by Olatunji Saliu
The relations between China and Nigeria should never be undermined by controversies surrounding the novel coronavirus, as every affected country is instituting emergency measures on different scales to contain the mankind’s common enemy, a Nigerian expert warns.
In an interview with Xinhua in Abuja, Charles Onunaiju, an expert in China-Africa studies, said cooperation between the two countries has become too vital or too important, and too strategic, for them to allow the spur of the moment to distract or vitiate it.
“We know this is not a normal time. Travel and movement within and among countries are restricted… We must understand some of these things,” said Onunaiju, Director of the Center for China Studies in Abuja.
“This is a time of jagged nerves,” the expert said, urging people not to mistaking some specific pandemic control measures as institutional misconduct.
The expert was making the remarks amid confusion and conflicting information over the conditions of Nigerians living in China as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe.
The Nigerian government has said it was seeking to evacuate Nigerians living abroad on account of COVID-19, including China. This came even after Nigeria’s foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama and Zhou Pingjian, the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, jointly held a press conference in Abuja to address issues bordering on the welfare of Nigerians in Guangzhou, south China’s Guangdong Province.
Onunaiju said all these reflect only “the temperament of the moment”, adding he believes that things will soon normalize.
He has called on both Nigerian and Chinese authorities for a level-headed approach in handling the contemporary issues affecting the two sides, while dismissing fears that bilateral cooperation might be engulfed.
The China-Nigeria relation, he said, is built on solid grounds of mutual respect and political understanding.
He suggested that the two sides continue to take advantage of the functions and mechanisms of consultation to engage at this time.
“We need to be a lot more level-headed not to endanger the gains of Nigeria-China cooperation which has been steady and progressive, mutually useful and beneficial to each other,” Onunaiju said.
“Mistakes, excesses by officials… may occur here and there. This should be taken for what it is…spur of the moment should never come in between long-established functional dynamic relations like Nigeria-China cooperation,” he added.
Consul generals of African countries in Guangzhou, south China’s Guangdong Province, said they support the local measures against COVID-19 and believe the novel coronavirus will eventually be defeated through strengthened communication and joint efforts.
Last week, the foreign affairs office of China’s Guangdong province issued an open letter, calling for joint efforts in the fight against COVID-19, which was welcomed by the diplomats from Africa.
Ethiopian Consul General in Guangzhou Teferi Melesse Desta said they would continue to work together with local governments to promote mutual understanding. He said Guangdong has taken many effective measures and African communities here obey the instructions.
Available data showed that a total of 111 African people in Guangzhou, capital of south China’s Guangdong Province, had tested positive for COVID-19 by April 13, according to Chen Zhiying, executive vice mayor of Guangzhou. Enditem