This morning we received, with shock and disappointment, an “automatic message” from the Simplification of the Rules Taskforce (SORT) of the Home Office saying they are unable to respond to “external policy questions”.
This is coming one month after we sent a 15-page policy brief spiced with data points from the United Nations, West African Examination Council, House of Commons, the Education First English Proficiency Index, etc. making a case for Nigeria’s inclusion in the Majority English Speaking Country (MESC) list. With this message, the Home Office has contradicted itself, and here’s why.
When the Home Office first replied to us on January 26, 2022 (to an email we sent on October 18, 2021) it was the SORT office that responded to our official inquiry about the measurement criteria for adding countries to the MESC list. The SORT email, as you can see from the screenshot above, was closed by the policy officer with, “…let me know if you have any more questions”.
Well, it turns out that the Policy Shapers team, campaign task force, and over 73,000 supporters were not satisfied with SORT’s response so we questioned their claims with data and facts. How come the Home Office, all of a sudden, is no longer able to answer questions about this important issue? How come the Home Office, after 30 days, has not been able to discredit our policy brief or even share the data sources they claim to have proving Nigeria doesn’t have 51% of its population speaking English? If they really have data as they claim, it should not be rocket science to reply to us with that evidence, yes?
Also, how does an automatic message only come 1 month after our policy brief was sent? We might not be tech gurus, but the way automatic messages work, they’re like autoresponders, so if this was not fishy we should have received this prompt back in February 2022 when we first sent the policy brief. In cases where organizations do not want an individual to reply to a certain mailbox, they would often use a firstname.lastname@example.org. Why would you reply to us with an email address where you solicited more questions but turn around and say you can’t answer when we actually ask the questions that matter?
In a situation where SORT says it cannot respond to us, what has happened to the Public Enquiries mailbox? Or its spokesperson, Dominika Piasecka who told the BBC about the Home Office’s criteria for the MESC list? We also copied these two addresses in our email (which by the way, were the same email addresses we wrote to in October 2021 when we made the official inquiry).
The Home Office needs to know that this is not a joke. We feel insulted by this mediocre attempt to brush aside the real issues raised by our policy brief and we demand an official response and apology in earnest.
Nigerians continue to spend over 5 billion naira every year on these English language proficiency tests and this extortion must stop. Across Anglophone Africa, similar calls to address this language discrimination against African members of the commonwealth are resonating in Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, etc. Victor Hugo once said, “No force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”
The time for this policy reform has come.
Watch our campaign story video by Change.org Nigeria below