Open Letter to President Buhari
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
I write this letter with sorrow and despair. In 2010 my firm, Zhongfu International Investments (Nig.) FZE (“ZIIN”) came to the Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone in Ogun State (the“Zone”) as an investor. The Zone was devoid of basic infrastructure for industry.
We assisted the then manager (China-Africa Investment Co. Ltd. (“CAI”)) to stabilize the Zone by significant cash investment.
By 2012 the project had failed and the Ogun State Government (the “OSG”)terminated the appointment of CAI. At this stage there were only 5 operating tenants of which ZIIN was by far the most significant investor. In March 2012, we were called upon to rescue the project as interim managers. In September 2013, we were granted a permanent arrangement when we entered into a joint venture agreement (the“JVA”) with the OSG and a Nigerian company. Pursuant to the JVA, we agreed to develop and manage the Zone in return for a 60% equity participation.
The JVA gave us the confidence to invest our monies as a long-term investment. After investing over USD 60 million (Sixty Million United State Dollars)and the Zone is starting to generate a cashflow, the OSG is attempting to unilaterally terminate our contract, force us to abandon our investment and flee for our lives.
Before explaining our situation, let me begin with the positive story that was unfolding in early 2016 before the intimidating actions of OSG took place, and how our efforts to expand the Zone and create thousands more jobs came to an abrupt halt.
We have made tremendous sacrifices to give the Zone the high profile it now enjoys in the international investment scene. This year, we began to see a steady cashflow to the Zone as we attracted many new investors to establish factories in the Zone. We then began the time-consuming process of reaching out to international capital markets to prepare the Zone for financing for massive infrastructure upgrades, seeking an initial estimated USD250 million (Two Hundred and Fifty Million United States Dollars) from the international capital markets for the expansion of roads, electricity, transportation, and housing improvements. In the course of our fund development efforts in 2016, we received acclaim from investors in China, USA, Middle East and from renowned institutions such as the World Bank, Harvard, Yale, MIT and John Hopkins universities.
Our success includes the hundreds of millions of Naira we have generated for the Nigerian Customs, NEPZA and other Government agencies. We have also generated wealth in the surrounding areas of the Zone and created over 5,000 jobs for Nigerians.
These results have been achieved because of our relentless effort to create a supportive environment for industries and the personal sacrifices we have made. Since December 2012 I have worked almost continuously in developing the Zone and visited my wife and 15 year old son for no more than 3 months throughout the period. We felt some satisfaction when The Economist publication did a programme on the Zone that was aired on CNN in March 2016. SeeGrowthcrossings.economist.com/video/zones-of-influence/.
We felt proud when you visited China in April of this year and we signed an MOU with a prospective tenant for a USD 1 billion pharmaceutical park in the Zone. However, instead of growing our business, our work has stopped, the contracts we had in the pipeline have been suspended, we live in fear of our lives and others have taken over facilities and assets that we invested our own funds in acquiring.
On Saturday 28 August 2016 you “strongly assured” existing and prospective foreign investors that their investments in Nigeria will be fully secured and protected. We are experiencing a foreign investor’s worst nightmare. Our contract that is governed by Nigerian law is being treated with impunity, the Nigerian legal process is failing us and we desperately need your protection.
Lies have been told about us resulting in the authority of the Nigerian Police, a Magistrate Court and the OSG being manipulated and abused to inflict fear, distress and suffering on me and my staff. A contractual dispute that is a civil matter under Nigerian law and should be resolved in accordance with due legal process has become a basis for thuggery and incarceration.
The OSG has maintained that our JVA was terminated because they were following instructions in a letter from the Economic and Commercial Section of the Consulate-General of China in Nigeria (the Consulate Letter). The Chinese Government will not disrespect Nigerian law. The Consulate Letter has been misconstrued and overlooks the existence of our contract with the OSG. We made every effort to resolve this matter amicably as a contractual dispute but in flagrant disregard of Nigerian law, a gentleman acting on behalf of the OSG went to the Zone with an armed policeman to scare us away and install new individuals as managers of the Zone. They have taken over control of facilities that we built for our own exclusive use, appropriated our property and harassed our staff.
We have commenced proceedings in the Federal High Court in Abuja. However OSG and the individuals harbouring plans to appropriate our investment are seeking to frustrate our legal action by forcing the recognition of the impostors irrespective of the impending court hearing.
I was disappointed to see that a Chinese national, Wang Junxiong, had misled and instigated the Nigerian Police and a Magistrate court to issue a warrant to arrest Mr. Zhao, our Administrator on trumped up allegations of “criminal breach of trust”. He was detained for over 130 hours on totally baseless contractual allegation. Wang has infact breached his contract with ZIIN and owes us enormous sums of money.
The Nigerian Police and legal system has been surreptitiously used as an instrument for terrorizing foreign investors. This abuse of legal process and disregard of legal contracts is what keeps investors away and accounts for Nigeria’s low standing in the ease of doing business rankings. (World Bank 2016 study ranked Nigeria 169th out of 189 globally, worse than Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Iraq).
I am writing to you because I believe in Nigeria and have always promoted Nigeria among foreign investors. Nigerian people have supported me through this traumatic ordeal and are fighting for us. We are appreciative and will continue to stand for the goodness, courage and loyalty of Nigerians.
Nevertheless we must defend our contractual rights in Nigerian and foreign courts. We are conscious of the embarrassment that this case may bring to Nigeria and consequently, seek to minimize the discomfiture by a speedy resolution. We regret that innocent Nigerians may have to bear the burden of the substantial damages that we will undoubtedly be awarded in legal action against the OSG and others.
We implore you to intervene. Please show the world that Nigeria respects law and order by procuring the reversal of the forceful occupation of our property, the forceful removal of our management rights and the withdrawal of the warrants for arrest issued in abuse of legal process.
Dr. Jason Han
Zhongfu International Investments (Nig.) FZE