Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday held a meeting with the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian, in Abuja over 72 Nigerians who tested positive for COVID-19 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China.
The parley, it was gathered, discussed the development and other issues relating to the maltreatment of Nigerian nationals in the Asian country.
The MFA spokesman, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, confirmed the development to our correspondent in Abuja, noting that the Chinese ambassador confirmed that 56 Nigerians had just tested positive for the virus.
The PUNCH had in an exclusive report on Wednesday, revealed that 72 Nigerians and 111 Africans tested positive for the coronavirus disease in Guangzhou city.
Nwonye confirmed receiving a diplomatic correspondence from the Nigerian Consulate in Guangzhou, adding that the acting Consul-General, Mr Razaq Lawal, could not provide details as he was in quarantine.
He said, “This afternoon (Thursday), we had a meeting with the Chinese ambassador where he regretted the attitude of some Nigerians, some of them refusing to even undergo treatment.
“They are treating those who wanted to be treated, some of them that are being treated are recovering.
“I asked the ambassador whether the coronavirus cases were imported or they were people already resident in China. He confirmed that the first two cases among Nigerians were imported.
“It may not be that they got it in Nigeria, may be, while they were in transit. The note I got said 56 Nigerians tested positive with about two or more contacts.
“On our own side, we are seriously engaging with the Chinese authorities, but unfortunately, our acting Consul-General in Guangzhou is in quarantine, he has a few days to finish before he can come out to maybe, personally engage with them (Chinese officials). They are only communicating electronically,” Nwonye disclosed.
The spokesman admonished Nigerians to obey every regulation put in place by the Chinese government to contain the pandemic, noting that each country had its own ways of fighting the disease.
A China resident, Mr Jubril Aifuwa said the Nigerian community in China was not aware of the report that 72 Nigerians were positive for COVID-19, adding that all the Nigerians under quarantine had been released.
Aifuwa stated, “I was among the people who were quarantined. We were about 55 Nigerians and some other Africans and we were released after 14 days. We were tested three times and no one returned positive.
“We have a group WhatsApp where we monitored what is going on. If after 14 days, you are free of the virus, the government would give you a certificate showing you are virus-free. If anyone tested positive, he would not be released.”
Another resident, Stephen Okechukwu, also described as false, the Chinese government’s report, stressing that “every Nigerian in China has been tested and all results came out negative.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has described the stigmatisation of Nigerians in China and the racist attacks on other Africans by Chinese officials in Guangzhou as a redline that Nigeria would not condone.
The government said the Nigerian Consulate in Guangzhou had been directed to document every case of stigmatisation and racism against Nigerians for redress.
Viral videos had shown some Nigerians being hounded and evicted from their apartments by Guangzhou Municipal officials.
Responding to questions on the reported attacks on Nigerians during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja on Thursday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama stated that there would not be any compromise in getting justice for the affected citizens.
The minister said, “We are engaging with the Chinese government at various levels and at the level of our consulate in Guangzhou which is where the discrimination and racism had taken place and also at Beijing with our embassy.
“We made it clear to the Chinese government in no uncertain terms, unequivocally, that under no circumstance would we accept racial discrimination against Nigerians, Africans or blacks in China. That is a redline.”
He dismissed reports that the government asked Nigerians awaiting evacuation abroad to pay for COVID-19 tests.