By Tobi Soniyi
A Chinese company, Zhongfu International Investment Limited, has dragged the Ogun State government and the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) before a Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge its removal as the Manager of the multi-billion naira Ogun-Guandong Free Trade Zone.
In a suit with No, FHC/ABJ/CS/60/2016 filed by Professor Gbolahan Elias, SAN, on behalf of the plaintiff, the court was asked to stop NEPZA from giving effect to the purported action of the Ogun State government against the company.
The court processes show that Ogun State government was said to have, on March 15, 2012, appointed the company as the Manager and Administrator of the trade zone and the appointment was subsequently endorsed by NEPZA on behalf of the federal government to enable the firm carry out the day to day management of the zone.
However, by another letter of May 27, 2016, the Ogun State government, among others, terminated the appointment of the foreign company as manager and operator of the zone purportedly without a just cause.
The court was also urged to stop the defendants from harassing, intimidating and hindering the company and its workers from carrying out their lawful duties based on the agreement executed in respect of the management and supervision of the trade zone by the company.
In an affidavit of urgency in support of a motion on notice deposed to by one Timilehin Ehibuzor Wigwe, the plaintiff claimed to be a free zone enterprise in the Ogun-Guandong free trade zone at Igbesa, Ogun State, and duly registered by NEPZA.
In the 36-paragraph affidavit, the plaintiff said that prior to 2008, the Ogun State government, in a bid to promote economic activities and develop the state, approached it along with other investors for collaboration for the purpose of developing a multi-purpose free trade zone in the state.
The plaintiff averred that it was appointed administrator of the zone in 2012 and that the appointment was consequently approved by NEPZA on behalf of the federal government on April 10, the same year.
Within months of the appointment, the deponent claimed that the plaintiff attracted foreign investors and tenants at the trade zone from five to fifty while it also invested $65,800,000 for the provision of infrastructure at the zone due to the growing number of tenants.
The plaintiff company claimed that another $1,013,000,000 worth of investment was being attracted to the zone because of its wide international business connections.
The affidavit averred that the Nigeria Customs Service has been generating a monthly revenue of N50m for the federal government through imports and exports control.
To its chagrin, the plaintiff averred, the Ogun State government by a letter dated May 27, 2016, purported to have terminated its appointment as the manager of the trade zone without a just cause other than a letter said to have been written by the Economic and Consulate Section of the Consulate General of China on March 11, 2016.
The deponent averred that NEPZA in collusion with Ogun State government no longer recognised the company as the trade zone manager while its directors and other workers were being harassed, intimidated and humiliated in breach of the valid agreement.