Dangote Cement Closure: MAN Berates Kogi Govt, Says Action Illegitimate, Anti-business
* State: No payment was made, vows to recover company
Ibrahim Oyewale, Lokoja and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has berated Kogi State government for allegedly engaging armed youths to enforce the sealing of the Dangote Cement’s factory located in Obajana, describing the action as insensitive and capable of discouraging investors.
The association’s position on the matter came just as Kogi State government has presented to the public the report of the Specialised Technical Committee on the Evaluation of the Legality of the alleged acquisition of Obajana Cement Company Plc by Dangote Cement Company Limited.
The President of MAN, Mr. Mansur Ahmed, told journalists yesterday in Lagos, during a press briefing on the 50th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the association that the body viewed the news of the shut down the cement factory as worrisome development and with tremendous concern.
He said it was alarming that a government could take measures to shut down a plant that had been providing jobs and sustaining economic activities on a very large scale over an alleged non-payment of taxes.
Ahmed also announced that the President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, would be the distinguished guest speaker for the 2nd Adeola Odutola Lecture during the AGM scheduled to hold between October 17 and October 19, 2022, with the theme, “An Agenda for Nigeria’s Industrialisation for the Next Decade.”
He said: “Now, this is totally illegitimate. If the government has any issues against any member of our industry (association), or indeed against any corporate citizen, the appropriate thing to do is to take the company to court.
“You can’t use strong arm tactics to shut them down or impose very severe restrictions on their operations simply to force them. This is illegal. And I believe that what has happened will not happen in any normally manage economic environment.
“We have no reason not to pay taxes to Kogi State government as and when you due. Indeed, I’m aware, and I obviously I have the right to say so that the Dangote industry is one of the largest taxpayers in Nigeria.
“And I believe that as a matter of principle that they (Dangote Group) pay their taxes as at when due. There is no justification to threaten with closure of that industry.
“We are totally, totally opposed to that kind of measure. Because any issue between government and the citizen, or even between citizens, there are ways of resolving it amicably or at least in a legal manner, not to use any strong arm tactics.
“We hope that the relevant authorities at both the state and federal level will step in to ensure that this kind of behavior is not repeated.”
He added that MAN has taken the matter up to the Federal Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment with the expectation that the relevant government authorities would take steps to resolve the matter.
Speaking in the same vein, the Director General of MAN, Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadri, said the threat to shutdown Dangote Cement’s factory in Obajana was uncalled for and as a matter of fact against the run of events in the country.
Ajayi-Kadri said: “As we transit to a new government, this is not the time to show how insensitive, and that is the kindest word that I can use, a government can be to an industry.
“Even the host community never participated in that inglorious exercise. You can imagine private citizens bearing arms to shut down a corporate citizen of Nigeria. Nigerians should see it as an affront and the Kogi State Government should be advised to immediately seize all hostilities. We cannot be working against the interest of the people.”
Speaking on other economic issues, he said the re-introduction of excise duty on carbonated soft drinks was done at a very wrong time and amounted to changing the goal post in the middle of the game.
“We had a three- five-year plan for the escalation of the excise duty but all that was thrown into the wind and a new one introduced that is targeted at killing the industry. This should be rescinded immediately. That is the only way that sector will survive.”
Meanwhile, the detailed report submitted to the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello last month was presented to the public by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mrs. Folashade Ayoade at the Government House in Lokoja, yesterday.
Ayoade alleged that the transfer of Obajana to Dangote Industries Limited, was “invalid, null and void.”
She disclosed in the report that three Certificates of Occupancy for Obajana Cement Company Plc, which was solely owned by Kogi State government as at the time, were used to obtain a loan of N63 billion by Dangote.
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, chaired by the SSG, also recommended that: “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. The three documents were used to obtain a loan of sixty-three billion naira only (63,000,000,000.00) to finance the construction of the cement plant in Obajana.”
Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole, specifically 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.