More trouble for Africa’s richest man, Billionaire Aliko Dangote Cement factory shutdown in Kogi

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) says the shutdown of the Dangote Cement factory in Obajana, Kogi state, sends negative signals to potential foreign investors.

NewsWireNGR had reported that, the Kogi state government says it has commenced the process of recovering the cement plant in Obajana from Dangote Industries Limited.

On Wednesday, the cement plant was sealed due to an “ownership tussle” between the company and the state government.

Chinyere Almona, LCCI director-general, said this on Thursday in reaction to the decision of the Kogi government to seal off the company’s factory amid an “ownership tussle”.

The company had alleged that the Kogi government’s security agents shot seven staff during the invasion.

According to Almona, the attack is a reflection of the poor handling of investment protection issues in our country.

She said the LCCI believed there are more decent ways to handle regulatory and legislative matters concerning businesses in Nigeria than resorting to violence.

“The invasion of the Dangote Cement factory by youths that led to the shooting of factory workers is unfortunate, ill-construed, and avoidable,” Almona said.

“We advocate a win-win situation for businesses and the government. We will therefore call on all parties to exercise caution and be protective of jobs, assets of production, and government revenues from corporate organisations like the Dangote Cement factory.

“The federal government and Kogi state government have hitherto benefited from business revenues and social investments.

“It is therefore expected that the government would be interested in creating an enabling business environment that can attract both local and foreign investors.

“And where there are infractions, handling such should be in accordance with best practices and the rule of law that protect investors’ rights and human lives.”

The LCCI DG recommended a meeting of all government agencies connected with the acquisition of the cement plant to resolve any differences.

She said the process can be taken without necessarily shutting down the factory and endangering jobs, products, and government revenues.

“This point is critical as wrong handling or unprofessional approaches to resolutions can send negative signals to potential foreign investors,” Almona said.

She said the growing mining industry in Kogi state has benefitted from the production activities of the Dangote Cement factory, which offers both infrastructural and corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects to enhance the standard of living in the state.

Almona further urged the presidential enabling business environment council (PEBEC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), and the Nigeria Investment Protection Commission (NIPC), to swiftly intervene to resolve the dispute.

In a related development, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) also condemned the decision of the Kogi government to forcefully close the Dangote Cement plant.

Speaking with journalists on Thursday, Mansur Ahmed, MAN president, said it was alarming that a state government could take measures to shut down a plant that had been providing jobs and sustaining economic activities on a very large scale over alleged non-payment of taxes and land ownership issues.

He said if the government has any dispute with any member of the industry, the appropriate thing to do was to take the company to court.

“You can’t use strong-arm tactics to shut them down or impose very severe restrictions on their operations simply to force them. This is illegal. And I believe that what has happened will not happen in any well-managed economic environment,” Ahmed said.

“We have taken up this matter to the ministry of industry and hope they will extend that to relevant authorities. I believe the government will take steps to resolve the matter.”

Some workers of Dangote Cement, Obajana in Kogi state were reportedly shot and others injured as armed members of the state’s security outfit stormed the cement factory.

Dangote Cement is owned by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote. The incident, reportedly happened early on Wednesday.

Shortly after the state House of Assembly had ordered the closure of the company after its investigation revealed that the cement factory allegedly had no valid acquisition for the company.

Some staff members of the company said about seven persons were shot during the incident.

Meanwhile, members of the mining and host communities have condemned the state government for what they described as the extrajudicial and unlawful deployment of the vigilantes to cause chaos in Obajana community.

A local medium, The Advocate reports that the group was led by the state Director-General of Lands; Commissioner for Solid Minerals, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Security, Commodore Jerry Omodara (rtd), Chairman of Kabba/Bunnu LGA, Chairman of Ijumu LGA and the State ALGON Chairman, Alh. Taofeek; Senior Special Assistant on Job Creation, Dele Iselewa and Chairman of Lokoja LGA, Alh. Mohammed Dansabe.

On their arrival at the main gate, a disagreement ensued between the thugs and the few policemen guarding the plant, as they shot sporadically into the air to disperse all staff and community members. “By this time, the vigilantes had succeeded in locking both entrance and exit gates of the company with many workers stranded,” a community source said.

A staff member of the company said the vigilantes wielded arms of different kinds including local and assorted rifles as residents and passersby scampered to safety.

Meanwhile, the seven staff members of the cement company who were allegedly shot were reportedly being attended to at undisclosed hospitals over the gunshot wounds inflicted on them.

A source identified some of the vigilantes as thugs drawn from the state security outfit.

David Oluruntoba, spokesman for the Oyo mining host community described the act as primitive and disgraceful, saying the youths of the community can never be used, and will not take part in such ‘evil practice’.

He said: “They called us to join them. But I told them that the company has not offended us. We just signed a Community Development Agreement (CDA) and the company has been helping us and providing us with jobs. What has the government done for us, nothing. There is no basis to support the government.”

Speaking in the same vein, the spokesman for the Iwaa mining community, Rotimi Kekereowo said: “We would never support the government on this matter. What have they done for us? We don’t have a single political appointment at the state level. Even when we had problems with electricity and flooding, it was Dangote that was helping us. So, I want to repeat it, we will never support them.”

Speaking also, the Olu of Akpata, Fredrick Balogun said he was never contacted and as such, cannot justify the unwarranted invasion.

“We are royal fathers, and we will continue to seek the path of reconciliation and amicable resolution of any misunderstanding. We don’t have issues with the company,” he charged.

Mathew Ojonugwa, a resident said important issues like flooding which has rendered many people homeless in the state have not been attended to, “only to be chasing private companies that have been providing us with means of livelihood”.

“The state governor should face the issue of flooding and let the people live in peace. If there are issues, let him employ dialogue and resolve it rather than this kind of use of force,” he said. 

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