Facts have emerged on how 15 medical doctors, who arrived Nigeria on Wednesday from China, actually found their ways into the country.
Against widespread belief that the medical practitioners were dispatched to Nigeria by the Chinese Government to help with technical support in the creation of testing centres and molecular facilities, SaharaReporters can confirm that the 15 persons were shipped into the country by and through the singular efforts of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.
This move by the construction firm, according to findings by SaharaReporters, was to properly cement its place in the Nigerian system where a lot of contracts had been awarded to it by government.
Due to its involvement in some activities with government officials, which led to scandals, CCECC, by bringing in the 15 doctors, is desperately trying to save face especially after eyebrows were raised over its operation in Nigeria.
Despite protests from some Nigerians and local health groups, government sanctioned the arrival of the Chinese medical workers and supplies all in a bid to maintain its close links to the construction company that has extended ‘great hand of fellowship’ to top public officials over recent years.
In a letter confirming that it in fact brought in the doctors and medical supplies on its own accord, Micheal Jiang, MD of CCECC in Nigeria, said the move was the company’s way of supporting the country’s fight against the COVID-19.
The letter reads, “With the backing of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and People’s Republic of China, China Railway Construction Corporation, through its subsidiary, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, is supporting Nigeria in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic that is adversely affecting livelihoods and economies across the world by making available necessary medical equipment and health consumables.
“Assisted by the Nigerian Government, CCECC is delivering amongst others around 16-tons of test kits, ventilators, disinfection machine, disposable medical masks, N95 masks, medicines, rubber gloves, protective gowns, goggles, face shields, infra-red thermometers and other critical care items.
“These items required by the Nigerian Government will be handed over by CCECC to relevant authorities.
“Considering its large number of employees in Nigeria, CCECC at its own cost, dispatch a 15-member working team from CRCC, 12 of whom are experienced medical professionals with expertise in infectious disease, respiratory illness, intensive care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery and anesthesiology. Members of the team also have relevant experience in the prevention and diagnosis of the COVID-19.
“They will also provide CCECC employees with critical and necessary healthcare assistance where necessary.
“In addition, the team may also share with Nigerian medical teams effective methods on how to contain the COVID-19 and provide advice on the use of relevant medical equipment.”
But SaharaReporters gathered that the move by CCECC was to save face and continue to get patronage from the Nigeria especially after it was blacklisted by the World Bank over alleged fraud and corruption in 2019.
CCECC together with five other Chinese companies was accused of violating the global bank’s procurement guidelines and declared ineligible of receiving any World Bank contracts between June 4, 2019 and March 3, 2020.
Before then in July 2018, CCECC had been involved in a scholarships scandal it offered to some Nigerians to study Railway Engineering in China.
Rather than being offered to normal Nigerian undergraduates, the scholarship was hijacked by senior government officials, who shared the slots among their children and relatives.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, was accused of manipulating the scheme while the Nigerian Government was lambasted for accepting favours from a contractor.
Though the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission waded into the matter, not a few persons have been punished for that shameful act till date.
However, despite these scandals that has trailed the Chinese company in recent times, documents seen by SaharaReporters showed that CCECC remains popular among Nigerian Government officials and has continued to enjoy huge patronage by way of contract awards.
For instance, some of the projects the Chinese construction firm is handling in Nigeria include a $600m construction of four international airport terminals.
The company is also building the Lagos-Kano (with another line from Kaduna to Abuja), Lagos-Calabar rail and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail, whose costs are put at $9bn, $11bn and $15bn respectively.
Also the 156km Lagos-Ibadan railway stretch was awarded initially at $1.5bn to CCECC in 2016 by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Additional $500m was later approved by the Federal Government for the procurement of locomotives and other rolling stocks for the new line.
CCECC later won the $6.68bn contract for the Ibadan-Kaduna stretch, which consists of four segments and the project could take two to three years to complete depending on budget, according to Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
The CCECC also handled the construction of the 187km Abuja–Kaduna segment costing $876m.
The new line, Nigeria’s first high speed rail, was inaugurated in July 2016 by President Buhari.
In September 2016, the company announced that it had won a $1.8bn contract to construct the Kano city light rail with a total length of 74.3km.
“Offering the 15 doctors from China and the medical supplies to help Nigeria’s Coronavirus fight is a smart move by CCECC to protect their investment in the country,” a top Ministry of Works official told SaharaReporters on Friday.
“There are facing a lot of competition in the scheming to handle major construction projects in Nigeria and if they don’t make the people in government happy, they know they will lose out.
“The Chinese firm don’t want this to happen and that is why they have gone all the way to foot the cost of the arrival of the 15 doctors and medical supplies,” the official added.
Before the emergence of CCECC in the Nigerian space, construction giants like Julius Berger and G Cappa, an Italian firm, used to be the darling of government officials.
These public officials usually enjoyed certain ‘kind gestures’ from the firms like free medical trips to Germany and even paid luxury holidays in choice destinations.
Though both companies are still around, CCECC appears to have found its way to the deepest parts of the hearts of top government officials in Nigeria with its many ‘corporate social responsibility’ gestures.