More than 200 Chinese workers were on Thursday morning arrested by officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service at a construction site in Niger State.
The arrested Chinese are staff members of Sinohydro, a subsidiary of Power Construction Corporation of China, the engineering firm handling the $1.3 billion Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Project being carried out by the Nigerian Government.
The project, which was initiated in 2013 and is expected to add 700 Megawatts of electricity to the national grid, will be the second-largest hydroelectric power project in Nigeria behind the 760 Mega Watts Kanji Hydroelectric Power Project when completed this year.
According to SaharaReporters, it was gathered that hundreds of the Chinese workers at the site, who came into Nigeria with six months tourist visas, had remained in the country for more than two years, working and earning huge sums in wages without hindrance.
Most of them were said to have come into Nigeria before the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country in February 2020 and had continued to stay despite the expiration of their visas.
It was further gathered that while over 200 Chinese were arrested by the immigration officials during Thursday’s raid on the construction site, hundreds of others escaped into the bush to avoid being apprehended.
The situation caused chaos around the community hosting the power project with residents running for safety for fear of being caught in the melee.
“The immigration officials came in large numbers this morning and immediately proceeded to arrest the Chinese workers who don’t have the authorisation to remain in Nigeria.
“More than 200 were arrested while dozens more ran into nearby bushes to escape arrest.
“A lot of them came into Nigeria with tourist visas that have since expired over two years ago but they have continued to work without anybody disturbing them.
“While the ones in Nigeria have their visas expired already, the company is still bringing more workers from China that will also continue to live and work here once their documents expire.
“Some of the arrested workers were taken away by the immigration while others were released but warned to renew their documents or leave Nigeria.
“The situation brought tension to the entire area. People are afraid because they don’t know what will happen next,” a Nigerian employee of the firm told SaharaReporters.
The spokesperson for the Nigerian Immigration Service, Amos Okpu, confirmed the incident when contacted by SaharaReporters.
He said he was going to give more details on the issue when he received a more comprehensive report from their personnel at the scene of the incident.