Dangote, BUA Renew Tussle over Edo Mines’ Ownership

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Obinna Chima

Dangote Group and BUA Group yesterday resumed their tussle over the ownership of the mining sites in Obu, Okpella in Edo State.
Both companies stated their positions on the mining site in separate statements.
BUA Group, in its statement, alleged that a Federal High Court in Benin City had restrained Dangote Industries and the police from interfering with its operations at the Okpella mining sites in Okpella, Edo State in a judgement delivered recently.

BUA said: “BUA wishes to inform its shareholders, employees, customers, regulators, host communities, security agencies and the general public that the Federal High Court, Benin, in a recent judgement, has made an order which upholds BUA’s fundamental rights to peaceful possession of the mining sites in Obu, Okpella, Edo State (operated by BUA Cement and which BUA became seized by virtue of mining leases granted by the Federal Government of Nigeria), without unlawful interference from the Inspector General of Police, first respondent; Commissioner of Police, Edo State, second respondent; Dangote Industries, third respondent; and Dangote Cement Plc, fourth respondent.

“It would be recalled that BUA was legally operating its various mining sites in Obu-Okpella, Edo State before the above-named respondents abruptly disrupted our operations at three of those mines in 2017 during the pendency of two other matters.
“The first and second respondents at the behest of the third and fourth respondents invaded and shut down the operations. We then approached the courts to enforce our fundamental rights to the property of the mines as well as our rights to continue operating from those mines. Whilst we were awaiting judgement, we continued to sustain our operations from our other numerous mines in that area unaffected by these actions.”

The statement added that the court upheld its argument over the ownership of the mining sites and that the first and second respondents were used to invade, and disrupt its operations in the disputed mine sites, while the case was pending in court.
“The court accordingly granted an order restraining the first and second respondents (the police) as well as the third and fourth respondents (Dangote Industries and Dangote Cement Plc) from interfering in any manner whatsoever with BUA’s operation of disputed mining lease sites. The two other matters remain pending in court.

“This judgement is one major step towards the final vindication of our rights over the mining sites and in line with BUA’s position that it holds the legal mining leases to the disputed sites, and that all parties in this dispute allow the courts be the final arbiter as has been our mantra,” it stated.

BUA explained that it has resumed operations at the Obu-Okpella mines.
However, in its reaction, Dangote Group, in its statement, denied the claim of ownership of the mining by BUA Group.
It advised the regulatory agencies to, “disregard completely the unfounded and mischievous claim and publication by BUA Group,” saying “it was riddled with misrepresentations and deliberate distortions of facts.”

Dangote Group, in the statement signed by the Group Executive Director, Devakumar Edwin, explained that Dangote Group through its lawyers had vigorously defended the suit filed by BUA Group, seeking a perpetual injunctive order against further interferences with their purported fundamental rights to property and privacy.
He said the group had appealed the high court judgment “and until the appellate court rules, BUA cannot lay claim or even operate on the mining site.”

Giving details of the case, Edwin recalled that in 2014, Dangote Group and AICO entered into an agreement for the transfer of 2541ML from AICO to Dangote Group.
“AICO thereafter applied to the Ministry of Mines for the approval of the transfer vide a Mining Lease Transfer Form dated 11 July 2014. In 2016, the Ministry of Mines wrote to Dangote Group to convey the approval of the ministry for the transfer/assignment of 2541ML from AICO to Dangote Group with effect from 03 February 2016.

“Following the approval of the ministry, Dangote Group became the legal holder and owner of the Mining Lease No. 2541ML. The 2541ML Certificate was thereafter endorsed to reflect the transfer from AICO to Dangote Group,” he added.
Dangote Group warned the public and those working with BUA Group not to take any steps to enter, mine or interfere with the disputed mining leases pending the determination of the appeal and/or the two suits pending before Umar J. as any such steps would be considered a contempt of court.

He noted that the Supreme Court in the case of Governor of Lagos State v. Chief Ojukwu (1986) 1 NWLR (pt. 18) 621), has held that “once a party is aware of a pending court process, even when the court has not made a specific injunctive order, parties are bound to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the court process.”

Edwin faulted BUA Group’s claim to the title pursuant to Mining Leases 18912 and 18913.
He said: “However, as recently as 09 October 2019 while its wholly incompetent fundamental rights suit was still pending, BUA Group through its subsidiary (Edo Cement Company Ltd) applied to the Director-General of Mining Cadastre Office & Centre, Abuja for the renewal of the said Mining Leases Nos. 18912 and 18913. In response to BUA Group’s renewal applications, the Mining Cadastre Office, in Abuja in its letters dated 18 October 2019 wrote back to BUA Group to inform them in very categorical terms that the Mining Leases Nos 18912 and 18913 were non-existent and were not valid Mineral titles.

“Interestingly and to show the character of BUA Group, these supremely critical facts were never brought to the attention of the Federal High Court in the fundamental rights suit even though the Mining Cadastre Office letters were written about 8 (eight) months before the judgment of the court was delivered. In effect and significantly so, when that court was handing down its decision and issuing injunctive orders to protect BUA, BUA knew and was well aware, by virtue of the above-referenced letters, that its purported rights to the mining lease were non-existent!

“These facts were however mischievously and in a brazen display of mala fide concealed by BUA Group from the court! Even these facts constitute sufficient proof that BUA Group’s claim to Mining Leases Nos. 18912 and 18913 rest entirely on quicksand and is therefore invalid baseless and totally non-existent. The general public is advised to be guided accordingly.”