Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has described as disappointing the mistreatment of Africans including Nigerians in Guangzhou, saying it will not accept racial discrimination against her citizens.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, declared this while responding to a question in respect of medical assistance being provided by China, especially in the context of cases of discrimination or racism that has been taking place in the Asian country.
“Now we have been engaging with Chinese government at various levels at the level of our Consulate in Guangzhou, which is where these cases of discrimination and racism have been taking place and also at the federal level with our ambassador and the embassy in Beijing.
“So, we’ve made it clear to the Chinese government in no uncertain terms unequivocally that under no circumstances would we accept racial discrimination against Nigerians or indeed Africans or blacks in China, that that is a red line for us.
“They have in turn told us that that there is no case of that ongoing but clearly, you know, we are seeing videos, I have received reports and we’ve told them it’s unacceptable and we’re also engaging with other African countries to decide and work together on definitive steps and measures that we will take because of this situation.
“In addition, I have directed the Consulate in Guangzhou to systematically detail every single case of discrimination and every single case of loss or damage suffered by any Nigerian and we will pursue each and every single one very robustly with the Chinese government. If it requires compensation and damages etc.
“So, for us as I said, it’s a red line and we’re going to fight it to the very end. We’re extremely disappointed because we have excellent relations with the government and people of China, that such a thing can happen at this stage.
“You know when there were calls for travel to be banned to China when they had the outbreak in Wuhan and so forth, we went along with the World Health organisation’s advice not to place a ban on China and we showed real solidarity because we’ve also had our own experience of epidemics with Ebola and so forth. But really, we’re deeply wounded by what has happened to Nigerians and other Africans in China. Of course, the government has given us explanations and so forth, but really it is something we never expected and we will pursue it to its final conclusion and we will not make any compromises in doing so.
“There have been some comments in the public domain as if our policy…that we are somehow held hostage by the fact that we have received a lot of cooperation economic cooperation from China in the past, but I can assure you that where this is concerned we are going to pursue it with very end and irrespective of whatever economic cooperation that we have with China. Because in the world of today, we absolutely will not and cannot tolerate and accept any form of racism or discrimination against blacks, against the Africans and as the largest black country in the world, African country in the world, it behoves on us to be at the frontline in defending the dignity of blacks and Africans everywhere in the world.”
Reacting to a question in respect of somebody in the UK who paid 350 pounds four weeks ago to be evacuated, Onyeama said only a limited number can be evacuated for now.
“Frst of all, when we made the announcement that we were trying to assess first of all how many Nigerians were in various countries and wanted to come home, we pointed out that all communication should be with the High Commission and at no time did the High Commission or did any directives emanate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Nigerians should take Tests.
“So, where the 350 pounds for tests came from, I really don’t know but it certainly was not from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor from our various embassies and high commissions.
“Now, of course, there are various stages that one has to go through; the first with to the process of collation of the numbers of people who wanted to come in the different countries because there are Nigerians all over the world. And once we began to get a sense of the number, the next stage was obviously in parallel to trying to see which airlines and how we could actually convey them back to Nigeria and that has been the longest process.”
He said government wanted to explore the possibility of bringing those who wanted to come back but could not afford it free of charge.
“Unfortunately, the funding was not available, resources are not available for that, so we had to negotiate with airlines and then, you know also making sure we have in place the centers where they would stay when they came back.
“So this has really been the process. It has not been an easy one trying to get all that together. And as I reported yesterday, we still need a little bit more time to have all the accommodation and things ready.”