The Kogi State Government and Dangote Cement Plc continue to press their claims for ownership of the Obajan cement plant in Kogi State, resulting in a worsening dispute.
Dangote management has threatened legal action in response to the recent invasion of the plant and the shooting of its employees by armed vigilantes acting on government orders.
The Kogi State Government reportedly moved on Wednesday to seal the cement plant that it claimed belonged to the state.
Although the government claimed only one person was shot during the chaos, the cement company claimed that 27 of its employees were shot by vigilantes acting on the state government’s orders.
Governor Yahaya Bello on Thursday said that the state government was ready to negotiate with Dangote Group once the company agreed that the plant belonged to the state.
Yahaya stated that the decision to seal the plant came after several petitions from members of the local community about the company’s marginalisation when he presented documents from 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 to back the state’s claim to the ownership of the plant.
“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,” he said.
Dangote Cement Plc, in a statement titled, ‘Illegal Shutdown of Dangote Cement, Obajana Plant’ and signed by its Group Managing Director, Michel Puchercos, said the armed invaders acted on a resolution of the state House of Assembly on controversial tax claims, which it added the governor had contradicted when he said the shutdown was due to an alleged invalid acquisition of the company by Dangote Industries Limited.
“In the process of forcefully evicting the workers to enforce the shutdown, the vigilantes shot at 27 of our workers and also destroyed some of the company’s property at the plant. We have taken steps to get the hoodlums apprehended by law enforcement agencies, and we will ensure that full legal action is taken against them,” Dangote Plc wrote.
The Commissioner for Information, Kinglsey Fanwo, said in a statement on Friday titled ‘Dangote is distorting facts – Govt,’ that the state has all the applicable documents necessary to show that Dangote’s alleged acquisition of Obajana (cement plant) was null and void.
However, the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture has criticised the cement factory’s closure, adding that the step does not exactly help the contentious issue of tax remittance to the state government.
Victoria Akai, Director-General of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has also called for the factory’s immediate reopening and the start of mediation and arbitration.