By Madu Onuorah
(EXCLUSIVE) – The Chinese Government has rejected service of demand notice from group of Nigerian lawyers seeking damages for the adverse effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on the country and its citizens.
Information made available from the Azinge and Azinge law firms championing the action in Abuja on Monday says that the President’s office in Beijing, China refused to acknowledge the Court service sent via international courier service, mother DHL.
The lawyers are however hopeful that Chinese Embassy in Nigeria will receive the court summons even though their receipt or not does not stop the process.
Professor Epiphany Azinge (SAN), whose firm, Azinge and Azinge, is championing the action on behalf of the group of Nigerian lawyers, said in a statement last month that it sued China for the adverse effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on the country and its citizens.
According to Professor Azinge, who is currently a member of the Commonwealth Arbitral Tribunal London, representing Nigeria and Africa, the lawyers would be claiming $200 billion in damages for the “loss of lives, economic strangulation, trauma, hardship, social disorientation, mental torture and disruption of the normal, daily existence of people in Nigeria.
“The team of legal experts planned a two-phase line of action-: first is with the federal high court of Nigeria and secondly to persuade the government of Federal Republic of Nigeria to institute a state action against the People’s Republic of China at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague.
“The legal experts will be claiming damages to the tune of $200 billion dollars. The Chinese Government will be served through its Embassy in Nigeria.”
The lead Counsel in the suit that has generated international attention, Prof Azinge, told the media in Abuja that they are not deterred, pointing out that their cause is just and intentions noble.
Meanwhile, China has condemned the legal action instituted by a league of Nigerian lawyers claiming $200 billion in damages against the country.
Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, said in a statement on 29 April that “attacking and discrediting other countries from other countries will not save the time and lives lost. At this critical moment, we urge that some Nigerian legal practitioners will do more things to enhance mutual trust and help epidemic prevention and control in both countries, rather than dancing to the tune of a certain country to hype up the situation.”
The Chinese Ambassador said that since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has been open, transparent and responsible and has taken the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures to contain its spread.
Zhou Pingjian said: “China has made tremendous sacrifices and accumulated valuable experiences and made significant contributions to the global responses against coronavirus. The virus is a common enemy to all mankind and may strike anytime, anywhere. Like other countries, China is also a victim, not a perpetrator and even less an accomplice of COVID-19.
“In the face of major public health crisis and infectious disease, the international community should stand in solidarity and work together not resort to mutual accusation or demand retribution and accountability. Currently, China is standing together with Nigeria in the global fight against COVID-19. Our people are joining hands to overcome the current difficulties.”
Previously, an Egyptian lawyer has pressed charges against Chinese President Xi Jinping, calling on his country to pay $10 trillion in damages caused by the novel coronavirus in Egypt.
In a related development, last week, the U.S. State of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government over the coronavirus, alleging that the nation’s officials are to blame for the global pandemic.