Dangote, BUA Cement and Illegal Limestone Mining in Edo State: The Chronology

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Monday, December 19, 2017 12.38PM / Proshare WebTV 

As the public continues to get inundated with the issues around limestone mining rights between Dangote Cement Africa’s leading player in the Industry, and emerging key player BUA Cement in Edo State, we bring you the chronology of the developments that have ensued so far.
 

BUA Cement’s First Letter of December 5, 2017
 
On December 4th, 2017 Executive Chairman/CEO of BUA Cement Group Alhaji AbdulSamad Isyaku Rabiu, CON wrote an open letter to President Muhmmadu Buhari, on the actions of the Ministry of Mines and Steel and a competitor (Dangote Cement) to subvert the course of justice in an dispute between economic entities related to certain mining areas under contention which they are all parties to. In the letter captioned A Cry for Help: Wanton Abuse of Power by a Serving Minister Geared at Sabotaging Operations of BUA Cement”. 

BUA Cement notified the President that as a law-abiding business entity it has adhered to the laid down procedures and rules guiding business practices in the country. It however raised concerns over the intense pressure and tactics deployed by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in alleged connivance with Dangote Cement to wrest control of its Mining areas ML 18912 and 18913, being held and operated by BUA in Obu-Okpella, Etsako East, Edo State.
 

It stated that these actions are despite the existence of a Suit No FHC/B/CS/7/2016 between BUA & Anor v Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development and Suit No. FHC/B/CS/74/2016.
 

BUA Cement further pointed out in the letter that as the legal holder of ML 18912 and 18913 issued by the Federal Government since 17
th June, 1998 has exercised its rights and fulfilled all its obligations attached to the acquisition of mineral rights and all its obligations to the government as spelt out under extant laws in Nigeria till date. 

The letter further revealed that The Minister, through the Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development wrote a letter dated October 17, 2017 alleging that BUA Cement engaged in Illegal and unlawful mining covering the ML2541 axis in Okene, Kogi State. To this effect BUA was directed to vacate the location, despite the fact that Permanent Secretary was aware that BUA Cement’s operation was in Obu-Okpella, Edo State covering ML 18912 and 18913
. 

In a further press release BUA Cement noted that “For the avoidance of doubt, BUA as a law abiding entity restricts its Obu Cement operations to mining areas covered by ML18912 and ML18913 and located in Obu Okpella, Etsako LG, Edo State. We do not have any mining activities which is specifically in OKENE, Kogi State as the ministry insinuated and as stated in the ML2541 lease given by the ministry to a competitor
”.  

The High Court sitting in Benin asked all parties to the suits before it, including the ministry which is a part to the suit, to maintain the status quo which their spurious stop work order sought to overturn. We are therefore determined, as good corporate citizens, to follow the dictates of the court and not make further pronouncements on the issue lest we seen to be in contempt of the court. We also advise media houses to be aware of this order of the court
”.

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Mines and Steel Ministry Response to BUA Cement Letter December 6, 2017
In an initial response to the letter of BUA Cement to the President, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Mr Mohammed Abass, stated that in the records of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and the Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office, the BUA Group did not have a mining lease over the contentious site (No. 2541ML) and was therefore engaged in illegal mining.

The Permanent Secretary said
“The ministry stands by the stop work order issued to the BUA Group and signed by the Permanent Secretary dated 17th of October, 2017”.

Also clarification provided by the Mining Cadastre Office showed that the coordinates of the mine pit and RoM stockpile area fall wholly within the area of mining Lease No 2541ML belonging to Messrs Dangote Industries Limited
.

The letter was issued after thorough investigation confirmed that the BUA Group was indeed engaging in illegal mining of marble/limestone at a mine pit located on geographical coordinates N070 21’ 47.4’ E0060 26’ 51.8’, while the run-of-mine is stockpiled at an area with geographical coordinates N070 21’ 48.4’; E0060 26’37.2’.
 

“Clarification provided by the Mining Cadastre Office shows that the coordinates of the mine pit and RoM stockpile area fall wholly within the area of mining Lease No 2541ML belonging to Messrs Dangote Industries Limited.”

Abass added, “The ministry had earlier in 2015 issued a stop work order on this same disputed site but the BUA Group disregarded the order and went ahead with its illegal mining activities, under heavy cover of armed soldiers, policemen and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.”
 

“The management of BUA also resisted the enforcement of the latest stop work order issued on October 17, 2017 using a combination of armed militia, soldiers and policemen to obstruct the team from the ministry in effecting the stop work order.”
 

He added that the ministry would not compromise due process in its commitment to promote local and global investments in the Nigerian mining sector.
 

The Atta Family Claim December 15, 2017
.
The ruling Atta Omadivi Family of Okene in Kogi State has described the publication of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development bequeathing the contentious Mining LeaseML 2541 to Dangote Groupas a ‘reflection of desperate, reckless, irresponsible and partisan conduct of the ministry’ which has continued to flout all court injunctions related to the contentious lease. 

It would be recalled that the Executive Chairman/CEO of BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu had petitioned President MuhammaduBuhari on December 4, 2017 in a letter titled “A Cry for Help: Wanton Abuse of Power by a Serving Minister Geared at Sabotaging Operations of BUA Cement,” affirming that the Ministry was taking sides with Dangote Group to claim ownership of the mining site ML2541 in Okpella, Edo State. The Ministry had replied in a statement signed by its Permanent Secretary, Mohammed Abassstating that Mining Lease ML 2541 in Okene, Kogi State belongs to Dangote Industries Limited and that BUA has been illegally mining the site.
 

A statement signed by Prince Mahmoud Atta on behalf of the Atta Family expressed disdain over the Ministry’s hasten conclusion in their publicationstating that suit FHC/LK/CS/25/2017 between Alhaji Mohammed OtaruAdeika&Ors. Versus AICO Ado Ibrahim and Company Limited, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, The Mining Cadestre Office and Dangote Industries Plcpending in Federal High Court in Lokoja will determine who owns the contentious site.
 

Prince Atta wonders why the Ministry has special interest in Dangote to openly and illegally bequeath them ML2541 under contention in competent Court, describing the act as tantamount to contempt of the court.
 

Stressing that the court had ordered that no one can claim ownership of ML2541, Atta said neither Aico nor Dangote owns ML2541 as wrongly declared by the Ministry adding that the Mining Lease remains nontransferable until the suit isdetermined.
 

According to Atta, “The frequency of the publication is reflective of desperate, reckless, irresponsible and partisan conduct of the Ministry in clear violation, disregard and suppression of a subsisting court order dated June 15, 2017 in respect to the transfer, operations and ownership of the purported Mining Lease ML 2541.
 

“We hereby inform the general public that the existence, validity and ownership of ML2541 is a subject matter in suit No. FHC/LK/CS/25/2017 between Alhaji Mohammed OtaruAdeika&Ors. V. AICO Ado Ibrahim and Company Limited, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, The Mining Cadestre Office and Dangote Industries as defendants before Honourable Justice M. Sani of the Federal High Court, LokojaKogi State.
 

“We wish to state that the Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry and Dangote Industries Plc are acting in violation of a subsisting order of injunction of the Federal High Court Lokoja, Kogi State restraining them by themselves servants agents assignees transferees or other third parties from parading themselves as the holders of ML2541 pending the determination of the substantive suit.
 

“For the purpose of clarity, we wish to restate again that the court was explicit in its order that no one can parade themselves as the holders of ML2541 pending the determination of the suit. As such, neither AICO nor Dangote can’t lay claim to the ownership of ML2541 as the ministry said in its offending publication. Neither is the Mining Lease transferable until the determination of the suit brought against them by our family.
 

“It is unfortunate this action and conduct is being perpetrated in a democratic dispensation that touts the rule of law. We have continued to insist that the purported transfer of ML2541 to Dangote Industries by Messrs AICO Ibrahim is in clear contravention of Nigerian Mining Act 2007 which the Ministry claims to be upholding in its publication.
 

“The publications by the Ministry seek to overreach the matter before the court and consequently we have instructed our solicitors to protect not only our interests but the sanctity of the court and the judicial process, which include bit not limited to commencing contempt proceedings against the parties in violation of the orders of the court”. The Statement added.

The family also referred to the 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 pending in Federal High Court in Lokoja and its yet to be determined. 
 

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Dangote Reponse to BUA Cement’s claim December 17, 2017
Management of Dangote Group over the weekend 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. 

Dangote’s Executive Director, Mr. Devakumar Edwin frowned at the media war, instigated by BUA against the Dangote Group, over a matter which is already pending before the Federal High Court, Benin Division
 

Edwin revealed that: “Dangote Group validly acquired its interest and mining title in the disputed Mining Lease No. 2541 from AICO Ado Ibrahim & Company Ltd 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 1
st February 2008 and to expire on 31 January, 2033. Thus AICO by virtue of the said grant, became vested with the legal title over ML. No. 2541. In 2014, the Dangote Group approached AICO and indicated interest in acquiring AICO’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.” 

He further explained that:” By a letter dated 05 February 2016, the Ministry wrote to the Managing Director of the Dangote Group to convey the approval of the Ministry for the Transfer/Assignment of ML No. 2541 from AICO to Dangote Group with effect from 03 February 2016. Following the successful transfer of ML. NO. 2541 to Dangote Group, the Group became the holder of the Mining Lease No. 2541.”
 

He said even BUA in its process in Court acknowledged that these illegal mining leases which it claimed were granted in 1997 were temporary mining leases.
 

Edwin also recalled that the then Minister for Solid Minerals under Olusegun Obasanjo’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.
 

“At the end of the Meeting, the Minister declared the Edo Cement’s Mining Leases Nos. 18912 and 18913 illegal and declared the mining site open for interested investors. Given that AICO’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” Edwin said AICO, who 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 AICO’s mining title in Mining Lease No. 2541 that prompted AICO to write to the Ministry in 2015 complaining of BUA’s encroachment.
 

He said: “The 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.”
 

Edwin said: “It is therefore appalling that BUA Group in the midst of these overwhelming facts will 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 justification… The 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 BUA’s continuous illegal activities within Dangote’s ML 2541 aimed at depleting and exhausting the limestone reserves in order to sabotage Dangote Group’s legitimate investment.”
 

BUA Cement Counter-Response to Dangote Group Statement December 18, 2017
In further response to the statement of Dangote Cement, BUA Cement in a recent press release said the 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. We 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 Devakumar’s reckless statements to clarify the cycle of misinformation being proliferated. 

In specific response to Edwin Devakumar of Dangote Group’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. Our Mining operations are limited to Obu-Okpella, Edo State for which licenses ML18912 & 18913 were issued and revalidate by the same ministry in a publica. These license 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 are thus wont to excuse Edwin’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. 

We therefore wish to ask - Why is Dangote, an international company which is also listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, so averse to letting the rule of the law and judicial process take its course? The court has maintained that Status Quo be maintained (This includes BUA’s current ownership of our mines in Edo State) but the management of Dangote Group Dangote, as has been their strategy in the past to other companies in competition with them, is still seeking to out-muscle competition through backdoor means rather than let the court decide. If anyone is not satisfied, they should write to the courts as an independent arbiter for an interpretation of “maintaining status quo”: rather than spread misinformation in the court of public opinion.
 

it 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?   No one is above the law. 

The antecedents of Dangote Plc in  trying to outmuscle competition is not in doubt. Various cases abound within and outside the cement industry – one of which was their taking over of the limestone deposits of another competing entity in the south-south region of Nigeria until they ceeded 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 Yar’Adua. Or is it the case of Polo House Jetty Tincan previously owned by his uncle, Usman Dantata, whose License 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.
 

The facts of the matter as far as we are concerned is that BUA’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.
 

EDO GOV SHUTS DOWN DISPUTED OBU MINES, OKPELLA December 19, 2017


·        
ORDERS CP TO DISLODGE ILLEGAL MINERS

·        
OKPELLA COMMUNITY HAILS DECISION 

Citing security concerns arising from the proclamation by the Federal Ministry of mines that illegal mining activities are being carried out at the contentious Obu mines in Okpella, Edo state, the Governor, Godwin Obaseki yesterday shut down the mines until further notice. 

The governor said the decision was taken in the interest of peace and tranquility, pointing out that flouting of his order will be met with wrath of the state government. 

Consequently, the governor directed the state police Commissioner and the Army Brigade Commander in the state to halt further operations at the Obu mines with immediate effect. 

It would be recalled that the ownership of the mines has been a subject of dispute between the Africa’s leading Cement manufacturers, Dangote Cement Plc and Bua Cement, which the Federal Ministry of Mines had asked to vacate the mines because it was an exploiting limestones in the area illegally. 

Obaseki made the announcement while receiving in his office Community heads and Chiefs of Ukhomunyio Okpella, whose community is hosting the disputed mines and had come to express reservation at the alleged use of youths as militia to enforce perceived rights to ownership of the mines and thus creating security threat to the peace of the people.

The governor described Okpella as the mineral gem of Edo state and as such mineral resources ought to be a blessing to the people of the state “but regrettably, the situation on ground has degenerated to a security threat and therefore there is the need to nip it in the bud.
 

“The Federal Ministry of Mines which has authority over the mines has proclaimed that what we have there now is illegal mining and we don’t want break down of law and order. The situation has degenerated badly.
 

“Those of you were concerned have moved and tried to resolve the matter, we lost two of the people on the road to Benin while on the trouble shooting mission to Benin.  We had a meeting in Abuja two weeks ago and we analysed the Obu mines issue. 

“Two people cant lay claim to one asset, until the court decides the ownership or the federal supervising agency, the Ministry of Mines says otherwise, I am closing down that Obu mines with immediate effect . because we believe there is globally acceptable way of determining ownership in a contentious matter as this without recourse to self help” 

The governor noted that mines is on the exclusive list of the federal government and the ministry said there is illegal mining going on there, “from today there will be no further mining operations in Obu” 

The Okpela Chiefs applauded the government decision and declared their loyalty to the state government saying the decision will bring relief to the people who have been living under fear. 

Earlier, spokesman of the Okpella Chiefs, Chief Moshood Aliu told the governor that they were in his office to declared their support for the state government’s effort at industrializing the state and for him to intervene in the dispute between Dangote Cement and BUA. 

The Community heads disclosed that the youths of the Community are being incited against one another in a bid to enforce perceived right to ownership of the mines, a situation he said generated tension in the area. 

Chief Moshood explained that while the location of the mines is  not in dispute, what is being disputed is the ownership, Obu mines was in the then Mid West, later Bendel and now Edo state. We are the occupier of the area and we don’t want trouble, the unilateralism and use of youths as militia to enforce ownership right is condemnable. 

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