However, these Chinese companies too often mistreat, exploit, and abuse their Nigerian staff, who have been subjected to what the Nigerian lawmaker Ndudi Elumelu described as “slavish conditions.” Over the years, allegations of racism, physical abuses, sexual violation, injuries and even death of local workers due to the negligence or explicit approval of Chinese bosses have made front page news. There have been few repercussions for these alleged acts.
The Global Voices Civic Media Observatory research on China’s Belt and Road Initiative identified two major categories of infractions by Chinese companies in Nigeria: industrial accidents caused by lack of safety standards, and forced labour. These stories and allegations, shared in Nigerian newspapers and on social media by reporters, witnesses, and others, together build a narrative that paints Chinese factory owners and businesspeople in Nigeria as abusive and indifferent to the health and rights of their employees. While not every allegation has been proven, together they degrade the image of China in Nigeria as a fair employer and benevolent partner.