Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, has advised Nigerians to exercise restraint in accepting and disseminating information on alleged maltreatment of Nigerians and by extension Africans living in China.
Onyeama said this on Tuesday at a briefing in Abuja.
Flanked by the Chinese Ambassador in Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian, the minister told journalists that the narratives of discriminatory treatment against Africans resident in Guangzhou, a city in China, have turned out to be half truths.
He added that information made available to him by the African consulates and the Chinese authorities when he sought clarification on the trending videos of alleged discriminatory practises against Africans have revealed that half truths were contained in the videos.
He further said that he was adequately informed by official sources that certain Africans in a flight to Guangzhou have tested positive to COVID-19 and one of them was a woman who incidentally owned a restaurant that sells mostly African cuisine.
The minister said a firm decision by Chinese authorities to quarantine for 14 days those traced to the restaurant sparked resistance and attendant negative report of victimisation.
He said: “An African restaurant, a Nigerian restaurant frequented predominantly and almost exclusively by Africans and Nigerians and that 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 in if it was a hotel, back into that hotel or that residence.
“So, they put in very strict measure to try to contain this outbreak which to them at that time, clearly seemed to have been within that community. And so, they put in place, this very, very strict measures.
“Now, it was misinterpreted by some of the Nigerians and Africans who could not understand why it seemed to be selective and targeting only themselves.”
Prodded further by newsmen, Onyeama insisted that the video did not portray the true narrative and noted that officials at the Nigerian Embassy and officials in Guangzhou at the consulate, particularly the acting consul-general offered him a detailed information.
“And they confirmed that that narrative was the true narrative. That there were, in other words, this case that had been confirmed is positive that came in from an African flight and that there was this lady who owned a restaurant, that 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 for, 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 exacerbated the situation.”
He said both the Nigerian and Chinese authorities were working closely to resolve the issue and further assured that on no account would his ministry be complacent or trade off the issue of the human rights and wellbeing of Nigerians anywhere in the world.