By Chibuike Nwabuko
The Nigerian House of Representatives has urged the Federal Government to urgently evacuate all Nigerians who have tested negative to COVID-19 and are with valid passports/Visas in China and are willing to return to Nigeria.
The Lawmakers have unanimously resolved to investigate the validity of all immigration documents of every Chinese person and the expatriate quota of all their businesses in Nigeria, to ascertain the number of illegal and undocumented immigrants, with the view to repatriating them to China.
The House resolution followed a motion by the House Spokesman Hon. Benjamin Kalu and nine others at the resumed plenary of the Green Chamber on Tuesday, 28th April, 2020.
The resolution was said to be in line with the mandate of Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended), to take actions to ensure the safety and welfare of Nigerians in China.
Recall that, as a result of the mutually beneficial diplomatic and economic relationship between Nigeria and China, about 10,000 Nigerians, including investors, traders, workers and students currently reside in and around Guangzhou in the Guangdong Province of the Peoples Republic of China and have generated massive trade volume between the two countries, such that for 2019 alone the Nigeria-China trade value was worth over $8.6 billion.
But sometimes in April 8, 2020, photos and videos emanated across various social media depicting the institutionalized racial discrimination, maltreatment, xenophobic assaults, embarrassments, illegal detention and forceful eviction of Nigerians and other Africans living in Guangzhou.
Kalu, while leading the debate on the motion, lamented that, “under the pretext of curbing the spread of COVID-19, which ironically originated in Wuhan, China, several kinds of maltreatments of Nigerian citizens in Guangzhou have been perpetrated by Chinese people and authorities.
“These include, wrongful confiscation of Nigerian international passports, prolonged and illegal detaining of Nigerians in the name of mandatory quarantining despite holding a certificate of clean health and no recent travel history, outright refusal to test or release the test results, and the eviction of Nigerians from their homes, hotel accommodations, refusal of entry into shops, pharmacies, restaurants and hospitals, including beating of Nigerians on the streets with no police intervention among others”.
In the exercise of his function of protecting the interest of nationals of his sending State, as provided for under Article 5 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963, the Nigerian Consul General, according to Kalu, “was treated in clear violation of Article 40 of the same treaty which requires the receiving State to treat consular officers with due respect and to take all appropriate steps to prevent attack on their persons, freedom or dignity; this dignity was abused by the Chinese government when they ignored the request of the Nigerian High Commissioner to allow Nigerians back to their accommodation, access to hospitals or restaurants which led to the High Commissioner himself buying and distributing food to Nigerians who where hopeless and lying in the streets under the rain”.
The Lawmaker also recalled the troubling case of Mr. Felix Awah Elijah, a Nigerian citizen and legal resident in China who mysteriously disappeared after his abduction and prolonged illegal detention by Chinese police authorities sometime around 6th February, 2019; and of which all letters and appeals from his Representative in the House, were ignored by Chinese Authorities.
The Spokesman contended that, the actions of the Chinese authorities do not reciprocate the favourable treatment enjoyed by their nationals in Nigeria who thrive and operate businesses, which in several cases, “completely disregard our extant laws on immigration and expatriate quota”, but have instead, put a strain on the diplomatic and economic relations between Nigeria and China thereby endangering Nigerian businesses in China valued at billions of dollars.
It was therefore, resolved that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies should, “as a matter of urgency, ensure that all Nigerians who wish to return home, including Nigerians that only visited for business, Nigerians with any form of travel documents and identification, Nigerians with passports but expired visas, and Nigerians with passports and valid visas who have been ejected by house owners, Nigerians who have tested negative to Covid-19, are evacuated from China and quarantined upon arrival”.
The House also urged, “the Attorney General of the Federation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies to provide all necessary financial and other assistance to any affected Nigerian citizen in China who wish to seek redress in any local or international court for breach of fundamental rights, loss of property or any other actionable cause occasioned by their maltreatment or discrimination in China”.
It will be recalled that, the Honourable Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila; the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and the Nigerian Ambassador to China, Ahmed Jidda; undertook various independent and coordinated interventions, including meetings with the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian, to register Nigeria’s displeasure with the incidents.
But the Republic of China has not shown any commitment to ending the xenophobic discriminations, while Nigerians in China keep languishing on daily basis.