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China’s strategy for Nigeria business community

By Ogbonnaya Stephen
18 April 2023   |   3:03 am
The current China visa regime for Nigerian business populace is far from being considered friendly. It is supposed to be a topical international affair that both the outgoing administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the incoming government need pay decisive attention to before things go from bad to worse. Presently, Chinese nationals, who gain entrance…

Buhari with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

The current China visa regime for Nigerian business populace is far from being considered friendly. It is supposed to be a topical international affair that both the outgoing administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the incoming government need pay decisive attention to before things go from bad to worse.

Presently, Chinese nationals, who gain entrance to Nigeria soil so cheaply on visa on arrival policy program approved by this retiring Nigeria government, have almost dominated large-scale importation of any significant commodity in Nigeria ranging from electronics, clothing materials, ready-made wears, electricals, thus rendering indigenous importers either redundant or tapped out of business – bankruptcy sets in.

A situation where Chinese nationals fly into Nigeria at will and in their legions with many of them engaging in illegal deals in the land while many Nigerians go through hell to successfully obtain visas to enable them travel strictly for their business interest and transactions (and often applications disapproved) is quite disgusting and unfair.

The flimsy alibi readily available on the lips of those who call the shots is that many Nigerians who are living in China are found committing all manner of atrocious deeds, violating the laws of the land. Who said that Chinese people living in Nigeria are all angels who abhor activities that impinge on the very economic cash cow of Nigeria? Recently, about 20 Chinese nationals have been sentenced for money laundering.

Similarly, earlier to this, many of the Chinese nationals were caught engaging in illegal mining in Oshogbo Osun State capital. These are just a tip of the iceberg of the frequent incidence involving Chinese citizens in Nigeria.

It will shock you to realize that many Chinese perambulating our streets have no issued migrant papers permitting them to engage in whatever they do. How many Chinese people have been killed by anyone in Nigeria? But on the other hand, please make an enquiry at the hand of the President of Nigeria-China Community Association in China.

Sometimes in 2012 at Sanyuanli in Guangzhou China, a young Nigeria man was clubbed to death by the security guards beside the police headquarters building in the area. Hell was not let loose. His insignificant offence was that he unzipped to pee by the roadside. The painful thing about this was that the victim was the only child of surviving mother, and who upon hearing the bad news, slumped and yielded her ghost, too.

Not even any media brouhaha was made about this unfortunate incident. But someone wants to quickly defend the China rigid visa system fully operational in Nigeria on the ground that the lifestyle of some Nigerians in China are responsible.

Let’s recall a kidnap case that happened sometime in 2007 at Nnewi in Anambra State Nigeria involving 2 Chinese nationals and 1 Nigerian both staff of Innoson Motors. Late Mr Sheng Feng Yi, unfortunately, became that kidnap victim who died in Ebonyi State bush and was buried in a shallow grave because he could not survive the harsh jungle terrain.

There were two Chinese kidnapped but after Innoson Motors CEO coughed out N20 million naira, one Nigerian and other Chinese were released, but the kidnappers held on to the hapless Sheng Feng Yi. This is not targeted peculiarly to those Chinese nationals because on daily basis, the Nigerian people are dying in droves in the hands of their abductors. It has become a routine crime, occurring so frequently in our society.

Upon further enquiry, I had a phone conversation with a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his personal witness at Lagos International Airport between a number of Chinese people ferried in a bus and Nigeria customs officers is, to say the least, disgusting. How they landed at the airport, went in and came back to the bus with a couple of the customs officers and after some covert cash exchanges were made, returned to the airport to carry several bags of their consignment.

Now, consider these grievous required documents that any visa applicant must first provide before you can get a letter of invitation and then queue for submission. There is no guarantee that you will get the visa after procuring the letter of invitation, though. They are as enlisted below… 1. Passport number,

2. Previous China visa/ entry and exit record. This basically means that the chances of first-time travellers to China are hereby delimited.
3. Company Tax Payment
4. Certificate of incorporation,
5. Vaccination Certificate for visitors.
6. Employee Employment Certificate
7. China Custom goods declaration. Imagine that those who successfully got China visa prior to COVID-19 movement restriction in China could not be considered for issuance after their visas expired, for no fault of their own. This taxing and grievous pattern is a sure killer to Nigeria’s business environment as controlled by the macro and small merchants of Nigeria extractions. If this narration does not rightly define what modern slavery is, I will wonder what else does.

This writer took the bull by the horn and sought to interview the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs. Graciously, that happened in the office of Ambassador Nicholas Ella, who will be retiring soon. He subscribed to my suggestions that Nigerians deserve better visa regime to all the countries enjoying visa on arrival policy.

The one word that settles it all is reciprocity. If you treat me like this, I will equally reciprocate. I wonder why Nigeria Immigration Service, Ministry of Interior and Foreign Affairs Ministry have shown this high level of indifference and unperturbed to the plight of Nigeria business people. The position of Nigeria government, according to Amb. Nicholas Ella is that the nations whose nationals enjoy VOA ought to reciprocate.

But the government has no pressure mechanism or diplomatic prerogative to compel those other governments to implement the same VOA policy. It lies at the discretion of the government of those nations so to enforce or otherwise. Nevertheless, with the findings my investigations and conducted research on this lopsided practice have revealed, it is only a question of time, Nigeria business environment will be suffocated and or systematically controlled by the Chinese government from the back door. The outcome is better imagined than experienced.

I want to advocate for the Nigeria indigenous industrialists that this must be their opportunity to rise to the occasion and support the government towards creating an enabling environment, provision of stable electricity and making ours a thriving business-friendly clime. It will be tantamount to cutting one’s nose to spite the face to offer Chinese people VOA ostensibly either owing to the alleged reports of Nigerians misconduct in China or as someone speculated, to curry favour from the China government to continue to grant us loans upon request without much ado.

The responsive government should not sell her birthright for a morsel of meat. As a way of preserving the truth and exposing the partial treatment meted out to Nigerians have I penned this down thus. I hope the government will promptly respond to this else this media exploration shall yet be escalated.