Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Federal Government, yesterday, blamed poor communication between Chinese authorities and African consulates in Guangzhou, China, for the alleged maltreatment of Africans in the area.
The is even as the government urged Nigerians to be objective in assessing situations such as the Guangzhou incident.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, stated this at a press briefing in Abuja in company with the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian.
Onyeama said Nigerian officials in China informed him that poor communication was responsible for efforts made by Chinese authorities to contain an incident of a lady who tested positive for coronavirus in the area. He said Nigerian and Chinese authorities were working closely to resolve the issue.
Recalling the incidence, Onyeama made reference to a video in both Igbo and English languages, which explained that the situation was not quite what was seen in the video as a maltreatment of Nigerians in China.
Onyeama further said there was a flight which conveyed a group of Nigerians to Guangzhou in which some Nigerians on the flight tested positive for COVID-19.
Among the Nigerians, the minister stated, was a lady who owned a restaurant in Guangzhou, who tested positive.
“A Nigerian restaurant frequented by Africans and Nigerians, the Chinese authorities obviously picked up on this that there was this group of people who had tested positive. And so, automatically demanded and insisted that they all be quarantined, with nobody allowed to come out in 14 days, and if anybody came out from that quarantine, that they should not be allowed back into that hotel or that residence.
“So, to try to contain this outbreak, which to them at that time, clearly seemed to have been within that community, they put in place this very, very strict measures. Now, it was misinterpreted, it appeared, by some of the Nigerians and Africans who could not understand why it seemed to be selective and targeting only themselves,” Onyeama said.
Onyeama further said that, having seen the video and received various calls from China, he alerted the Nigerian Embassy and officials in Guangzhou at the consulate, particularly the acting consul-general.
“And they confirmed that that narrative was true. That there were, in other words, this case that had been confirmed as positive that came in from an African flight and that there was this lady who owned a restaurant who was positive and the great fear that all the clients visiting that restaurant and maybe other restaurants might have been infected and might now be passing on that infection. So, after their experience in Wuhan, they were very determined to contain this in this way.
“But what our officials in China made clear was that the communication could and should have been better if the authorities in Guangzhou had informed the consulates, the African consulates in Guangzhou, that this was the situation, this was the measures that they were putting in place and so far it could have been a joint effort, a team effort, and that mutual suspicion would not have been there. And of course, that was not done and that led to counter-narratives and exercabated the situation,” Onyeama said.
Onyeama noted that the Nigerian government took very seriously the issue of human rights and the wellbeing of Nigerians anywhere in the world.
Zhou said the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China took note of the seriousness in which the minister and the Nigerian government placed on issues raised by Nigerians in China.
He added that China respected and admired the working cooperation between China and Nigeria, and that China would never forget the invaluable support it received from Nigeria during the most challenging stage in the fight against COVID-19 in China.