The outbreak of coronavirus pandemic has turned the envy of most Nigerians in the diaspora to pity and of course, the beginning of wisdom for those who still harbour a dream to seek the Golden fleece abroad. The pathetic tales of inhuman treatment of Nigerians in China is quite disheartening. Thanks to technology and the social media that made images of the deplorable circumstance and inhuman treatment of Nigerians in China to go viral and call for probe. However, to make matters worse, a few days ago, Nigerians tribulations in China over COVID-19 was not only betrayed but coated with condemnation by the House of Representatives. The outcome of the adhoc committee set up by the House of Representatives to investigate the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians over the coronavirus pandemic in China, came up with brashness and curious arrogance of power as a judge they curiously, unilaterally blamed Nigerians for their host maltreatment.
It is indeed worrisome to note that Nigerians are routinely maltreated in foreign lands, with no one seeming to raise an eyebrow and denounce the ugly incidences. The mistreatment of Nigerians in China has become too unpleasant to bear as it did not just start with the outbreak of COVID-19. Yet, all the while, neither the home country, nor the host care about the feelings of the victims. Nigerians and other African countries nationals have suffered unimaginable treatments in foreign land, some of which are covered in thick secrecy or explained away that the migrants committed one crime or the other. The inhuman conditions Nigerians were subjected to in China, is a clear violation of their human rights and particularly a desecration of international edicts regarding the treatment of foreign nationals. It is even more worrisome that as most countries treat Nigerians with disdain, the country’s diplomatic missions function like tourist centres as officials are less concerned with the infringement on the rights of Nigerians.
On the COVID-19 maltreatment issue, a report from the Nigerian embassy in Beijing, the Consulate in Guangzhou and Shanghai, through the ministry of foreign affairs and the Chinese government through the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria reveals that, “the majority of those causing the problem were long-time ‘over-stayers’ who used the opportunity to foment trouble and distrust on-going health procedures which applied to both Chinese and other nationals” The above finding is not surprising to Nigerians. This is because everything about Nigerians in the diaspora is a rebuke both at home and with the host country because our government has sold its respect over a pottage of loans. However, from all indications, the Chinese authorities blatantly refuse to meet their obligations as it concerns international law and diplomacy. Therefore, the point should be stressed that Nigerians’ discomfiture was all the more lamentable because Nigerians were neither the cause of the coronavirus disease that originated from Wuhan, China nor were they infected by it even after the 14 days’ quarantine. Yet, Nigerians became the scapegoat over a flimsy excuse of ‘over stayers’. A situation that caused the Chinese authorities to make illegal immigrants pay their own hotel accommodation expenses during quarantine and further dehumanised them to become homeless after the isolation period as landlords refused to renew their residential accommodation.
While Nigerians are going through all these suffering in China, Nigerian political leaders, traditional rulers and the federal government have become more protective of Chinese and indeed other foreign nationals in the name of investment. The Nigerian government has always been lenient by showing great affection to foreign nationals even when they broke the laws of the land and criminal charges are hovering over their head. It should be on record that Chinese nationals living in Nigeria are not all saint as many among them indulge in crimes and move about without valid documents. A catalogue of Chinese nationals’ criminal activities in Nigeria would twinkle ones ear. For instance, some Chinese citizens caught mining illegally in Osun about a month ago and this week cannot be said to be good citizens. Not long ago, the Lagos state government’s harmmer fell on a Chinese restaurant in Lagos for having the effrontery to give an audacious order not to serve Nigerian customers. In fact, Chinese nationals involvement in oil theft among many other illegal activities here in Nigeria is mind blowing. Of course, nobody is talking about the hiding of the so-called 15 Chinese doctors in the country. The ruling government through the minister of health claimed that, they were in the country to support the fight against COVID-19. But suddenly they disappeared into thin air and it is not an issue to worry about by the government or the security agencies. Had these so-called Chinese doctors been Nigerians in their country, a search party of the highest military formation would have commenced to fish them out and label them otherwise.
There is no doubt that China in the last decade has become the workshop of the world and a melting point for every global economy. Therefore, the country would attract people across the world to do business with and thereby live in the country. However, Nigeria’s growing dependence on China and China’s increasing importance in Africa do not give the latter the effrontery, as host, to mistreat Nigerians. If the allegation that, majority of Nigerians involved in the crisis with the Chinese authorities are ‘over stayers’ who resisted mandatory testing because they did not want to be identified as illegal immigrants were true, did the Nigerian ambassador to China try to intervene? Anyway, it is high time foreign countries, China in particular respected Nigerians in their country, just as they expect Nigeria to respect their nationals in this country.