On Tuesday, the Chinese government denied allegations made in a report published on Saturday by the U.K. newspaper The Times, accusing Chinese companies of bribing local militant groups including the Islamic State affiliated Boko Haram for access to mineral-rich areas.
SBM Intelligence, an analytical group based in Lagos, shared research with The Times that shows individuals from militant groups boasting about their strength and influence. According to the SBM, these leaders have asserted their power by demanding that Chinese workers who wish to operate in their territories pay them “rent.” These groups have taken control of large areas in the northwest of Nigeria, which has transformed the region into the country’s most violent conflict zone.
The Chinese mining companies are interested in Nigeria’s vast gold and rare-earth mineral resources, including lithium, a critical mineral for electronics and batteries. China is Nigeria’s largest trading partner.
The Chinese embassy in Abuja criticized the report and released a statement which said “The Chinese government was and would never be involved in any form of funding terrorism. The allegations contained in the report were totally irresponsible and unethical, and the intention of the report is seriously questioned.”
The Chinese government has heavily invested in Africa over the past decade through its Belt and Road Initiative, which offers loans to poor countries for infrastructure projects. In Africa, this has led to reports of human rights abuses and damage to local industries. Critics of the Chinese initiative have often compared it to predatory lending, as China has been known to take control of the projects they fund in the event of nonpayment.