A group of Nigerian attorneys announced this week they would file a lawsuit against the government of China, seeking $200 billion in damages for its role in exacerbating the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
According to Nigeria’s the Guardian, the law firm Azinge and Azinge is seeking to pressure the government of Nigeria to press charges against the Chinese Communist Party at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague, as well, to overcome the obstacle of sovereign immunity. Only states, not individuals, can bring matters before the ICJ.
Azinge and Azinge, the law firm organizing the legal action, said in a statement their astronomical estimate of redress for the Nigerian people over the pandemic takes into account “loss of lives, economic strangulation, trauma, hardship, social disorientation, mental torture and disruption of normal daily existence of people in Nigeria.”
“The team of legal experts planned a two-phase line of action: first is with the federal high court of Nigeria and secondly to persuade the government of Federal Republic of Nigeria to institute a state action against the Peoples Republic of China at the International Court of Justice at the Hague,” Epiphany Azinge, one of the lawyers organizing the lawsuit, told reporters this week. “The legal experts will be claiming damages to the tune of 200 billion dollars the Chinese Government will be served through its Embassy in Nigeria.”
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and its largest oil exporter, suffering prodigious economic damage with the collapse in global oil prices that the pandemic has caused.
At press time, Nigeria has documented 1,337 cases of Chinese coronavirus nationwide and 40 deaths. These numbers are likely significantly deflated, however, given the sparse healthcare infrastructure in much of the country, particularly the poorer northeast. The number also does not include dozens of individuals who have died in rural areas inexplicably of a “strange ailment” but never had the opportunity to test for Chinese coronavirus.
In addition to suffering the medical repercussions of the Chinese virus, Nigerians in China have been the victims of widespread racism. In Guangzhou, a southern Chinese city with one of the largest populations of black people nationwide, Nigerians and other Africans and black people have reported being expelled from their homes despite paying rent and banned from businesses like hotels and restaurants, being forced to sleep on the street while being able to afford shelter. Some have protested that Chinese authorities force them into “quarantine” even after testing negative for Chinese coronavirus repeatedly, while they see non-black foreigners moving about freely.
The Chinese Communist Party has falsely insisted that its current cases of Chinese coronavirus all originated from foreigners, fueling racism. China also claims that the verdict is still out on where the virus originated, despite all the earliest cases of confirmed Chinese coronavirus infection occurred in the central city of Wuhan. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman posited instead that the virus was created in a U.S. Army laboratory, citing no evidence.
American officials are formally investigating the possibility that the Wuhan Institute of Virology played a role in the pandemic, Breitbart News confirmed this week.
The Nigerian government typically enjoys warm relations with China, participating in the nation’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is a scheme in which China lends developing countries, many of them in Africa, large loans at predatory interest rates to build upscale transportation projects. China then floods the project with Chinese migrant workers, who are paid with the loan money, thus returning it to China. President Muhammadu Buhari also regularly sends warm greetings to China.
Following initial reports of racist acts against black people in Guangzhou, Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama offered a lukewarm statement opposing bigotry. After a continent-wide outcry against China, however, Onyeama issued a much more impassioned statement last week in which he raised the possibility of assessing legal damages caused by behavior the Chinese government allowed against Nigerians.
“We are deeply wounded by what is happening to Nigerians and other Africans living in China, it is something we never expected and we will pursue it,” Onyeama said. “We’ve made it clear to the Chinese government in no uncertain terms, unequivocally, that under no circumstances we will accept racial discrimination against Nigerians and the Africans or blacks in China. That that is a red line for us.”
“I have directed the [Nigerian] consulate in Guangzhou to systematically detail every single case of discrimination and every single case of loss or damage suffered by any Nigerian,” he added. “We will pursue every single one very robustly with the Chinese government if it requires compensation and damages.”
Nigeria joins Italy, Egypt, and two U.S. states – Missouri and Mississippi – in accepting lawsuits against the government of China for its role in the pandemic. China has largely responded to the American lawsuits with insults and threats.
“The US has in the past acted as a hooligan in the political and public opinion spheres, and the hooliganism has now expanded into the judicial realm. Hooligans are cheats who willingly break the rules when they can’t win. The US acts are a good example of this,” the Global Times, a state propaganda outlet, asserted last week.