A cross-section of professionals have faulted the report by a United States agency, alleging that China might be spying on African countries, describing such reports as mere speculations and hearsays that cannot be substantiated.
A report released in May by a non-governmental organisation, Heritage Foundation, had alleged that Beijing likely has better surveillance access to Africa than anywhere else by having built or renovated at least 186 African government buildings.
The report also concluded that Beijing likely uses surveillance to, among other things, give advantage to its companies competing for contracts, spy on US officials, and influence African officials, advising that the US should try to complicate Beijing in Africa as part of a strategic response to China’s effort to reshape the global order.
Reacting to the report in an interview, the Acting Director of Research and Studies of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Dr Efem Ubi, observed that the allegation is ‘a mere speculation that lacks concrete evidence’, saying that spying is part of international political activities engaged in actively by the world superpowers.
He said, ‘Who among the super-powers is not spying on the developing world and other countries and among themselves? So, espionage or spying is part of international politics and I think a whole lot of countries are involved in it. He noted that the claims of espionage against China by the Heritage Foundation is baseless as the Foundation itself do not have concrete evidence in support of its claims, he however advised that irrespective of the speculation from differing quarters, African nations should nevertheless continue its fruitful economic relationship with China.
‘‘Irrespective of the position of heritage foundation, and a whole lot of Sinophobia or Sino skeptics, I will also say that we shouldn’t stop our relationship. You must relate. That is where foreign policy comes from. So, I think we shouldn’t bother about espionage. But, we have to also be cautious of the fact that we could be spied on. Be cautious of the fact that a lot of countries may want to infiltrate us especially with the advent of technology’’
Dr. Ubi further observed that the super-power nations who control the internet and major internet platforms like Google and other social media channels should instead be seen as the greatest spies since these technologies sometimes engaged in individual profiling which can be termed spying, while there are lots of satellites out there controlled by the super-powers that might be spying on individual countries that subscribe to the services offered by such technologies.
According to Dr, Ubi, China as a willing investor in Africa should not be discouraged, since the country in just 20 years has invested more than the West had invested in Africa in more than 150 years of her relationship.
The President of the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce, LCCI, Mrs. Toki Mabogunje when approached on the allegation practically declined to comment on what she described as hearsays, which according to her does not have basis in Law.
‘’Primarily, In Law, we call it hearsay, we don’t act on hearsays, we don’t act on rumors; we act on things that are evident. With my job, I will need to first find out, is it true? So, I cannot comment on hearsay. It’s got to be proven. It’s got to be proven facts for me to be able to make a comment’’, she said.
‘If I went to court and said they said, somebody said, the judge will say go and call the person, let them come and say what you are claiming they had said on oath. So, after swearing with the Bible, then we will listen to what they have to say. That’s why heritage is appropriate to answer that question because, they wrote that report’’
She, however, said that the Chinese relationship with Nigeria and Africa which has spanned more than three decades had been beneficial to Nigeria in the sense that it had allowed the country to be able to provide the kind of infrastructure expected of a developed economy.
“The Chinese investments have actually allowed us to be able to begin to provide the kind of public services expected of a developed government. These are investments that facilitate trade, education, that facilitate movement of goods and services’’
She however wants the relationship to be mutually beneficial advising the Nigerian government to ensure that there is real technology transfer from the Chinese to Nigerians when such huge investment relationships are entered into.
‘’There is the other side, which is the fact that it has not necessarily resulted in technology transfer, because, when the Chinese invest, they essentially engage their own citizens in the employment of those companies engaged in those investments. So, we don’t necessarily engage in transfer of technology from the Chinese to the Nigerian population. Although, the projects provide some jobs to Nigerians at the end of the day. That’s the drawback,’’ she posited