[The Injustice Blog] Is Nigeria walking into a trap in this new romance with China?

China is unarguably the largest trade partner for Nigeria, the relationship between the two countries over the years has seen a lot of Chinese presence in the country. The Chinese community in Nigeria has invested billions of naira in the hospitality, manufacturing and other industries across the country.

The trade balance sheet between the two countries has grown in leaps and bounds with the latest Chinese interventions in Nigeria leaning heavily towards finance and infrastructure. It is a relationship that has generated a lot of public discourse as to what Nigeria stands to gain from the Asian tiger.

The duo of Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) and Chinese Railway Construction Company (CRCC) has now emerged as the de-facto contractor for the Federal government of Nigeria and majority of the states in the country thereby handling multi-billion dollar infrastructural projects most of which is 100% financed with Chinese loans.

As much as the process will aim at addressing our infrastructural deficit, a lot of commentators have expressed reservation in the modus operandi of the loan which is not in Nigeria’s interest. The Chinese government is expected to issue a loan for the Lagos-Ibadan railway project but it comes with a caveat – the project must be executed by their construction company which results to capital flight as Nigeria is expected to pay for these loans again with interest. One wonders how transparency went out the door.

The Federal government has defended this practice but it’s high time Nigeria renegotiates its bilateral relationship with China as our current financial agreements puts the country at a severe disadvantage in the event of any misunderstanding between both parties. This was laid bare by the Consul General of Nigeria in China, Mr Wale Oloko on Monday, February 19, 2018.

According to him, Nigerians aspiring to travel to China for employment purposes should look elsewhere saying “It has been and would continue to be difficult for unskilled Nigerians to secure even menial jobs in China as it was only exceptionally skilled Nigerians in artificial intelligence, information technology and other areas that would be considered for employment in China.”

While Oloko’s statement doesn’t factor in the thriving Nigerian communities in China and the massive itinerant business transactions Nigerian importers and Chinese manufacturers have enjoyed for decades, he does shed light on the elitism that accompanies emigration to China from Nigeria, an elitism that isn’t reciprocated by the Nigerian government.

The irony of this is that Chinese in Nigeria have indirectly taken over the manufacturing sector with the support of the Federal Government but Nigerians are yet to achieve such feats in China. The relationship between Nigeria and China should be symbiotic but at the moment it’s parasitic. We need China to help develop Nigeria but it should come with a concession that ensures the human capital development of Nigerians.

For every project China undertakes in Nigeria, Chinese expatraites are recruited into the workforce denying us the opportunity to amass much needed technical skills and on the job experience.

Our current financial agreement feels like a sham, perhaps it is time we pressure the government into renegotiating it.

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