Aliko Dangote’s cement plant shutdown in Kogi State has elicited different reactions from the state’s indigenes, business bodies and Nigerians. While some people have commended the state government’s actions, some governmental bodies see it as an uncalled action taken by the state against one of the largest manufacturers of cement in Africa.
Though the action was frowned upon by some, the state said the move resulted from petitions from locals requesting an inquiry into the acquisition of the plant by Dangote cement two decades ago.
Kingsley Fanwo, the Kogi State Commissioner for Information, said, “It was found that no valid acquisition took place, as Dangote could not show evidence of what was paid as consideration for the acquisition.
Therefore, the House of Assembly ordered the company’s closure pending when they can present it with credible evidence of a valid acquisition.”
The stance of the manufacturing association of Nigeria MAN
On the ownership tussle between the Kogi State and Dangote cement plc, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) condemned the action taken by the state government to seal the plant.
This was expressed after the state presented 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 was released by the state government.
The report, which was presented by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Folashade Ayoade, said that the transfer of Obajana to Dangote Industries Limited was “invalid, null and void.”
The SSG, who chaired the committee, said, “Kogi State government should take steps to cancel the seven Certificates of Occupancy in the name of Dangote Cement Company. Agreement between Kogi State Government of Nigeria and Dangote Industries Limited, dated July 30, 2002, and supplemental agreement dated February 14, 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 the 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 the Kogi State government as the sole owner. The three documents were used to obtain a loan of sixty-three billion nairas only (63,000,000,000.00) to finance the construction of the cement plant in Obajana.”
Despite the evidence presented by the state and the absence of a Dangote representative at the scheduled meaning, the director general of MAN, Segun Ajayi-Kadri, said that the action the state took against the cement company was uncalled for and indeed went against the prevailing trend of events in the nation.
He 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 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 seize all hostilities immediately. We cannot be working against the interest of the people.”
To this, the National Association of Kogi State Students (NAKOSS) accused MAN of trying to mislead the people. The statement said, “We are duty bound to inform the public that the argument of this association, which the whole world knows is being controlled by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, is lopsided and lacks merit.”
Though the Dangote group is yet to prove the ownership of the cement plant, the governor said the state is open for discussion once the group is ready.
He said, “We received several petitions from the general public over this 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.”
What the Kogi youths are saying
The dispute over the ownership of the Obajana plant received different reactions from the indigenes of Kogi State. This has seen the state’s youths express displeasure towards the cement tycoon, Aliko Dangote.
The youths who expressed themselves through the National Association of Kogi State Students (NAKOSS) commended the state government for taking the bold step to question the acquisition of the Kogi cement plant by Aliko Dangote. From the statement released and signed by the association’s president, Rachael Balogun, Aliko Dangote’s cement has exploited the indigenes of the Kogi state of their birthright.
According to their statement, “As indigenes of Kogi state, we affirm that the government of Kogi state, under Alhaji Yahaya Bello, should be commended for demanding evidence of a strange agreement that delivered our birth rights, 100 per cent, on a platter of gold to Dangote Group.
There are documents already in the public domain detailing the economic injustice carried out against the Kogi people in view of an investment that has not for one day benefitted them.”
This was despite the fact that the Obajana Cement factory was founded and developed by the state government before Dangote proposed to partner with the state.
Apart from the absence of any documentation supporting the legal acquisition and conversion of the plant from Kogi cement to Dangote cement, the students, in their statement, said the company is responsible for the deaths in the state.
Part of their statement read: “With many either dying daily from environmental hazards arising from Dangote’s activities in the area or in the hands of its reckless drivers that have killed many across Nigeria (countless Kogi state students inclusive). All these hazards, yet nothing accrues to the government from a concern it created.”
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