Discrimination against Nigerians at home by foreigners

By Babatunde Ayedoju

One of the characteristics that cannot be taken away from human societies in this 21st century is cross-cultural relationship. Countries relate with one another politically and economically. However, in the course of such relationship, there tends to be some unpalatable experiences, one of which is racial discrimination.

In almost every known case, people experience racial discrimination on foreign lands, while they enjoy every freedom possible on their own soil. Unfortunately, in the last few days, Nigerians have had to battle with stories of discrimination reportedly being faced by their compatriots in the hands of foreigners right here on the Nigerian soil.

A video surfaced online last week Sunday about a Chinese supermarket located within the China General Chamber of Commerce, Royal Choice Estate, Airport Road, Abuja, notoriously reported to be out of bounds for customers who are not Chinese nationals, including Nigerians.

Following the outrage from Nigerians that greeted this video, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) visited the said supermarket but reportedly met it locked, with the owner of the supermarket nowhere to be found at that time. The FCCPC officials sealed the supermarket and summoned its owner, Liu Bei, who was said to have fled for questioning.

Reacting to the allegation in a statement, Bei said that her establishment was not a supermarket but a retail shop aimed at meeting the essential needs of her local community. She also denied every allegation of discrimination against all non-Chinese nationals, including Nigerians.

She said, “My shop is in the Royal Choice Estate, Airport Road, Abuja. It’s a small retail shop, not a supermarket like SHOPRITE. I mainly sell things to community residents and people who work here. Sometimes some visitors will come to my store to buy something after visiting the company in the office building, regardless of nationality.

“I don’t discriminate against any Nigerians, I even have several local employees in my store and we have a good relationship. However, for safety reasons, the community has requirements for visitors, so not everyone can enter the community directly. I feel sorry for the altercation between the security guard and the visitor in the video. Two Nigerians did come to my store that day to buy something, and I sold to them.”

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Similarly, the China General Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria stated that the embattled building within the Royal Choice Estate is not a supermarket as widely reported, but comprises an office complex and residential apartments.

The statement read, “The China Chamber of Commerce is one of several enterprises using the facility, and the supermarket in question is located in the residential area of the estate, which is unrelated to the China Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria.”

The Chamber of Commerce insisted that the residential area of the estate had privately occupied residences which complied with security protocols in granting access to external visitors, and added that no individual was subjected to discrimination or denied access to the estate or supermarket to purchase groceries as widely believed.

However, the statement expressed regret over the clash at the estate’s entrance between the security personnel and a customer, saying that it does not reflect the official position of the estate management or the chamber of commerce.

The House of Representatives Committee on China/Nigeria Parliamentary Friendship Group, which is undertaking to intervene in the matter, called on Nigerians to remain calm, urging them to allow full fledged investigations into the allegation.

The House, through a statement jointly signed by Hon. Jaafaru Yakubu, Chairman, House Committee on China/Nigeria Parliamentary Friendship Group and the Spokesperson of the House, Hon. Akin Rotimi Jnr., condemned every form of discrimination, stressing the importance of the mutual relationship that exists between Nigeria and the Republic of China.

The House also promised to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter, pledging to work diligently to gather all relevant information and push for a redress where necessary.

Indian Language School, Ilupeju, Lagos State also, came under the radar when investigation by a national daily revealed that only Indian nationals and their children were allowed into the school, though it had Nigerians as security guards.

Located opposite Rite Price Supermarket, Akinteye Drive in Ilupeju, information from the school’s website indicated that the institution was established in 1982 as a private school under the umbrella of The High Commission of India. The school is affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi and has classes from BALVATIKA1 to XII.

Just like the Abuja-based Chinese supermarket saga, this incident attracted reactions from Nigerians and even the Indian High Commission to Nigeria. As Nigerians took to the social media to voice out their anger over the incident, the Lagos State Government condemned it and ordered a probe into the matter. The Indian High Commission also vowed to sanction all workers in that school who were found to be involved in preventing non-indians from entering the school.

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The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, while insisting that the state’s Ministry of Education would be informed and a probe carried out to ascertain what was going on in the school, added, “The Lagos State government frowns at any form of discrimination in whatever guise or disguise. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is in the second term of his administration and in everything he has done, he has not discriminated against anybody irrespective of religion, colour or affiliation. I’m not sure the ministry of education has gotten a complaint from anybody but if what you’re saying is true, it is not in our character. The Ministry of Education will investigate the matter.

Prof Adedayo Afe from the Department of History and International Studies, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, said that the action of the Chinese and Indians cannot be justified in any sane clime, describing it as racial discrimination against Nigerians right on the Nigerian soil.

While saying that our foreign policy needs to be tinkered with, the professor of legal history called on the government to go beyond media discourse and take every necessary action against the owners of such establishments.

Dr Bayo Fasunwon from the Department of Political Science, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, said, “If you are in a country, everybody should be allowed access into any organisation you establish. So far as it is not your embassy, it is not an extension of your country. So, everybody should be allowed access.

“If you restrict access, that means some suspicious activities may be going on there. Moreso, it is a slap on the sovereignty of Nigeria to create a space for yourself and deny your hosts access to the place. It shows that they want to recolonise us and should be dealt with in that regard.”

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The political economist, however, stated that one needs to investigate the terms of the agreement between those organisations and the Nigerian Government, saying, “For example, in some other countries, such organisations must employ 50 percent of their staff from the host country.”

He said that in the case of the Indian school, it is possible that learning takes place in their indigenous languages which most Nigerians do not understand; but even at that, access should be given to Nigerians who want to learn them.

“For the Chinese supermarket, they may claim that they offer Chinese products that may not be acceptable to Nigerians, but it’s left for Nigerians to decide whether they will buy such products or not, not for them to be restricted,” he added.

He suggested that aside sealing up such organisations, the Federal Government should send security operatives to investigate if they harbour criminals or spies and insist that Nigerians should have access to them or their owners relocate. Likewise, Nigerians who go there should behave as good ambassadors by obeying all laid down rules.

Dr Harrison Idowu, also from the Department of Political Science, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, said that there is nothing to justify the action of both organisations, saying that it shows the way they perceive Nigerians.

He said, “They would not try this in another country. It is because of the way they see our country. That is discrimination and an abuse of right. People have the right to determine what public place to patronise. How can you restrict movement in a public place?

“If it’s security, put security measures in place. By the way, it is only Nigerians that can breach security? Globally, criminality has nothing to do with nationality. Moreso, since these organisations are operating in Nigeria, it is wrong for them to stop Nigerians from patronising them.”

Dr Idowu said that government should warn the foreign establishments to desist from such discriminatory practices and withdraw their licences if they fail to comply, adding that, “The government should ask them the rationale behind that. I think Nigerians will be interested in knowing this, though it is not justifiable in any way, as I said earlier.”

Discrimination against Nigerians at home by foreigners

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