Enforcement team of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) on Thursday, arrived the head office of a Chinese telecoms service company, Zte Nigeria at the early hours and wished away an unconfirmed number of Chinese expatriates who were said to be working in the country for months without work permit from the agency.
Before yesterday’s raid, Business Hilights had been working on the intelligence that there were disturbing concentration of foreign nationals at an office building at Plot 20, Udi Street, Osborne Estate Ikoyi Lagos which turned out to be the operation head office of Zte Nigeria.
The company is one of the major telecoms services provider for leading GSM and CDMA companies in Nigeria, it was learnt that it recently sacked Nigerian engineering experts and smartly replaced them with Chinese who are not even comparable to the sacked Nigerians when expertise is considered.
Details gathered from some of the affected Nigerians who spoke to our correspondent yesterday showed that about 70% of Chinese expatriates working within Zte Nigeria are on business visas issued by the Nigerian government.
However, approximately 60% of these visas are understood to have expired and these foreign nationals are now working without valid work permits which is an offence punishable under Nigeria’s immigration policy and regulations.
Otherwise, the extant laws relating to employment of foreign nationals clearly prohibit their employment without valid work permits. Over 70 foreign nationals from Asia are currently in paid employment at this organisation which is seriously devoid of local content.
The sacked workers revealed further that apart from the fact that Nigerians know the jobs more than Chinese, Zte is clearly paying them at the expense unemployed Nigerians for skills that are readily available in Nigeria.
It is also suspected that there are no ancillary taxes (P.A.Y.E et al) being paid to the government of Nigeria by the illegal Chinese workers.
Business Hilights recalls that Chinese companies in Africa have been in the habit of replacing skilled Africans with unskilled foreigners as similar raid by Immigration officials recently took place in Uganda.
On Monday this week, Ugandan immigration officials arrested dozens of Chinese immigrants allegedly working illegally for a construction company building a 60-mile road in the east of the country.
The raids took place at a Chinese company—the China Railway 18th Bureau Group—which has been contracted to build a road linking various towns in eastern Uganda, according to Uganda’s New Vision newspaper.
Sixteen workers, all Chinese nationals without passports or work permits, were arrested at the company’s main camp in the town of Mayuge, while a further 22 were arrested at a local quarry. Some of them locked themselves in their rooms at first in a bid to avoid arrest, New Vision reported.
China is a significant trade partner for Uganda and has invested billions in the east African country; in 2014-15, investment from Beijing accounted for 56 percent of total foreign direct investment in Uganda.
The Uganda National Roads Authority said earlier in March it had asked China for a $500 million loan to enable it to build 360 miles of road in the west of the country so it can extract oil from reserves along the country’s border with Congo.
Here in Nigeria, it would be recalled that Ericsson recently did similar thing by sacking more than 100 skilled Nigerians and subsequently replaced them with Indians, thus raising more concerns on how foreign telecom companies are surreptitiously exporting jobs meant for Nigerian abroad without recourse to local content and immigration regulations.
Additional information from the sacked Zte workers showed that the group operates in Nigeria with a huge number of foreign nationals devoid of local content as the ratio of local to foreign nationals is 1:8 and this has been the norm for several years within the company.
It is also understood that the company operates with impunity with the backing of certain highly placed individuals in society who are aiding and abetting this crime for pecuniary benefits.
One of the Nigeria Immigration officials who spoke to Business Hilights said “We will charge any of them that fall short of immigration and work permit regulations to court as soon as possible.