five years mostly on health grounds, private matters and investment summits.
In 2017, Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, said the aircraft which was at the service of the President cost £1,000 (N470,000) per day in airport charges.
Shehu said the aircraft was on standby for the purpose of the immediate return of the President.
He said the decision to leave the aircraft in London was in line with protocol, national security and prestige.
Meanwhile, the UK Foreign Office has said the United States Embassy in London was also owing £12m in unpaid congestion charges, which is the highest among the five countries listed.
The Japanese Embassy comes second at £8.51m while Nigeria was listed as third.
India comes fourth with a debt of £6.01m while the Russian Embassy owes £5.72m in congestion fees.
Overall, the value of unpaid congestion charge debt incurred by diplomatic missions and international organisations in London since its introduction in February 2003 until December 31, 2018 as advised by transport for London was £116,868,825.
In a statement on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said the government had held meetings with the embassies to press for payment.
Raab said as well as the meetings the government had written to diplomatic missions and international organisations with debts, giving them the opportunity to either pay outstanding debts, or appeal against specific fines if they considered that they had been recorded incorrectly.