The Times, a British national daily, says Chinese nationals in the mining sector are funding terrorist groups in parts of Nigeria to secure access to the country’s mineral reserves.
In an exclusive report published on Saturday, the newspaper said through bribes and illegal transactions, “Beijing could be indirectly funding terror in Africa’s largest economy”.
The report revealed that some Chinese nationals, who have worked informally as miners in Zamfara serve as runners for some militant groups in the state and other north-western parts of the country.
“Chinese companies working in parts of Nigeria where attacks are frequent have been striking security deals with insurgents,” The Times has learnt.
“Attacks on Chinese citizens, of whom there are said to be between 100,000 and 200,000 in Nigeria, have become regular occurrences in recent years amid the country’s many conflicts,” the report said.
“Research shared with The Times from SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based analytical group, has revealed videos on social media and WhatsApp of militant leaders boasting that they are so powerful that Chinese workers wishing to operate in their areas must pay them ‘rent’. They have taken over swathes of northwest Nigeria, turning the region into the country’s bloodiest conflict zone.
“In one pocket of Zamfara, researchers found, interaction with militants runs so deep that some serve as runners for Chinese miners who have spread throughout Nigeria, controlling digs for gold. The country has some of the largest gold reserves in the world.
“Often operating informally in small groups as contractors registered to clearing-house companies, they speak local languages and can stay for years at a time living in remote areas that western companies consider off-limits.”
The Times also said Chinese mining contractors, who often pay a pittance to locals working on their fields, often smuggle minerals out of the country illegally and are sometimes arrested.
“Chinese mining contractors, who local communities have accused of abuses and paying pitiful wages, often smuggle minerals out of the country illegally and are sometimes arrested.
“In 2020, 27 miners, including 17 said to be Chinese, were arrested in Osun state. Last October a Chinese citizen, Gang Deng, 29, was jailed for five years after being found with 25 tonnes of a mineral thought to be lepidolite, containing lithium, which is used in batteries.
“SBM also found Chinese workers involved in the Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria’s northeast, with a case of a Chinese smuggler being paid to help a jihadist group move metal ore out of the country.”