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Nigeria may lose two UK properties to Chinese firm

A commercial court in London has granted Zhongshan Fucheng Industrial Investment Co. Ltd final charging orders over two residential properties owned by Nigeria in the…

A commercial court in London has granted Zhongshan Fucheng Industrial Investment Co. Ltd final charging orders over two residential properties owned by Nigeria in the UK.

Lisa Sullivan, a master at the court, granted final charging orders despite Nigeria’s prior opposition to the jurisdiction of these orders, the Cable reported.

In 2010, Zhongshan Fucheng, through its parent company Zhuhai Zhongfu Industrial Group Co. Ltd, acquired rights to develop a free trade zone in Ogun State, Nigeria.

In 2011, Zhongshan established Zhongfu International Investment (NIG) FZE to manage the project with the Ogun state government’s permission.

In July 2016, Zhongshan accused the Ogun state government of attempting to terminate its appointment and install a new manager for the free trade zone.

Zhongshan initiated an investment treaty arbitration against Nigeria under the bilateral investment treaty between China and Nigeria (China-Nigeria BIT).

The arbitrators ruled in favour of Zhongshan, awarding approximately $70 million in compensation.

In January 2022, Zhongshan sought enforcement of the arbitration award.

Nigeria pleaded state immunity but was denied by High Court Judge Sara Cockerill, who noted Nigeria’s abuse of the timeframe for appealing arbitral awards.

In July 2023, the UK Court of Appeal ruled Nigeria liable for the $70 million award.

Zhongshan obtained interim charging orders over two Nigerian government-owned properties in Liverpool in June and August of the previous year.

Nigeria argued the properties were immune from seizure as they served consular functions and housed diplomatic staff.

Despite being rented out, Nigeria claimed the proceeds were not used for commercial purposes.

Master Lisa Sullivan ruled against Nigeria, stating the properties had been leased to residential tenants and had not served consular or diplomatic purposes for the past 34 years.

The judgment highlighted the dilapidated state of one property, further indicating its non-diplomatic use.

Timi Balogun, representing Nigeria, expressed disagreement with the decision, citing complex international law issues. He indicated plans to appeal to higher courts for a more thorough examination of state immunity and diplomatic property rights.

 

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