In a recent report published by The Times, a British national daily newspaper, it has been alleged that Chinese nationals operating in Nigeria’s mining sector are funding Nigerian militant groups in order to secure access to the country’s vast mineral reserves. This alarming revelation brings to light the possibility that Beijing could be indirectly financing terrorism within Africa’s largest economy.
According to the report, Chinese companies operating in regions of Nigeria plagued by frequent attacks have purportedly been forging security agreements with insurgent groups. Over the past few years, assaults on Chinese citizens, estimated to number between 100,000 and 200,000 in Nigeria, have become increasingly commonplace amidst the ongoing conflicts. From 2019 to 2022, a documented 51 Chinese nationals were kidnapped and three were killed, though it is suspected that many more incidents have gone unreported.
In response to these events, the Chinese embassy in Abuja has reportedly advised its citizens to “strengthen the civil defense, physical defense.” The report further alleges that certain Chinese nationals working as informal miners in the north-western Zamfara state have served as liaisons for local militant groups. Researchers have discovered that these connections with militants run so deeply that some individuals act as intermediaries for Chinese miners, who have expanded their operations across Nigeria to control gold excavation sites.
Through corrupt practices and unlawful transactions, some Chinese nationals have purportedly provided financial support to terrorist organizations in Nigeria, contributing to the intensification of violence in the region. SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based analytical group, has disclosed research findings that include social media videos and WhatsApp messages featuring militant leaders boasting about their power and the payments they receive from Chinese workers as “rent” for operating in their territories.
The Times report also highlighted accusations against Chinese mining contractors of underpaying local employees and smuggling minerals out of the country illegally. In 2020, 27 miners, including 17 Chinese nationals, were arrested in Osun state. In October of the same year, a Chinese citizen named Gang Deng was sentenced to five years in prison after being found in possession of 25 tonnes of lepidolite, a mineral containing lithium used in batteries.
Furthermore, SBM Intelligence discovered instances of Chinese workers being involved in the Boko Haram conflict in northeastern Nigeria, with one case involving a Chinese smuggler who was paid to assist a jihadist group in transporting metal ore out of the country.
When contacted by PREMIUM TIMES for comment, an official from Nigeria’s Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, who chose to remain anonymous, stated that they could not yet verify the accuracy of these claims, but would provide further information later in the day.