The Lagos State Government, on Tuesday, cleared the Chinese restaurant accused by some Nigerians of racism even as yet another Nigerian, who was barred from entering the restaurant, spoke to PUNCH.
The government’s position which was made known via a press statement issued by the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Steve Ayorinde, said that investigations by its officers sent to “investigate the veracity of the claim” showed that the allegations were false.
“The two officers who went there on Monday did so incognito and found the allegations to be false. The officers were served without any questions or discrimination. They also took photographs without being noticed.
“Our officers also observed that the restaurant had a number of Nigerians working inside there and did similarly observe that pepper soup, a Nigerian delicacy is also on the menu. More, importantly, the restaurant has been registered with the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture since 2016 as required by law.”
The ministry which regulates eateries, restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality facilities in Lagos promised to conduct further investigations.
However, findings by our newspaper, which is standing by its report, showed that the restaurant relaxed its obnoxious racist policy after the initial outrage on social media on Sunday. After our report on Monday, the restaurant threw open its doors to the public.
One of the workers of the company who spoke to our reporter after he was turned back had admitted that the restaurant took notice of the outrage on social media on Sunday.
A director of the company, Niyi Adegbite, who spoke to our correspondent on Monday also refuted the allegations of discrimination but added that the restaurants had two sections. One of the sections is open to the general public while the other is strictly for Chinese.
According to Adegbite, “The restaurant is divided into two sections. There is one open to the public and there is one called Hot Pot. The Hot Pot is where you enter and cook on your own. All the ingredients are made available. But it’s only for Chinese nationals. Maybe it’s this one that some people tried entering and were disallowed and is now causing the outcry.”
Joshua Jenom Gidin, who said he was denied entry along with five of his friends last Saturday, said it all seemed like a joke at first when he was told that blacks would not be let in.
Gidin, who is a journalist with Pulse TV in Lagos, said, “When we got to the gate, we saw some pretty Chinese girls going inside and we even laughed with them. When we attempted to go in, they refused to allow us in because we were black. I first thought it was a joke but when the guards repeated it almost five times, I knew they were serious.
“In order not to cause a scene, we left the place but I made sure that I scored them low on Google reviews and let the whole world know that they are racists.
“I am sure it was after the negative reviews online and the condemnation on social media that they quickly decided to change their racist policy.”
Obianuju Uba, whose experience was published in one of our earlier reports, found it strange that the government could rush to defend the restaurant.
She added, “We know what we witnessed. The government cannot tell us otherwise. Why would I be making spurious allegations against a restaurant? If the guards had told us that the restaurant was a members-only establishment, we would have understood and left. But we were told that we would not be allowed in because we are black. That is truly what happened.”
“So, I was confused because I had never experienced such in my life. I was shocked that a Nigerian and not a Chinese man was used as the guard. The guard even spoke with a Yoruba accent so I was sure that he was a Nigerian.
“I was pissed off and left, and I walked away while my friends continued to argue with him.”
Blessing Ukeje, the computer programmer who was part of a group turned back on Saturday, reiterated that she had visited the restaurant along with four other friends around 8pm on Saturday and that they were turned back because they were Africans.
Ukeje said, “When we were about to enter, a guard asked what we came for and we responded saying that we were there for Karaoke. He told us that they don’t have a karaoke bar but his colleague said they have but that anyone who wants to enter must enter with Chinese people.
“He said blacks are not allowed. He said the blacks that come must come with Chinese people. We were all shocked because even when we travel, we never see such. So, I asked him again if he was sure and he said that was the management policy. I actually thought I was dreaming. I asked him if he was ok with it as a black man and he said nothing.
“While we were standing there, we saw Chinese people going in. Two Chinese ladies and two Chinese guys went in. It was after our experience that we decided to expose these people.”
When asked if she was denied entry because of the way they were dressed, Ukeje said, “I was coming from a wedding and I was well dressed. Those people had no excuse for turning us back.
Also speaking with The PUNCH, Akpan Aniefiok, who was barred from entering the restaurant along with his friends, lambasted the state government for defending the restaurant.
Aniefiok, who is a student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said he and his friends visited many fun spots on the same day without issue.
He said they had no reason to tell lies or unjustly malign anyone’s business.
The final year student said, “We visited three lounges on that fateful day. Why would we unjustly tell lies against the Chinese restaurant? What do we stand to benefit from such?
“What happened on that day was that the security guard told us that we would not be allowed inside because we are black and that he was following orders.”