China has temporarily suspended issuing entry visa for Nigerians and non-Chinese nationals into its territory and cited COVID-19 as reason.
The Asian tiger said on Thursday that its embassy will no longer issue certified health declaration form for non-Chinese nationals in Nigeria.
In a public notice announced on the Chinese Embassy’s website, the authorities explained that the suspension was a temporary response necessitated by the current situation of COVID-19.
The announcement noted that holders of diplomatic passports, service, courtesy or C visas will not be affected by the regulation, adding that the measures will be reviewed in accordance with the “evolving situation”.
Accordingly, the notice said the Chinese embassy will no longer issue certified health declaration form for non-Chinese nationals in the country.
Part of the statement read, “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, China has decided to temporarily suspend entry into China by non-Chinese nationals in Nigeria holding visas or residence permits still valid at the time of this announcement.
“Foreign nationals visiting China for emergency needs may apply for visas at the Chinese Embassy or Consulate.
“Entry by non-Chinese nationals in Nigeria with visas issued after November 3, 2020, will not be affected.”
“The above-mentioned measures will be assessed in accordance with the evolving situation and any adjustment will be announced accordingly,” the statement said.
Our correspondents report that hundreds of thousands of Nigerians travel to China yearly for various purposes including business, studies and tourism.
Checks revealed that there has not been a serious upsurge of COVID- 19 infections in Nigeria even as both the federal and state governments have lifted restrictions on travel, opened up schools and business among other reliefs.
As of November 5, Nigeria’s coronavirus cases stood at 63,328; death, 1,155 and recoveries 59,675.
We’re not aware of restriction
Contacted, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, declined to comment on restriction on Nigerians who want to travel to China, saying he was not aware of the travel development.
“I cannot react now,” he said.
“You are just telling me. I will find out from the minister tomorrow,” he told our correspondent in a telephone chat last night.
Alhaji Muntari, a Nigerian who deals in tiles and furniture being imported from China, said the restriction will seriously affect his business.
He said some of the products they import have fallen under the 41 items that one cannot open Form M to make bank transactions in hard currency.
“It is very sad that after COVID-19 lockdown, another restriction has been slammed on us, which will ultimately cripple our businesses.
“I want to advise that the ministers of foreign affairs and that of the interior to take the same measure taken by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika on the United Arab Emirates when he barred its airlines from coming to Nigeria after they took a similar decision on us.
“Within no time, the UAE allowed Nigerian flights into their country and they even celebrated Nigeria’s 60th Independence anniversary.
“It will be unfair to place a restriction on Nigerians and allow their nationals to fly there,” he added.
Musa Ali Ghaddafi, who is studying engineering in China, said there must be other reasons for restricting Nigerians beyond COVID- 19.
“I hope the federal government will get into the matter and resolve it immediately because we have hundreds of students there,” he said.
“Yes, I know there is a new wave of infections especially in Europe but we don’t have such cases here in Nigeria,” he said.
But Eunice John, a trader in Abuja who frequents China, said there was the likelihood the Asian Tiger was being careful.
“Maybe they are taking proactive measures because they have seen that Nigerians are mostly not serious about COVID-19.
There are many people here who don’t even believe the disease exists and they are being reckless.
“Look at how people are meeting for social events without respecting COVID-19 protocols, it is sad. We must remember that the coronavirus started from China and it cost them a fortune to halt the infections…So, if they say Nigerians would not be allowed entry, why should you blame them,” she noted.
Restriction not discriminatory
When contacted, the Director, Centre for China Studies, Charles Onunaiju said the restriction had nothing to do with discrimination.
“It is basically pandemic preventive and control measure,” he said.
On the fate of Nigerian businessmen and students going back to China, he said “Students everywhere in the world are doing classes online. My daughter also studies online though we spend a lot of money on data but it is worth it.”
On whether the restriction will affect the volume of business, Onunaiju said, “Absolutely, businesses have been affected but it is not only China-Nigeria or China-Africa but all over the world.”
He called on Nigeria not to reciprocate by placing restrictions on China because the measure was not targeted at Nigeria alone.
“A lot of Chinese have spent 14 days in quarantine in Nigeria and one of them was found positive.”
He said that even the Chinese doctors who came to help at the height of the pandemic were quarantined on arrival before they were allowed into the cities because it was a measure imposed that must be respected.