Geopolitics

Nigeria Takes Measures Against Chinese Corruption

June 3, 2020

Ana-Maria Baloi

 

Why does this matter

 

Many Chinese businesses, including government-linked and government-owned companies, routinely use corrupt practices to gain an advantage in Africa.

 

The Chinese companies operating in Africa are highly under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) control, yet the CCP corruption reinforces a system that is damaging to ordinary Africans, suggesting that Chinese rhetoric about friendly concern for Africa is insincere.

 

Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) released a statement confirming the arrest of two Chinese businessmen who attempted to bribe an official to cover up corrupt deals. The EFCC declared that the arrest took place in north-western Sokoto State, although the bribery was reported in neighbouring Zamfara State and involved the former state government.

 

Mr Meng Wei Kun and Mr Xu Koi were arrested for offering a sum of 50 million Naira as a bribe to their EFCC Zonal Head, Mr Abdullahi Lawal. The bribe was allegedly offered to stall ongoing investigations of a construction company, China Zhonghao Nig. Ltd, handling contracts awarded by the Zamfara State Government between 2012 to 2019. The EFCC said the company was investigated with respect to roads and water contracts in Zamfara. It turned out that the amount was the first-part of an agreed-upon hundred million Naira bribe to completely cover the case.

 

 

Chinese Corruption in Africa

 

Corruption is often a key element of Chinese economic engagement overseas, including in Africa. A 2017 survey found that 60% to 87% of Chinese firms polled in Africa admitted to paying a bribe to get a license. Over the last 13 years, two of China’s biggest telecom companies, Huawei and ZTE, have been implicated in corruption scandals in at least 15 African countries.  The countries are Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Africa is confronted with Chinese irregularities throughout the continent for a long time now. In 2008, a Chinese company made the headlines when then-Chinese President Hu Jintao’s son bribed Namibian officials to win a contract. In 2013, police in Ghana detained 124 Chinese workers for illegally mining gold in the country. Several websites reported that Chinese workers were hiding in the jungles from the Ghanaian military police and Ghanaian troops were instigating villagers to loot the Chinese residents.

 

In 2017, the U.S. arrested the emissary of CEFC Energy Company—a multinational Chinese company linked to the Chinese Communist Party—for bribing officials in Chad and Uganda on behalf of CEFC and the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.

 

Chinese corruption in Africa takes more forms than paying bribes to win contracts. The Namibian government spent two years investigating more than 30 Chinese companies operating in its country over concerns they were hiding illegal earnings. The investigation uncovered four Chinese tycoons who reportedly ran a $300 million tax-fraud scheme. Chinese nationals and, allegedly, even Chinese diplomats are frequently involved in the poaching rings devastating Africa’s wildlife, while Chinese companies and workers are notorious for frequently transgressing the environmental and labour standards of various African countries.

 

For instance, two-thirds of Chinese boats fishing in West African waters do so illegally, rapidly depleting fishing stocks and costing West Africa an estimated $2 billion a year. More recently, in March 2020, three Chinese nationals were arrested in Ghana for operating a quarry company without a permit, in the Greater Accra region.

 

 

Corruption is Peaking in Nigeria

 

General elections were held in Nigeria on 23 February 2019 to elect the President, Vice President, House of Representatives and the Senate. Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari from the All Progressive Congress party won his re-election bid, defeating his closest rival Atiku Abubakar by over 3 million votes. Buhari promised to fight against corruption in Nigeria, which according to him, it is present at all levels and is the biggest problem impeding Nigeria’s economic growth and development.

 

Despite Nigeria’s anti-corruption campaign, the country has dropped from 144 in 2018 to 146 in 2019 on the annual corruption perception index published by Transparency International. Meanwhile, critiques of the government continue to stress that the corruption campaign of the current administration is selective, claiming that some political office holders and government officials are left to walk away despite money laundering and other corruption charges levied against them.

 

 

Nigeria Arrests Chinese Mine Workers Conducting Illegal Extraction

 

At the beginning of May 2020, 27 illegal miners, including 17 Chinese, were arrested in the southwestern Nigerian state of Osun. The arrests took place five months after a report published by a local website revealed that illegal miners from the northwestern state of Zamfara had been carrying out their unauthorized business in Osun, broadly working for Chinese firms. The report, caused arguments on social media, calling on authorities to take action to stop the illegal activities.

 

The arrests also come few days after Nigeria’s lower chamber of parliament decided to probe the legality of Chinese nationals and their businesses based in the country, amid reports of alleged maltreatment of Nigerian citizens in China. Also, the Nigerian public health experts have been warned of human health as well as environmental problems over illegal mining.

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