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Chinese Investor Seizes Nigerian Govt. Properties In UK After Ogun  Terminates Contract

Daud Olatunji

 

Two properties owned by the Nigerian government in the United Kingdom are set to be seized by a Chinese investor following a court order enforcing a $70 million investment treaty award against Nigeria.

PLATFORM TIMES reports that the properties, located in Liverpool, have been valued at a combined £1.7 million.

It was further gathered that the investor, Zhongshan Fucheng Industrial Investment, was granted final charging orders over these properties on June 14 by Master Sullivan of the Commercial Court in London. 

Further findings showed that the order was based on the grounds that the properties were being used commercially and not for diplomatic or consular activities.

PLATFORM TIMES gathered that the  properties were originally tied to a contentious joint venture with Nigeria’s Ogun State, which was aimed at establishing a free trade zone near Lagos in 2013.

 Zhongshan’s subsidiary held a 60% stake in the project, but the Ogun State government reportedly  terminated the contract three years later.

This legal battle is reporter to have  rooted in a 2021 ruling by a London-seated UNCITRAL tribunal, chaired by Lord Neuberger and including Matthew Gearing KC and Rotimi Oguneso SAN. 

The tribunal found Nigeria guilty of expropriation and other breaches of the China-Nigeria bilateral investment treaty, ordering Nigeria to pay $55.6 million plus interest and costs. 

PLATFORM TIMES further gathered that although Nigeria initially challenged this award on jurisdictional grounds, it later withdrew its challenge.

Mrs. Justice Cockerill granted Zhongshan an ex parte enforcement order in December 2021, but Nigeria did not respond within the 74-day deadline.

 In July 2023, the Court of Appeal in London upheld this enforcement order, making it final.

Zhongshan obtained interim charging orders over the Liverpool properties in June and August of the previous year. Nigeria’s attempts to dismiss these orders were unsuccessful.

 Master Sullivan noted that the properties were leased to residential tenants and no consular activities were occurring on the premises. She dismissed Nigeria’s claims regarding improper service of the orders and insufficient disclosure by Zhongshan.

Timi Balogun of Squire Patton Boggs, representing Nigeria, expressed disagreement with the court’s decision, citing concerns over state immunity and the rights of foreign states to manage assets in England and Wales. 

Balogun indicated that Nigeria intends to appeal the decision.

Zhongshan has also pursued enforcement of the award in other jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., where a district court rejected Nigeria’s motion to dismiss the action on sovereign immunity grounds. 

The investor is seeking to enforce the award in Quebec and Belgium as well. Additionally, in the British Virgin Islands, Zhongshan obtained an interim attachment over a £20 million liability owed to Nigeria by Process & Industrial Development (P&ID).

As of the time of this report, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not responded to requests for comment on this development.

 

 

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