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Open letter to President Buhari: Save our jobs and future

Open letter to President Buhari: Save our jobs and future
August 18
17:01 2016

BY CHIBUZOR WIGWE 

I appeal to President Buhari and all caring people of Nigeria to intervene to save the 4,500 jobs that are at risk at the Ogun Guangdong free trade zone.

Our employer and zone manager — Zhongfu International Investments FZE, are in the process of being chased out of Nigeria after investing over USD 50 million of their money in developing the zone. Fabricated allegations have been made against them and rather than allow any issues to be resolved through the due legal process, they have been threatened with arrest and deportation. They are also being encouraged to depart Nigeria quietly leaving behind their investments.

My heart weeps not only for the grave injustice Nigeria is inflicting on a foreign investor that has demonstrated his commitment to Nigeria but also for the thousands of employees like me and their families who will surely suffer when we drive away a wealth creator like Dr. Jason Han.

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The zone is an industrial park in Igbesa, Ogun State where we presently have 36 companies manufacturing a variety of products. Since Zhongfu took over the development and management of the zone in 2012, they have invested heavily in constructing new roads within the zone, maintaining the Lusada/Igbesa road leading to the zone, building warehouses, building residential and office accommodation, purchasing heavy duty machinery such as excavator, pay loader and motor vehicles.

Most importantly, they have increased the number of jobs from about 300 to 4,500 and about fifty million Naira per month is being generated for our customs department while over USD 1.1million generated for NEPZA and also fees generated for Immigration and others.

The employees, as our families, are very worried about the possible loss of income earned from the zone. I had been looking forward to introducing friends of mine looking for jobs to the zone. We the employees were delighted when President Buhari visited China in April of this year and an announcement was made of a USD 1 billion investment in a pharmaceutical park to be established in the zone. We have also been very excited about the international interest shown in the zone by the Economist (see the link to a video aired on CNN about the zone Growthcrossings.economist.com/video/zones-of-influence/ ), Yale University, John Hopkins University, MIT and others. We all were looking forward to growing but in three weeks the whole picture has changed.

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Those who inspired confidence have been forced to flee for their lives and fear, mediocrity and stagnation will now follow. The suffering to come will not be limited to the employees in the zone only. The areas surrounding the Zone have benefited from the activities in the Zone. The value of properties in the area has gone up by up to 400% since Zhongfu took over; businesses supplying raw materials to the factories and businesses providing services to the factories and to individuals in the Zone are all set to suffer.

I am puzzled as too why Zhongfu is being hounded out of Nigeria. I have been very proud to learn under this management. They have provided strong leadership and policies that will make President Buhari proud including zero tolerance for smuggling and corruption. They have been successful in attracting investors to the zone because as they say they offer a “wahala free zone”. We the staff are always told that we must do the right thing. Is that not what we want as a country?

Zhongfu has made their investment under a contract which has being disregarded. Notwithstanding their contract, new managers were forcefully brought to the Zone and now occupy their property; armed policemen with handcuffs have been sent to NEPZA office looking for the managers that Nigeria should be celebrated. Why? To get them away from Nigeria and have others take over their assets? That is how it looks to me and that is how it must look to any objective observer.

If this is the message we are sending to the international investment community we might as well stop looking for foreign investors. They will flee as our actions speak louder than our words. The Zhongfu story will be heard far and wide – they were already being celebrated as managers running the most successful free trade zone in Africa. On that basis be prepared for serious embarrassment if the present illegal action against them is not stopped.

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Dear President Sir, there is still time to save the situation. Please come to the aid of foreign investors who have no defence against thuggery, please come to the aid of defenceless Nigerians who will be impoverished by Zhongfu’s forceful removal and come to the aid of generations of Nigerians yet unborn who stand to benefit from the implementation of your stance against corruption.

In Nigeria we trust!

Chibuzor Wigwe
Commercial Manager
Zhongfu International Investments (Nig) FZE

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Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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