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Shock As Kogi State Govt Shuts Down, Claims Ownership Of Dangote Cement Obajana, Nigeria’s Largest Cement Company

Shock and tension has gripped the mining communities of Obajana in Lokoja Local Government Area (LGA) of Kogi State, Northcentral Nigeria following the incident that led to the closure of the Dangote Cement factory. 

Several staff of the company, were reportedly injured on Wednesday when hundreds of youths stormed the main gate of the factory and had confrontations with the policemen guarding the plant. 

Obajana Cement is Dangote’s flagship plant and the largest of its three factories in Nigeria at 16.25Mta capacity across five lines. Opened in 2008 with two lines totalling 5Mta, it was even then the largest cement factory in Sub-Saharan Africa. The capacity was extended to 10.25Mta in 2012 with the opening of Line 3; added a further 3.0Mta line in late 2014 and another 3.0Mta in 2020.

The Corporate Affairs and Communication Department of the Dangote Group had in a statement on Wednesday said several staff of the company received gunshots when over 500 armed members of the Kogi State’s security outfit, the Vigilantes, stormed the factory. 

The statement added that the said vigilante group members were wielding arms of different kinds wheny the stormed the factory. It added that the injured staff had been taken to hospitals for treatment.

But, in a swift reaction, the Kogi State government stated that it was jubilant youths who chased the workers away after sealing the factory. 

The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Kinsley Fanwo, in a statement, said the State government sealed the factory in Obajana following agitations by Kogi indigenes on the questionable circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the company. 

Reports from the communities on Thursday stated that the residents of the cement town were wearing mourning looks, bemoaning the unfolding crisis rocking their communities.

Many shops, business centres and eateries in the town remained under lock and key for fear of the unknown. However, discordant tunes have been trailing the sealing of the company. 

The mining community of Iwa and Oyo in the Obajana enclave described the action of the youth as falling short of maturity and civility. 

In particular, the Spokesperson of the Iwa mining community, Rotimi Kekereowo, stated that the coming on the stream of the company to their community had helped them, saying they will not support any action that will bring hardships to their community. 

Also, the Spokesperson for the Oyo mining community, Mr David Oluruntoba, called for caution, describing the incident as ‘’primitive and disgraceful.’

He said the community had just signed a Community Development Agreement (CDA) with the company besides providing them with jobs. The Olu of Akpata in the mining community, Fredrick Balogun, said royal fathers “will continue to seek the path of reconciliation and amicable resolution of any misunderstanding. We don’t have issues with the company.”   

Meanwhile, the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, has said that the State is ready to open up discussions once Dangote Company Plc is ready to come clean. 

The Governor disclosed this in Lokoja on Thursday during the public presentation of 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. 

Bello said that he had taken the bold step in line with his mandate to safeguard the lives and livelihood of the people of Kogi. 

“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,” he said.

The detailed report, which was submitted to Governor Yahaya Bello last month, was presented to the public by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. (Mrs) Folashade Ayoade. According to her, the claimed transfer of Obajana to Dangote Industries Limited was “invalid, null and void.” Ayoade said in the report that three certificates of occupancy for Obajana Cement Company Plc, which was solely owned by the Kogi State Government at the time, were used to obtain a loan of N63bn by Dangote.

She said the committee, in view of its findings, had recommended that Kogi State take steps to recover the Obajana Cement Company from the Dangote Group.

The committee, chaired by the Secretary to the State Government, also recommended that, “Kogi State Government should take steps to recover all accrued dividends from profits made over the years, including accrued interest on the same.

“Kogi State Government should take steps to cancel the existing seven Certificates of Occupancy in the name of Dangote Cement Company.”

“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.”

On his part, the Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole, said the acquisition of the Obajana Cement Company by Dangote was without the resolution of the House of Assembly, which rendered 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.

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