- We should take seriously the charges that they are imported to work here
It seems on first instinct, to be an unlikely, even bizarre, tale. A non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Nigeria, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has alleged the influx of a large number of Chinese convicts, prison inmates by Chinese companies to work in those organisations as expatriate technicians. But then, the NGO did not just conjure this allegation out of thin air. Its petition to the National Assembly on the matter actually cited a member of the House of Representatives as its source, for taking up the grave charge.
According to HURIWA’s complaint to the National Assembly, “We are petitioning to stand against the illegal immigration of large numbers of Chinese prisoners into Nigeria as expatriates, in turn taking slots meant to accommodate graduates in the labour force of the nation. A House of Representatives member representing Gagarawa, Maigateri and Sule Tankarkar Federal Constituency of Jigawa State, Sani Zoro, raised the alarm of incessant importation of Chinese prisoners to work in foreign companies in Nigeria. The lawmaker, who stated that Chinese prisoners were often conveyed into the country as expatriates, accused the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) of complicity in the immigration breaches”.
It is unlikely that Mr. Zoro would make this kind of grave allegation without being sure of his facts. He should thus apprise the relevant authorities and security agencies of all the information that spurred his allegation. The relevant committees of the National Assembly should be able to interact with agencies such as the Ministry of Interior and the NIS in a bid to get to the root of the matter.
The security agencies such as the police and the Department of State Services (DSS) should also be able to discreetly look into the matter, particularly with the affected Chinese companies, to verify the credibility of the information, with the aim of taking remedial or punitive actions.
Our foreign embassy in China, on the prompting of the Ministry of External Affairs, should also be able to interact with the Chinese authorities to extract useful information and compel necessary action from their end if the allegation proves to be true. Nothing should be off the table in investigating the matter. That is why the dismissive stance of the NIS authorities on the issue is unhelpful. In the words of HURIWA, “Surprisingly, the NIS Deputy Director, Immigration (DCI), James Sunday, denied the allegation against the service. He said the statutory responsibility of immigration on movement of immigrants has never been compromised”.
Unfortunately, the immigration boss cannot be too sure. All too often, foreign companies operating in Nigeria have been able to take advantage of the lax enforcement of Nigerian agencies to perpetrate crimes that would not be condoned in their countries. For example, many foreign companies have been known over the years to violate legally prescribed expatriate quota limits with impunity, most times with the collusion of corrupt Nigerian officers. Many foreign companies are thus reported to import expatriate staff even when there are Nigerians with the requisite qualifications and experience to do the jobs.
To make matters worse, the NGO not only claims it has received petitions from over 200,000 unemployed Nigerian graduates asking that the alleged scam should be probed and the perpetrators brought before the law and punished, but even that most of these alleged Chinese prisoners who work at lucrative construction sites are paid for by Nigeria. We do not take these allegations as gospel truth. But we cannot cavalierly dismiss them either. There is no harm conducting a thorough investigation. This is because the influx of a large number of allegedly criminally minded people may have further negative implications for our already precarious security situation.