Chinese investor seizes Nigeria's properties in UK over debt – Newstrends
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Chinese investor seizes Nigeria’s properties in UK over debt

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Chinese investor seizes Nigeria’s properties in UK over debt

Two Nigerian properties located in the United Kingdom are on the verge of being taken over by a Chinese investor following an order granting the investor the right to enforce a $70 million investment treaty award against Nigeria.

The investor, Zhongshan Fucheng Industrial Investment, was granted final charging orders over two UK residential properties owned by the Nigerian government after the company also attached a £20 million debt relating to the high-profile P&ID case.

The Chinese firm secured this order on June 14 when Master Sullivan in the Commercial Court in London granted the orders in respect of two Liverpool properties estimated to be worth a combined £1.7 million.

According to the judge, the order was premised on the fact that the properties have been converted to commercial use outside Nigeria’s diplomatic or consular activities in the UK, stressing that enforcement of the order should prevail.

The high profile case was a gritty legal battle between Zhongshan represented before the court by Withers and barristers at 3VB, while Nigeria was represented by Squire Patton Boggs and a barrister at Atkin Chambers.

Sources said the underlying arbitration was in relation to a joint venture with Nigeria’s Ogun State to establish a free trade zone near  Lagos in 2013. A Zhongshan subsidiary held a 60% stake in the project but Ogun terminated its participation three years later.

In 2021, a London-seated UNCITRAL tribunal chaired by Lord Neuberger including Matthew Gearing KC and Rotimi Oguneso SAN said Nigeria was guilty of expropriation and other breaches of the China-Nigeria bilateral investment treaty and ordered the country to to pay US$55.6 million plus interest and costs.

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Nigeria in the same year put a challenge against the award in the Commercial Court on jurisdictional grounds. Nigeria’s position was that the arbitration clause in the BIT was invalid. But in later development, Nigeria withdrew the challenge before a hearing on Zhongshan’s application for security and security for costs was about to take place.

Mrs Justice Cockerill in the same court granted Zhongshan an ex parte enforcement order in December 2021, but Nigeria did not file againt this order within the 74-day deadline allowed by the law.
In July 2023, the Court of Appeal in London stopped Nigeria from bringing a late challenge to the enforcement order, stressing Cockerill’s provisional determination that state immunity did not apply had become final.

The investor reportedly got interim charging orders in June and August last year over the two properties in Liverpool, which are owned by the Nigerian government.

Nigeria’s efforts to dismiss these charging orders failed as Master Sullivan in her judgement, held that the properties are leased to residential tenants and that no “consular activities are actually taking place on the premises”.

She also dismissed Nigeria’s arguments that it had not been properly served with the interim charging order applications under the State Immunity Act and that Zhongshan had failed to give full and frank disclosure when seeking them.

Master Sullivan also dismissed Nigeria’s objection about parties bringing multiple enforcement action, saying that parties are “entitled to bring as many types of enforcement action as they see fit to recover their debt.” She noted that Nigeria had yet to pay any of the award and that the value of the properties represented a “small proportion of it”.

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Timi Balogun of Squire Patton Boggs, counsel to Nigeria, said: “We respectfully disagree with the Master’s decision, which we believe somewhat brushes over complex public international law issues, including with respect to state immunity and the right of a foreign state’s High Commission to own and manage portfolios of fixed assets in England and Wales. We believe that such issues need to be weighed very carefully, and we intend to appeal this decision so that these complex and important issues can be considered by the higher courts.”

Zhongshan applied to enforce the award in Washington, DC in 2022. Last year, the DC district court rejected Nigeria’s motion to dismiss the action on sovereign immunity grounds. The state argued the China-Nigeria BIT was “quintessentially sovereign” and therefore the award did not arise from a commercial relationship between the parties. The DC district proceeding is stayed pending Nigeria’s appeal of the sovereign immunity decision.

Zhongshan has also taken enforcement measures in various other jurisdictions, including in Quebec, where it seeks conservatory seizure of a private jet; and in Belgium, where Nigeria is challenging attachments of properties.

In the British Virgin Islands, Zhongshan has obtained an interim attachment over a £20 million liability owed Nigeria by BVI-registered company Process & Industrial Development (P&ID) under an English Commercial Court ruling. The Chinese company withdrew an earlier application to attach the same liability in England.

The Commercial Court ordered P&ID to pay Nigeria £20 million in costs in December last year after upholding the state’s challenge to an US$11 billion award in favour of the company. Mr Justice Robin Knowles found the award was procured through false evidence, corrupt payments and improper retention of leaked documents.

At the time of filing this report yesterday, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was yet to react to a message sent to it on this development.

Chinese investor seizes Nigeria’s properties in UK over debt

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JUST IN: Reps call for suspension of NMDPRA CEO pending investigation

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Chief Executive Officer of the NMDPRA, Mr. Farouk Ahmed

JUST IN: Reps call for suspension of NMDPRA CEO pending investigation

The House of Representatives has called for the suspension of the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Authority (NMDPRA) pending conclusive investigations into the allegations against the Authority.

This followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance by Hon. Esosa Iyawe on the House’s urgent need to address the outage resulting from what he called unguarded comments from him.

Hon. Iyawe had reminded the House that fuel quality can impact engine hardware, thus ultra-low sulfur diesel is recommended for all types of companies, power plants, storage tanks, industrial facilities, fleets and heavy equipment, and even ships, as high Sulphur content in fuels, causes damage to engines and contributes to air pollution.

He said considering the various risks associated with Sulphur, governments around the world have taken steps to regulate it by setting standards that require maximum reduction of emissions of this chemical compound, which diesel producers are expected to adhere to.

According to the Edo Lawmaker, Sulphur dioxide has dire environmental and health consequences, as it can damage the human respiratory system, compromise lung function and even cause cancer.

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He said the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Authority (NMDPRA) permits local refiners to produce diesel with Sulphur content of up to 650 parts per million (ppm) until January 2025, as approved by the ECOWAS.

He alleged that recently, the Chief Executive of the NMDPRA stated that the diesel produced by the Dangote refinery is inferior to the ones imported into the country and that their fuel had a large content of Sulphur, which he put at between 650 to 1,200ppm.

He said: “In their defence, Dangote called for a test of their products, which was supervised by Members of the House of Representatives, wherein it was revealed that Dangote’s diesel had a Sulphur content of 87.6 ppm (parts per million), whereas the other two samples diesel imported showed Sulphur levels exceeding 1800 ppm and 2000 ppm respectively, thus disproving the allegations made by the NMDPRA boss.

“Allegations have been made that the NMDPRA was giving licences to some traders who regularly import high-Sulphur content diesel into Nigeria, and the use of such products poses grave health risks and huge financial losses for Nigerians.

“The unguarded statements by the Chief Executive of the NMDPRA, which has since been disproved, sparked an outrage from Nigerians who tagged his undermining of local refineries and insistence on the continued importation of fuel an act of economic sabotage, as the imported products have been shown to contain high levels of dangerous compounds.”

He expressed concern that the careless statement by the Chief Executive of the NMDPRA without conducting any prior investigation is not only unprofessional but also unpatriotic, especially in the face of the recent calls for protest against the Federal Government.

JUST IN: Reps call for suspension of NMDPRA CEO pending investigation

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Privacy: Google cancels plan to remove cookies from Chrome browser globally

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Privacy: Google cancels plan to remove cookies from Chrome browser globally

Google is planning to keep third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, it said on Monday, after years of pledging to phase out the tiny packets of code meant to track users on the internet.

The major reversal follows concerns from advertisers – the company’s biggest source of income – saying the loss of cookies in the world’s most popular browser will limit their ability to collect information for personalizing ads, making them dependent on Google’s user databases.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority had also scrutinized Google’s plan over concerns it would impede competition in digital advertising.

“Instead of deprecating third-party cookies, we would introduce a new experience in Chrome that lets people make an informed choice that applies across their web browsing, and they’d be able to adjust that choice at any time,” Anthony Chavez, vice president of the Google-backed Privacy Sandbox initiative, said in a blog post.

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Since 2019, the Alphabet (GOOGL.O), opens new tab unit has been working on the Privacy Sandbox initiative aimed at enhancing online privacy while supporting digital businesses, with a key goal being the phase-out of third-party cookies.

Cookies are packets of information that allow websites and advertisers to identify individual web surfers and track their browsing habits, but they can also be used for unwanted surveillance.

In the European Union, the use of cookies is governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which stipulates that publishers secure explicit consent from users to store their cookies. Major browsers also give the option to delete cookies on command.

Chavez said Google was working with regulators such as the UK’s CMA and Information Commissioner’s Office as well as publishers and privacy groups on the new approach, while continuing to invest in the Privacy Sandbox program.

Privacy: Google cancels plan to remove cookies from Chrome browser globally

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JUST IN: Reps amend finance bill, raises 2024 budget to N35.055tn

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JUST IN: Reps amend finance bill, raises 2024 budget to N35.055tn

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 23, amended the 2024 appropriation bill to increase the 2024 budget from N28. 777 trillion to N35.055 trillion.

This followed the consideration of the report of the House Committee on Appropriation which considered the request from the President for about N6.2 trillion as supplementary budget.

Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, who presented the report of the committee for consideration, said both the House and the Senate agreed on the increase.

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The House considered the report of the Committee on Appropriations on a Bill for an Act to Amend the Appropriations Act, 2024.

The bill authorises the issuance of N35,055,536,770,218 (thirty-five trillion, fifty-five billion, five hundred and thirty-six million, seven hundred and seventy thousand, two hundred and eighteen Naira) from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

Out of this amount, N1.742 trillion is allocated for Statutory Transfers, N8.270 trillion for Debt Service, N11.268 trillion for Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure, and N13.773 trillion for the Development Fund for Capital Expenditure for the year ending December 31, 2024.

JUST IN: Reps amend finance bill, raises 2024 budget to N35.055tn

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