The Chinese government has asked Nigeria to settle the legal dispute over the $5.8 billion Mambilla power failing which it would not provide the funds for the project.
In 2006, the China Gezhouba Group Corporation of China (CGGC) and China Geo-Engineering Group Corporation (CGCOC) had won the bid for a joint venture to execute the hydropower project with a proposed capacity of 3,050 megawatts — the single biggest power plant in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, in 2003, the ministry of power had awarded the build, operate and transfer (BOT) contract of the project to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (SPTCL), a local content partner.
This was followed by the signing of a general project execution agreement (GPEA) with SPTCL in November 2012.
However, in November 2017, the ministry signed another engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract with Sinohhydro Corporation of China, CGGC and CGCOC to form a joint venture for the execution of the project — excluding SPTCL.
As a result, SPTCL dragged the federal government and its Chinese partners before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris, France, over an alleged breach of contract.
Leno Adesanya, chief executive officer of SPTCL, claimed the company had spent millions of dollars with financial and legal consultants to raise about $6 billion for the execution of the project, yet the company has suffered a lot over the years “through improper administrative interruptions and interventions”.
Due to the ongoing legal tussle, Nigeria risks $2.3 billion fine over the proposed 3,050-megawatts facility conceived in 1982.
In a letter dated September 18 to Sale Mamman, minister of power, seen by TheCable, He Yongjun, project manager for the Chinese partners, maintained that the China Exim Bank, which is expected to provide 85 percent of the joint funding, will not finance the project until the legal issues are resolved.
“The Chinese government is showing a positive attitude towards the Mambilla Project. However, according to financing policy of China, the Export-Import Bank of China cannot provide loans to a project with legal disputes, which is the main reason why the project has not entered into substantive financing negotiations so far,” Yongjun said.
“On 5th September, 2019, Yang Jiechi, Special Representative of President Xi Jinping informed the Nigerian President and Commander in Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari that unless the legal dispute is resolved, conforming out of court settlement funding for the loan will not be accessed.
“A meeting shall be organized by the Ministry of Power for negotiation between the relevant authorities of the Nigeria government, SUNRISE, and the members of the EPC Contractor JV to resolve the legal disputes through amicable negotiations so as to let the plaintiff withdraw the lawsuit.
“Should such negotiation fail, if the Nigeria government considers that the arbitration result is beneficial to the Nigeria government, it is suggested that the judicial department of Nigeria (Attorney General) issue a formal legal paper to the Chinese authority confirming that: the legal dispute has no effect the Mambilla Project.
“And the Nigeria government requests China to start project financing negotiation as soon as possible, financing of the Mambilla Project cannot be stagnant due to legal disputes.
“However, if the Nigeria Government believes that there is a better way to resolve legal disputes, we support it. In any case, the settlement of legal disputes should not be delayed.”