â€¢ BUA: Dangote trying to scheme us out of business
By Jonathan Eze
The management of Dangote Group has accused BUA of engaging in illegal mining of limestone deposited in its Mining Lease No. 2541 located in a boundary town of Oguda/Ubo in Okene, Kogi State.
Dangoteâ€™s Executive Director, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, at a press conference in Lagos yesterday frowned at the media war instigated by BUA against the Dangote Group over a matter which is already pending before the Federal High Court in Benin-City.
Edwin revealed that â€œDangote Group validly acquired its interest and mining title in the disputed Mining Lease No. 2541 from AICO Ado Ibrahim & Company Limited sometime in 2014. AICO itself had applied to the Mining Cadastre Office and Ministry of Mines and Steel Development for the said Mining Lease No. 2541 located in a boundary town of Oguda/Ubo in Okene, Kogi State in 2007.
The ministry in exercise of its power under the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, granted and issued to AICO ML. No. 2541 for the renewable period of 25 years effective from February 1, 2008, and to expire onÂ January 31, 2033. Thus AICO by virtue of the said grant, became vested with the legal title over ML. No. 2541.
â€œIn 2014, the Dangote Group approached AICO and indicated interest in acquiring AICOâ€™s stake in ML No. 2541. In 2014, AICO in exercise of its right under the Mining Act, applied to the Ministry for the transfer of its title in the ML No. 2541 to Dangote Group. AICO and Dangote Group equally paid all the transfer and statutory fees demanded by the Ministry.â€
He further explained: â€œBy a letter dated 05 February 2016, the ministry wrote to the Managing Director of the Dangote Group to convey its approval for the Transfer/Assignment of ML No. 2541 from AICO to Dangote Group with effect from February 3, 2016. Following the successful transfer of ML. NO. 2541 to Dangote Group, the Group became the holder of the Mining Lease No. 2541.â€
He said even BUA in its processes in court, acknowledged that these illegal mining leases which it claimed were granted in 1997 were temporary mining leases.
Edwin further stated that the then Minister of Solid Minerals during President Olusegun Obasanjoâ€™s regime, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, sometime in 2006 waded into the dispute and invited the managements of Edo Cement Company Limited and AICO Ado Ibrahim & Company Limited for a meeting and that in the course of the meeting, the then minister again queried the legality of Mining Lease Nos 18912 and 18913 and the power of the governor of Edo State to grant such mining leases.
â€œAt the end of the meeting, the minister declared the Edo Cementâ€™s Mining Leases Nos. 18912 and 18913 illegal and declared the mining site open for interested investors. Given that AICOâ€™s then existing Mining Lease No. 17825 was yet to be renewed even though application for renewal was pending, AICO in 2007 (under the Mining Act, 2007) applied for the fresh Mining Lease No. 2541 and the ministry granted it in 2008 without any objection from Edo Cement Company,â€Â he said. Edwin said AICO, which sold the right to Dangote, continued its mining operations in the Mining Lease No. 2541 undisturbed until BUA Group acquired Edo Cement Company Limited and resuscitated the dispute again.
Edwin further revealed that it was the attempt by BUA to encroach on AICOâ€™s mining title in Mining Lease No. 2541 that prompted AICO to write to the Ministry in 2015 complaining of BUAâ€™s encroachment.
He said: â€œThe ministry, after investigation in the same 2015 by the letter dated 21 January 2015, wrote to the chairman of BUA Group directing BUA to stop mining within the ML. No. 2541. It was this same letter from the ministry that prompted BUA to file a Suit at the Federal High Court Benin in 2016.â€
Edwin said: â€œIt is therefore appalling that BUA Group in the midst of these overwhelming facts would still want the public to believe that Dangote Group is after its business when in actual fact BUA has been the one mining illegally in Dangote Mining Lease and attacking its officials without any justificationâ€¦
â€œThe crocodile tears being shed by BUA in its cry for help and open letter to the president is most laughable and a total distraction from BUAâ€™s continuous illegal activities within Dangoteâ€™s ML 2541 aimed at depleting and exhausting the limestone reserves in order to sabotage Dangote Groupâ€™s legitimate investment.â€
Meanwhile, BUA group has dismissed the claims by Dangote Group, describing it as a desperate move to disregard judicial process and scheme it out of business.
In a statement by its Group Head, Corporate Communications, Otega Ogra, the company said it was compelled to clarify the cycle of misinformation being spread by Dangote, adding that BUA does not have any operations whatsoever in Okene, Kogi State where the purported ML2541 is situated.
The statement read in parts: â€œThis latest statement by Dangote Group stinks of desperation in its continued attempt to disregard the judicial process and scheme a viable competitor out of business as has been their legendary antecedent.
â€œWe thus wish to reiterate once again that whilst we do not want to join issues with anyone on this matter as it is currently before a court of competent jurisdiction, we are however compelled to use the opportunity presented by Edwin Devakumarâ€™s reckless statements to clarify the cycle of misinformation being proliferated.
â€œIn specific response to Devakumarâ€™s claim of BUA operating on ML2541 in Okene, Kogi State, we wish to restate that BUA does not have any operations whatsoever in Okene, Kogi State where the purported ML2541 is situated.
â€œOur mining operations are limited to Obu-Okpella, Edo State for which licences ML18912 & 18913 were issued and revalidate by the same ministry in a publication. These licences have been owned, operated and fulfilled by BUA and its predecessors-in-title since 1976 as it is also a notorious fact that we have exercised total control and possession over the mining area covered by the above mining leases since 1976 when we operated under the name of Bendel Cement Company Limited. We thus want to excuse Edwinâ€™s claims to a lack of basic knowledge and understanding of the geography of Nigeria but he will be better served if he seeks professional opinion in critically understanding the geography of Nigeria or he should otherwise refer to documents from the boundary commission which clearly delineates boundaries within Nigeria.
â€œIt is public information that neither Dangote nor AICO or anyone for that matter can claim ownership of ML2541 as was stated in a court injunction by a Federal High Court sitting in Lokoja in suit FHC/LK/CS/25/2017 between Alhaji Mohammed Otaru Adeika & Ors. Versus AICO Ado Ibrahim and Company Limited, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, The Mining Cadestre Office and Dangote Industries Plc. How then can they continue to claim in obvious disregard of that court order that the ML2541 belongs to them?Â No one is above the law.
â€œThe antecedents of Dangote Plc inÂ trying to out-muscle competition is not in doubt. Various cases abound within and outside the cement industry â€“ one of which was their taking over of the limestone deposits of another competing entity in the South-south region of Nigeria until they ceded him 25% of their company. This was in turn resold to them for hundreds of millions of dollars. Or is it the case of Ibeto whose business was almost driven under but for the prompt intervention of the then late President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua. Or is it the case of Polo House Jetty Tincan previously owned by his uncle, Usman Dantata, whose licence was revoked by NPA and reallocated to Dangote on the same day in order to prevent a sugar refinery to be sited there by a competitor.
â€œThe facts of the matter as far as we are concerned is that BUAâ€™s operations are in Obu, Okpella, Edo State and not Okene, Kogi. We once again ask that all parties should wait for the court to resolve the issue. We will not be cowed or intimidated and will continue to seek redress through the proper legal channels.â€