Ayodele Kusamotu is a restructuring practitioner, mediator and the chairman of Kusamotu & Kusamotu (The Greenfish Chambers) reputable for rendering legal services to Chinese establishments and organisations. In this interview with ROBERT EGBE, he speaks on why it opened an office in Beijing, the purported forfeiture of Nigeria’s sovereignty to China in the event of loan default and sundry other issues.
THE opening of Kusamotu Chambers in Beijing is an ambitious move. What informed this expansion?
This foray into the Chinese legal services market is, for us, a natural progression for expansion of our present operations which have been a long-standing involvement with providing cross-border legal services out of our offices in Nigeria for over a decade, for Chinese companies and institutions based in China doing business in Nigeria, mainly in trade and investment, such as China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure), a Chinese Government-owned entity, and several other Chinese companies doing business in Nigeria.
China has emerged as a global partner in trade and infrastructure, rendering loans and services to many nations, especially in Africa. Is your expansion a strategy in keying into this international trade by way of legal practice?
Absolutely, yes and yes. Our expansion is certainly a strategy in keying into the Chinese international trade by way of legal practice, focusing especially on China. Our practice is one deeply entrenched in international commercial law practice and, as such, as mentioned in your question, we provide legal services to our Chinese clients investing in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, in trade, infrastructure, loans, etc.
As a matter of fact, over the long span of time developing our relationship with our Chinese clientele, we have had to expand our reach to 20 African countries where we have strategic partner law firms that run with our vision, representing our firm on the continent providing legal services on our behalf, plus whenever and wherever our clients have their transactions executed on the African continent. As a result, this affords us the luxury of unrivalled capacity, capability and efficiency to meet the demands of our Chinese clients who are notorious for their aggressive business model.
Your chambers seems to be a rallying point for Chinese businessmen and companies in this country. How did this relationship start?
The relationship emanated from our over a decade-long relationship with one of China’s biggest insurance companies, Sinosure. They support Chinese manufacturers and companies bringing billions of dollars’ worth of investment transactions into Nigeria and Africa as a whole, therefore single-handedly contributing a large portion of foreign investments to Nigeria.
We provide legal services for their transactions and have been awarded Most Valuable Partner of the year (MVP) for seven years in a row and in 2013, awarded best foreign investment practice by Word Finance magazine, thus further boosting confidence in the minds of the Chinese community, legitimising our competence and expertise. As the Chinese are a very close and closed community, we leveraged this as our capabilities spoke for itself.
We were therefore introduced through this medium to the Chinese community, and as we are a multi-faceted firm, which had garnered its credibility, reputation and pedigree in Nigeria from its 55 years existence, providing legal services in the corporate and commercial law field, infrastructure, power, solar/renewable energy, oil and gas, mining, and agriculture industry and the list goes on and on. We were more than ready to meet the demands of all aspects and types of Chinese companies and investors doing business in Nigeria.
Integrity poses a challenge to international trade. How have you been able to set standards in this regard?
As a law firm with a difference and focus on excellence and precision, integrity is a key aspect of our law practice that binds our business relationship with clients. This is so fundamental to our practice and has afforded us the foundation with which we stand with about 70 per cent of our Asia/China practice returning clientele for over a decade now. Also in fostering business relationships with clients, we have been able to overcome the challenges and set the standard by relying on our code of ethics and conduct, and as such, help clients de-risk their transactions.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business dealings and representations?
We have not only seen COVID-19 as a threat but are also seeing the opportunities it is creating. We have tried to leverage the opportunities while also neutralising the threats. We are leveraging the use of technology for our operations and law business practice. COVID-19 has also reduced operational cost and placed more pressure on us to look at the need to diversify. One of the threats it has posed is that it has reduced international trade as borders are closed and commercial activities have reduced as well as a reduction in income.
Nigerians are groaning over the recent hike in pump price of petrol and increase in electricity tariff. What is your take on this?
This does not come as a surprise as the standard of living in Nigeria has been on a decline in recent times with multiple national economic meltdowns since 2015. We acknowledge that a combination of factors has led to the increase in pump price of PMS and the hike in electricity tariffs. We, however, are of the opinion that the increase could not have been implemented at a worse time. The cost of living has risen astronomically while wages have largely remained the same or increased at a far slower rate than the cost of living.
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the economy, making an already bad situation worse. Popular opinion seems to be that the Nigerian Government needs to be more sensitive to the average Nigerians’ plight and also do more to ensure that financial palliatives are adequate and reach the intended recipients. We believe this will help to cushion the effects of these increases on the lives of the average Nigerian.
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