Two Chinese nationals working at a gold mine in southwestern Nigeria were kidnapped on April 5, China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday. Spokesperson Zhao Lijian told the media: “Upon hearing this information, the Chinese consulate general in Lagos immediately activated the emergency response mechanism, urging the Nigerian police to rescue the hostages and assuring safety for them, and at the same time guide relevant businesses to handle the situation. in one Regular press conference on April 8.
The incident took place in the Nigerian state of Osun. According to China Global Times, a local police spokesman “said in a statement that around 4 p.m. that day, a group of criminals attacked the local gold mine and kidnapped two Chinese citizens. Two men Zhao Jian, 33 years old and Wen, 50 years old, are employees at the gold mine. Two security agents were shot and wounded in the attack.
The kidnapping comes after an earlier attack and kidnapping of Chinese citizens in the state of Osun. Two other Chinese workers were kidnapped on March 31 and rescued by police on April 6 – the day after the gold mine attack.
In February, three Chinese workers were kidnapped from a gold mine in the state of Osun. It is still not clear whether this is a similar mine that was attacked on April 5. In the February incident, police escorting Chinese workers were killed in the attack. According to AFP, three Chinese workers were rescued by police on February 9, but no arrests have been made, raising questions about whether a ransom was paid to secure the job. release them or not.
“Kidnapping for ransom, common in the oil-producing south of Nigeria, has recently spread to other parts of the country,” AFP reported back in february. “Victims are usually released after paying the ransom, although police rarely confirm if the money has changed hands.”
“We are often a ‘piece of cake’ for the violent local warriors. Once I heard a friend tell the story of a Chinese worker who went through a kidnapping firsthand; He literally went to hell on earth, “Global Times quoted a Chinese engineer working in Nigeria as saying. Most Chinese companies have hired security guards to protect their workers – perhaps two guards injured in this week’s attack were supposed to protect, engineers say.
Based on China’s Global Investment Tracker, run by the American Enterprise Institute, Chinese companies have amassed more than $ 40 billion in investments in Nigeria by 2020, with the majority of that going to transport infrastructure (17.1). billion USD) or energy projects (16.5 billion USD, especially in the oil sector)). That makes oil-rich Nigeria the top destination for Chinese investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
Data from the China-Africa Research Initiative, Johns Hopkins University SAIS bringing the number of Chinese workers in Nigeria to 12,199 by the end of 2019.
The surge in kidnappings comes at an awkward time, as China and Nigeria mark their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited the country in January where he is told his Nigerian counterpart that “China always prioritizes cooperation with Nigeria and considers Nigeria as a major strategic partner”.
“This year is vital to China-Nigeria relations,” added Wang Yi. This is the right time for the two countries to form an intergovernmental committee and to make a master plan for bilateral cooperation, ”according to a statement from the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria.
Zhao, the State Department spokesman, stressed that China is not considering reducing its presence in Nigeria due to the recent kidnappings. “We have a number of Chinese-sponsored projects and businesses in Nigeria, although the local security situation has never been ideal,” he told reporters. “We will not resort to evacuation because of some infrequent individual circumstances.”