Africa is in dire need of foreign investors as it stands now and Ndị Chinko (Chinese) Are the new colonialists in Africa , from Zambia to Gambia , from Liberia to Nigeria , from Ghana to Rwanda, their footprints are there and very visible ! From transportation to deforestation , Africa is raped and the administrators are either confused or working in tandem with the new narrative. In Enugu State , they have descended on the environment and the people ! Pittances are paid on per diem basis while disturbances are made to the environment on per hour basis! Business must made and the environmental damage is inconsequential. Welcome to Enugu , the Coal city that is turning to charcoal city!
The latest “ndị ọcha” white men as some of the villagers call them are in our lands and the latest Scramblers for Africa. They are the new narrative and they have the conversation , why? African leadership seems bereft of ideas now they have to “show the way” from Africa.
Somewhere in the bushy interiors of Enugwu State! I went to see and snoop amidst dust and unavailability of phone network. As the world is talking of planting trees campaign, the Enugu State seems not to understand the impact and the remote causes of deforestation and it’s contribution to global warming! Who even cares about that where the highly “needed” foreign investors are here so it seems.
Ndị Chinko (Chinese ) are growing into “masters”. Some of our educated people ignorantly use “new colonial masters” for them like they did the Europeans in the 19th and 20th centuries not knowing that the word “master” started with slavery, where a slave was forced to call his enslaver “massa” (master). From using “slave masters”, we moved to “colonial masters”, acknowledging that the criminals duping and raping us are our “lords and masters” when we are supposed to call them what they are — “enslaver” and “colonialist”. That’s by the way.
In the pics, you could see an economic empire of about four months old growing rapidly like it’s been for years. Our people — ndị Igbo (in the majority) and other Nigerians — are making it happen with great pains and sweats. Yes, it’s employment opportunity for many youths but the other big thing behind the exploitative and ruthless Chinese capitalism is scarier than unemployment.
This is what goes on there:
The boys would lay bricks and erect them to make ovens under the supervision and little assistance of the Chinese colonialists. They would also scrap and smoothen the logs of wood to feed them into the oven. Then, the oven is lit to burn the logs of wood at a very high temperature in order to produce logs of charcoal. The boys also engage in the risky job of pulling the red-hot logs of charcoal to keep them where they’d cool off.
When cooled, the girls would break them up into sizeable pieces of charcoal and sieve them. The sieved charcoals are then packaged by the girls too for loading into the container. These people work day and night nonstop. From Sunday to Sunday Once you meet the required target or are tired, you can go.
For the girls, they’re grouped into 4 — that’s each group equals 4 girls. They’re paid ₦1,000 each for packaging 50 cartons of charcoal every day. This means each person must package up to 12 cartons to get ₦1,000. I fear for their waists in future as they bend and squat for hours sieving, picking and arranging.
For the boys, their works are more hectic and risky. They’re paid ₦2,000 every day for laying bricks, feeding the ovens with woods and pulling our red-hot logs of charcoal. I asked those going near the very hot ovens to pull out logs of red-hot charcoal if they had any health hazard insurance, they told me “Chinko no care oo. If fire touches you, you’re on your own o. No be you find work come?” They laughed afterwards, laughing off their ruthless reality with the Chinese capitalists.
The woods are of a special specie. It’s called “Okopi” in a some Igbo dialects common in Enugwu State. I fear that the trees would be totally consumed in the next few years with the speed and expansion of the Chinese charcoal exploitation. And once these ruthless Chinese merchants are done in few years, they would leave behind a very polluted environment (from smokes generated by the ovens) and a highly deforested green life for the community without any major CSR. Of course, their powers to use our lands and people on their own terms come from Abuja and not even from the community!
If what’s happening in Kenya, Zambia, Djibouti and some other African countries now where Chinese colonialists have officially become their economic colonialists can happen to other parts of Nigeria, I pray it doesn’t get to happen in Igbo land where our people would be subjected to 2nd slavery and colonial exploitation in a space of three centuries. And so, I am wary of Chinese capitalists meandering around our lands with tractors and other earthmoving machines looking for Africa’s resources without our Igbo leaders monitoring them to the minutest details.
Though, the youths realizing that their take home couldn’t take them home after all, they decided to take their destinies in their hand and some times barricade and stop the “consignment” from leaving the place. These youths forcefully squeeze out something from the “investors “, this is done after a lot of tussles between the locals and the foreigners. In some of the pics, you’d see the youths of the community refusing the first ever container load moving out of the site. They demanded a certain sum to allow the container leave but the Chinko people – stubbornly exploitative and tightfisted – tried to ignore them. And so, the youths barricaded the arena.
CHIJIOKE NGOBILI & ANTHONY EMEKA NWOSU