While the public eagerly await the court ruling on the dispute over ownership of Mining Lease No 2541 in Obu, Okpella, in Edo State between Dangote Industries Ltd and BUA Group, both conglomerates again continued their verbal war with each asserting their claims and counters.
Dangote Group in a statement on Thursday night, which it said was to further re-assured its shareholders, the regulators and members of the public that it is the true owner, faulted “BUA’s fraudulent claim that the Dangote Group is trying to monopolize the cement business in the Country.”
It said “BUA has willfully, deliberately and mischievously concealed the fact that it has at least 12 Mining/Quarry Leases within and around the area in question as opposed to this sole Mining Lease No 2541 owned by the Dangote Group.”
However, in its response Friday morning, BUA management accused Dangote Group of furthering “its cycle of misinformation over the mining dispute… through falsehoods and bigger lies,” stressing that Dangote Group is playing “to the gallery.”
BUA Group said “without equivocation that it has never laid claim to ML2541 as our operations covered by ML18912 and ML18913 are in Obu, Okpella, Edo State and not Okene, Kogi State where Dangote’s license 2541 is sited.”
Electronic copies of supporting documents seen by Investdata News, show that Mining Leases No. 19912 was granted to Bendel Cement Company Limited, located at KM 34, Auchi-Okene Road, Okpella, PMB 033, Auchi, Edo State, upon “that parcel of land measuring 73.342 hectares at Obu-Okpella, Etsako Local Government Area of Edo State; as well as ML 18913 measuring 80.343 hectares also in Obu-Okpella, both for a term of 21 years from October 24, 1997.
The documents dated June 17, 1998, was validated by the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development taskforce for revalidation of mining leases, licences and permits, published in the Thisday newspaper edition of Tuesday, February 7, 2006, titled: “outcome of the revalidation, titled “outcome of the revalidation exercise conducted between 31st October and 30th November, 2005.”
Therein, ML18913 and ML18912 were listed on the said publication against the name: Edo Cement Company Limited.
Another document also showed that Bua International Ltd, on June 15, 2017, paid N1,299.00 as royalty on 43,300 tons of limestone for the month of March 2007, and another N1.302m to the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development Fees in respect of ML785, ML18912, ML18913 and 9559QLS, “being April 2017, royalty for limestone from the sites at 62, Jattu Road, Auch Edo State branch of UBA Plc on May 10, 2017.
Meanwhile, according to documents also cited by Investdata News, Dangote Group’s mining lease was issued by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development’s Cadastre Office, Abuja as No. 2541ML, granted to AICO Ado Ibrahim & Co. Ltd. The lease was for mining marble at Okene, Kogi State and granted with effect from February 1, 2008, for 25 years (Until January 31, 2033), after which it is renewable.
Another document available to Investdata News is the minutes of Interstate Boundary Technical Committee meeting on Edo/Kogi Interstate Boundary of February 28, 2006, chaired by Malam Yahaya Abdulkarim, then Minister of State for Works, with members such as Prof. A.E. Ekoko, Commissioner, Interstate Boundaries, National Boundaries Commission (NBC), and 13 others, asides others including M.J. Esewe, Surveyor-General of Edo State, O. Ofiare, his deputy and G.O Osayunde, the Secretary of the State Boundary Committee, J.F.O. Bamsa, Kogi State Surveyor General and J.O. Ipenida, Secretary of the State Boundary Committee, as well as five others.
The meeting (also attended by the Surveyor-General of the Federation, I.A.A Adewola, who presented a digitalized map of the Edo/Kogi Interstate Boundary highlighting the sectors in dispute), resolved among others, “that in the Obu Marble site- Okpella/Okene Sector, the alignment of the boundary line should follow the Edo State claim line.”
With all of these proofs, BUA in its statement wonders how Dangote Group can “claim to be in possession when even their predecessor-in-title, AICO, was issued its license 10 years after BUA’s licenses was issued and two years after the completion and commencement of production at our over $1billion Obu Cement Factory?”
It noted that AICO had instituted a suit at the Federal High Court, Lokoja claiming to assert its title to ML2541, and then went ahead to transfer its title to Dangote, adding that “Dangote further applied to the courts to assert his rights to ML2541.”
BUA further wondered how a party claiming to be in possession “ask the courts to assert his rights to his license?”
The group restated its earlier call that anyone faulting “the court’s pronouncement to preserve status quo should write to the courts for an interpretation. The court made a pronouncement and Dangote’s lawyers cannot deny knowledge of that. The onus is not on us, as they have wrongly alleged to provide an order of the court but rather they should seek an interpretation from the courts if they so wish.
But Dangote, in its own statement said: “There is no Status Quo Order made by any Court that allows BUA to continue mining over the disputed Mining Lease area. In fact, there is no Status Quo Order at all. It is critical for us to point out that there is currently pending, a Motion for Interlocutory Injunction dated 27 April 2016 seeking to restrain the BUA Group from continuing with its illegal mining activities on the Mining Lease Area but in spite of having been served with this application and contrary to all tenets of the law which forbid a party served with an Interlocutory Injunction Motion from taking any step in respect of the subject matter of the Suit, the BUA Group has in utter disdain to the Court continued with its illegal mining activities.”
In response, BUA Group recalled a December 5, 2017 court session, when “counsel of BUA raised the issue of the encroachment by the Ministry and Dangote in its Mining areas covered by ML18912 and ML18913 at the courts.
“When this matter was raised, counsel to Dangote and the Minister of Mines promptly apologized and they were thereafter cautioned by the courts that once a matter is before a court, no party should take any step that will affect the subject matter of the court.”
Also, while Dangote accused BUA of using the media to cause confusion, BUA said it has become “aware that Dangote Group will stop at nothing to keep pushing these false narratives as well as keep distracting from the core issue at hand, we once again enjoin Dangote Group and their cohorts to await respectfully, the outcome of the judicial process.”
It also noted that Dangote applied for a Mining Lease over the same area in 2013 and was rejected by the Ministry on the sole ground that it overlaps ML. 2541 and at the time belonged to AICO.
“If BUA had title that dates back to 1998, is there any conceivable reason why it will apply for the same title over the same area in 2013” the statement queried.
Dangote, while debunking the claim by BUA that it is trying to monopolize the cement business stated that: “It is misleading for BUA to falsely accuse Dangote of undermining its operations and attempting to create a monopoly in the Cement Industry in Nigeria, as we have always coexisted peacefully with other competitors in Obajana and Ibese.”