By Bennett Oghifo and Dike Onwuamaeze
The Management of Dangote Cement Plc. yesterday firmly declared that the Obajana Cement plant in Kogi State is owned 100 per cent by it and that the invasion of the plant last Wednesday by armed vigilantes “on the orders of the state government” was illegal.In a swift reaction, the Kogi State Government said the state “has all the relevant documents to prove that the purported acquisition of Obajana by Dangote is null and void.”
Dangote Cement Plc, in the statement signed by its Group Managing Director (GMD) Michel Puchercos and titled, “Illegal Shutdown of Dangote Cement, Obajana Plant”, declared the firm’s full ownership of the Obajana plant, while berating the attack on the plant.
Puchercos said: “The Management of Dangote Cement Plc. wishes to inform members of the public, especially its customers and other stakeholders of the recent invasion of its Obajana Cement Plant, Kogi State by armed vigilantes on the orders of the state government.“The vigilantes, led by some officials of the State government were apparently acting on a resolution of the Kogi State House of Assembly on controversial tax claims; claims that the state governor had also contradicted when he said the shutdown was due to an alleged invalid acquisition of the company by Dangote Industries Limited.”
He said in the process of forcefully evicting the company’s workers, to enforce the illegal shutdown, the vigilantes shot at 27 of the workers and also destroyed some of the company’s property at the plant.Puchercos declared: “We have taken steps to get the hoodlums apprehended by the law enforcement agencies, and we will ensure that full legal action is taken against them.
“We therefore appeal to all our staff and our esteemed customers to remain calm while we explore all possible legal steps to address the situation. The welfare of our staff remains our key focus as we work hard to minimize further impact on our people and operations.“While we reiterate that Obajana Cement plant is 100% owned by Dangote Cement PLC, we remain resolute in transforming Africa, while creating sustainable value for our people, communities, investors and customers.”
Several workers of the Dangote cement plant in Obajana, were shot on Wednesday during a faceoff between the state’s security outfit and workers at the plant.The vigilantes forced out the workers, before sealing the Obajana plant.A statement by Dangote Group said the vigilante group was led by the state Director-General of Lands, Commissioner for Solid Minerals, and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Security, Commodore Jerry Omodara (rtd).
“Others were Chairman of Kabba/Bunnu LGA, Chairman of Ijumu LGA and the State ALGON Chairman, Alhaji Taofeek; Senior Special Assistant on Job Creation, Mr. Dele Iselewa, and Chairman of Lokoja LGA, Alhaji Mohammed Dansabe,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, members of the mining and host communities have condemned the Kogi State Government for what they described as an extrajudicial and unlawful deployment of the vigilantes to cause chaos in the Obajana community. Spokesman for the Oyo Mining host community, David Oluruntoba, condemned the act, stating the company had established a cordial relationship with the local community.
He said, “They called us to join them. But I told them that the company has not offended us. We just signed a Community Development Agreement (CDA) and the company has been helping us and providing us with jobs. What has the government done for us, nothing. There is no basis to support the government.”A staff of Dangote Cement, Jibrin Abubakar, said the company’s workers who were shot during the invasion were currently receiving treatment at a medical facility.
Abubakar said, “They were hired by the government, the hunters. They are like the Amotekun of Kogi State. The workers that were shot are currently receiving medical treatment. We just hope that they survive. Some of the cases are very pathetic. We don’t know what will happen, but by the end of today or tomorrow, we should know how many of them survived.”
Kogi: We Have Documents to Prove Dangote Wrong
The Kogi State’s Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, insisted that the state’s government has all the relevant documents to prove that the purported acquisition of Obajana by Dangote was null and void.He said Kogi State indigenes would not be intimidated into forgoing their birth rights to any individual or institution, no matter how highly placed, adding that Governor Yahaya Bello is committed to his inaugural promise that his administration “shall exist for the sole purpose of serving the superseding interests of the people of Kogi State”.
“We want to assure the good people of Kogi State that, with God on our side, what belongs to the state shall be recovered, including all dividends and interests on profits from inception till date. The Dangote Group is just distorting facts to save its face,” Fanwo said.Last Thursday, the Kogi State Government presented a report of its “Specialised Technical Committee on the Evaluation of the Legality of the Alleged Acquisition of Obajana Cement Company Plc by Dangote Cement Company Limited”, declaring that the transfer of Obajana Cement to Dangote Cement was “invalid, null and void.”
The report, which was submitted to Governor Bello last month, was presented to the public by the Secretary to the Kogi State Government (SSG), Mrs. Folashade Ayoade at the Government House in Lokoja.Ayoade alleged that the transfer of Obajana to Dangote Industries Limited, was “invalid, null and void.”According to her, the Committee in view of its findings therefore recommended that Kogi State should take steps to recover Obajana Cement Company from the Dangote Group.
The Committee also recommended: “The Kogi State Government should take steps to recover all accrued dividends from profits made over the years, including accrued interest on same.
“Kogi State Government should take steps to cancel the existing seven Certificates of Occupancy in the name of Dangote Cement Company.” The SSG added, “Agreement between Kogi State Government of Nigeria and Dangote Industries Limited, dated 30th July 2002, and supplemental agreement dated 14th February 2003, as contained in Exhibit 71 of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry Report, purporting the transfer of Obajana Cement Company Plc to Dangote Industries Limited, are all invalid, null and void.
“There is no evidence of consideration paid by Dangote Industries Limited to Kogi State Government from the alleged transfer of Obajana Cement Company Plc and no dividend was paid to the state from the profits realised from the inception of Dangote Cement Company Plc to date.
“By the assignment of the three certificates of occupancy, the title in Obajana Cement Company Plc, still vests in Kogi State government as the sole owner.” Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole, noted that the acquisition of the Obajana Cement Company by Dangote was without the resolution of the House of Assembly, which made the process null and void.
“It is clear that you cannot sell a state government property of any form without the resolution of the Kogi State House of Assembly. All the transfer process of the share capital to Dangote from Obajana by the previous administration was without any law backing it by the state House of Assembly,” Kolawole stated.In his remarks, the governor said he took the bold step in line with his mandate to safeguard the lives and livelihood of the people of Kogi State, including residents, and to ensure their wellbeing.
Bello said this was also coming on the heels of protests by the people of the state who felt they had been suppressed and marginalised by the Dangote Group which he alleged was ripping them off.
The governor, however, said that the state was open to discussions once the Dangote Group was ready to come clean.“We received several petitions from the general public over this particular subject matter. In the past five to six years, all efforts to sit with the proprietors of the Dangote Conglomerate failed.
“We set up a committee to look into this and invited the Dangote company to discuss with them and tell them the imminent dangers they are exposing the people to, but it all fell on deaf ears.
“I am here to defend my people, and from all reports, it is clear that Obajana Cement Company does not belong to Dangote,” Bello declared.