A closer look at Oyo state’s free trade zone agreement with Chinese firm

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Oyo govt has signed a free trade zone deal with a Chinese firm, but some things don’t add up

On Tuesday, Oyo state government officially announced it has signed a partnership agreement with a Chinese conglomerate, China Polaris, estimated at about N636bn ($2bn) for the establishment of a free trade zone for the manufacturing of automotive products, solar power generation, among others.

They said the first phase of the project comprising five factories is estimated to cost about N159bn ($500m) and is expected to be completed before the end of the first quarter of next year, while the entire project is expected to be completed in the next two years. Governor Abiola Ajimobi disclosed this during the turning of the sod to herald the construction work for the project, tagged Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone, located along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ibadan.

He expressed optimism that the project, which occupies a thousand hectares of land, would be ‘the new hub of African economy’ when completed.

Ajimobi described the event as the outcome of a journey of five years of intensive hunt for investors in core economic activities in his determination to achieve growth and sustained development in the state.

“Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone is an industrial revolution with the total package of $2billion investment aimed at pushing the state to the top notch, not only in Nigeria but in Africa. The multiplier effect of today’s ceremony is the imminent massive job creation and financial freedom for the government and the good people of our dear state.”

Ajimobi was upbeat that the project would be a source of envy to states that border Oyo when completed.

The President of China Polaris, Mr. Zhang Wendong, and the Leader of Delegation who is the representative of the Chinese government, Ms Zhang Xuemei, were among the top Chinese officials on the train.

Wendong assured the state government of the investors’ irrevocable commitment to the Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone project, saying that the first phase of the project, which comprised of five factories, would gulp about N159bn ($500m).

He hinted that the conglomerate would ensure the completion of the last phase of the project within the next two years timeline that was proposed by the state government, which, he said, would include an assemblage of automotive products and production of solar energy to power.

He said, “Polaris-Pacesetter Free Trade Zone will encompass light, medium and heavy manufacturing lines of $2billion. The first phase will cost $500m, which will involve production and assemblage of vehicle parts and solar energy.

“We are targeting solar energy that will power the whole of Ibadan and its environs. This is the first of its kind in Africa and it will be replicated in other African countries.”

My concerns

I decided to do some background checks about China Polaris and I made some interesting developments. On its official website, which you can visit here, there was no mention of the agreement with Oyo state. I was about to cry foul play when I discovered that the last historic event announced by the company was its investment agreement for acquisition of Nigerian mines in 2014.

The next historic event announced by the company was that in the beginning of 2014, it fully launched the construction of the first Rare-metal production project in Nigeria. In all, there are 9 announcements on the company’s website and guess what, they are all about Nigeria.

And the other person mentioned as representative of the Chinese government does not have any form of online presence. Even looking at the company’s about page made me to be more suspicious sef.

This is what they claim they are about:

China Polaris is an integrated international enterprise specialized in mineral investment and development. Based on mineral resource development, mineral investment and financing, China Polaris is also involved in such industries as real estate, financing, health care, tourism, recreation, sport as well as international trade, committing to invest and develop projects comprehensively.

We are committed to provide energy and mineral products, mineral resources investment and finance service in global market. With years of efforts, China Polaris has established a complete operation platform in fields of geological exploration, mineral development, ore smelting, international trade, finance and investment in mineral industry. We have shaped a product structure of energy and resource, consisting of rare metals, precious metals, nonferrous metals and coal.

I trust the government rep did their homework very well on this deal cos if not, we just might have been _____ (fill in the gap).

But I’m hopeful that it is a leggit deal and that the guys have enough resources to undertake the project – something I can’t say undoubtedly looking at their website, noticing they only put up stock photos and having zero presence elsewhere except in Nigeria where our politicians are signing deals with them anyhow.

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