Disturbing reports have emerged of an ongoing protracted dispute between corporate giants and competitors, Dangote Group and BUA Group, over a prized mining site, resulting in allegations of deployment of “armed militia, soldiers and policemen” to gain the upper hand in the turf war.
Details of the messy dispute came to the fore through an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari by BUA Group and a statement in response by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
BUA Group’s open letter signed by its Executive Chairman, Abdulsamad Rabiu, and published in several newspapers, was titled: ‘A cry for Help: Wanton Abuse of Power By a Serving Minister Geared at Sabotaging Operations of BUA Cement,’ and dated December 4, 2017.
In the letter, the company urged President Buhari to investigate acts of sabotage against BUA Cement operations by Dangote Group in connivance with top officials of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
BUA had accused the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and the minister in charge, Kayode Fayemi, of trying to deny it justice in the pursuit of its legitimate economic right to the territory in dispute.
BUA had alleged that the ministry sanctioned the use of thugs and armed personnel of the nation’s security forces to disrupt operations at BUA Cement in Okpella despite a suit pending before a Federal High Court due for hearing on December 5 and 6, 2017.
But in its reaction, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mohammed Abass, dismissed BUA’s allegations as campaign of calumny against the ministry and the minister.
Abass claimed that the open letter was an attempt by the company to blackmail the ministry into turning a blind eye to its illegal operations.
The statement then re-directed BUA’s allegations of illicit involvement of militia and security personnel in the dispute to BUA, effectively accusing it of the same infractions.
Abbas 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.
“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.”
These developments raise very important questions that require urgent answers and clarifications especially from the government which is supposed to be an unbiased arbiter as the regulator, but which has been dragged into the dispute as an alleged unfair party.
Is Fayemi and his Ministry of Mines and Steel Development favouring Dangote over BUA?
The allegations of BUA against Fayemi and his ministry are grave and cannot be ignored. The allegations which border on the abuse of power to serve private interests hold serious implications for the economic, legal and social structures of any country.
Government’s responsibility of ensuring a level-playing field for all parties and holding them to account based on established laws and operational guidelines is sacred and must always be so deemed.
Therefore, Fayemi owes it to the parties in question, the business community, and the Nigerian people, to provide a satisfactory explanation which will include verifiable facts that neither he nor his ministry, as the regulator of the mining sector, has been compromised.
He must ensure that a full account is rendered on his ministry’s role in the dispute since it started, and allow public access to all relevant facts in a transparent manner. This must be done forthwith!
How can the ministry, with the instrumentality of state at its disposal, complain of BUA’s disregard of its stop order and use of “armed soldiers, policemen and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps”?
The ministry’s lamentation over BUA’s alleged disregard of its stop order and use of security personnel and “armed militia” is an embarrassing self-acknowledgement of dereliction of duty.
This claim must be immediately probed.
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