The Ogun State government has refuted claims that it unilaterally terminated the contract of Zhongfu International Investments (Nig.) FZE (“ZIIN”), an investor in the Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone.
Reacting to such claims at the weekend, Secretary to the Ogun State Government, Barrister Taiwo Adeoluwa, said, “there is no truth whatsoever to the allegations raised by Dr. Jason Han, Managing Director of Zhongfu International Investments (Nig.) FZE, in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari that is being circulated on some online news media.”
He explained that far from the allegations being peddled in the media, what happened is that “the Chinese government, through a Diplomatic Note 1601, dated March 11, 2016, notified the Ogun State government that the Guangdong New South Group (rather than Zhongfu International Investments) are the ones authorized to manage the Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone.”
He added that through the Diplomatic Note, “the Chinese Consulate stressed further that to continue to allow Zhongfu International Investments to manage the zone would amount to encouraging and abetting a private company to perpetuate fraud on the government of Guangdong Province, China (the original joint venture partners to Ogun State on the project) and its lawful successors in title, the Guangdong New South Group.”
Concerned about the weighty nature of issues raised in the Diplomatic Note, Adeoluwa said the Ogun State government called for explanations from both the New South Group and Zhongfu International Investments.
“The New South Group provided evidence, corroborated by the Chinese Consulate, that they bought 51 per cent of the equity of China Africa Investment Limited, the official representative of the Guangdong Province of China on the Zone and with whom the Ogun State government originally signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
“By virtue of the lawful equity transfer, they succeeded to ownership and management rights of China Africa in the zone. They further contended that the new agreement signed by Zhongfu International Investments with the Ogun State government in 2013, was procured by fraud and criminal misrepresentation for reasons that Zhongfu International Investments Limited, who was merely a tenant on the zone, deliberately concocted lies to mislead the Ogun State government into believing that it was the lawful successor to the equity ownership of China Africa Investment Limited,” Adeoluwa said.
Curiously, it must be noted that apart from its inability to provide any concrete evidence to back its own claims, Zhongfu International Investments has so far demonstrated a rather strange unwillingness to approach either the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in Nigeria or better still, visit the Guangdong Province, China, to immediately resolve the dispute.
“One would have thought that the Embassy or Consulate, whose basic duty it is to protect the interest of Chinese nationals in Nigeria, is the quick, best and cheap forum to resolve this Chinese on Chinese dispute. But rather than do that, Zhongfu International has chosen the path of peddling lies and cheap blackmail,” Adeoluwa said.
The Ogun SSG added that “contrary to allegations of arbitrariness, abuse of power and unfriendliness to foreign investors, leveled by Dr. Jason Han, Ogun State government is indeed investor friendly and happy to work with genuine investors, either from within Nigeria or from any part of the world.”
This, he said, was evident in the number of industries, both local and international, that have since birthed in Ogun State within the last five years. “That is why, today, Ogun State is the industrial hub of Nigeria, attracting the highest number of industries in the country,” Adeoluwa said.