After accusing BUA Group of engaging in illegal mining of limestone deposits in a contentious mining lease, Dangote Group and its subsidiary, Dangote Industries Limited, DIL, on Wednesday said they were now ready to respect the court order to parties to maintain status quo in the dispute.
On Monday, Dangote Group’s Executive Director, Devakumar Edwin, during a media briefing accused the BUA Group of engaging in illegal mining of limestone deposits in Mining Lease No. 2541, located in a boundary town of Oguda/Ubo in Okene Kogi State.
The ownership of the lease purportedly awarded by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is a subject of serial litigation between BUA Group, Dangote Group and the Atta Omadivi ruling family of Okene in Kogi State.
In a statement, Dangote Group said issues raise by BUA Group in its December 4 petition to President Muhammadu Buhari would be resolved under the stipulated law and constitution of the country.
“The ongoing suits shall be resolved by the courts in accordance with their role under the Constitution and laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the statement said.
BUA Group petitions
On December 4, the Chairman, BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu, petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari to dispute the assignment of the lease to DIL.
Mr. Rabiu, in an open petition published in several newspapers, under the caption: “A Cry for Help: Wanton Abuse of Power by a Serving Minister Geared at Sabotaging Operations of BUA Cement,” accused the ministry of taking sides with Dangote Group in the dispute.
He had accused the Minister of Mines & Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, of ‘unduly influencing the course of justice in a dispute between economic entities”, despite being a party to a pending suit.
Mr. Fayemi, the BUA Group boss alleged, had been working with Dangote “to forcefully wrest control of its mining areas related to Mining Leases ML 18912 and 18913 operated by the company at Obu-Okpella in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State.”
These actions, Mr. Rabiu pointed out, were taken by the Minister despite ongoing litigations against him and DIL, slated for hearing on December 5 and 6, 2017.
Mr. Rabiu had insisted BUA Group possessed the legal right to mine in the area through the two leases issued since June 17, 1998, having fulfilled all obligations to the government.
To support his claim, Mr. Rabiu attached a Mining Lease certificate No. 18913 purportedly granted to the defunct Bendel Cement Company Limited to mine Marble from the 80.343 hectares parcel of land for 21 years, beginning October 24, 1997.
BUA Cement, which acquired the defunct Bendel Cement Company from the Edo State government, also claimed lease No. 18912 was equally issued to the company for the same purpose for a 73.342 hectares land area.
Dangote Group’s Reaction
In its reaction to BUA Group’s claims, Dangote Group said it validly acquired its interest and mining title in the disputed Mining Lease from AICO Ado Ibrahim & Company Ltd sometime in 2014.
The company said the acquisition of the mining title followed AICO’s application to the Mining Cadastre Office and Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
Following the company’s application, Mr. Edwin said, the ministry in exercise of its powers under the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, granted AICO the now disputed ML. No. 2541 for the renewable period of 25 years, effective from February 1, 2008, till January 31, 2033 when it is expected to expire.
Following the ministry’s title right granted AICO, Dangote said it approached the company in 2014 to indicate interest in acquiring its stake in the lease.
In exercise of its right under the Mining Act, Dangote said AICO had applied to the ministry for the transfer of its right in the ML No. 2541, after both parties paid all the statutory fees demanded by the ministry.
“By a letter dated 05 February 2016, the Ministry wrote to the Managing Director of the Dangote Group to convey the approval of the Ministry for the Transfer/Assignment of ML No. 2541 from AICO to Dangote Group, with effect from 03 February 2016.
“Following the successful transfer of ML. NO. 2541, Dangote Group became the holder of the Mining Lease No. 2541,” Mr. Edwin explained.
Mr. Edwin recalled that in 2006, the then Minister for Solid Minerals under Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime, Oby Ezekwesili, had also waded into the dispute, by inviting the managements of Edo Cement Company Limited and AICO Ado Ibrahim & Company Limited for a meeting over the disputed lease.
The former minister, Mr. Edwin said, had during the meeting queried not only the legality of Mining Lease Nos 18912 and 18913 tendered by BUA Group, but also the power of the Governor of Edo State to grant them.
Subsequently, he said, the minister had ordered the mining site opened to interested investors.
Although he said AICO’s then existing Mining Lease No. 17825 was pending renewal, the company had applied for fresh Mining Lease No. 2541 in 2007 under the Mining Act, 2007, a request the ministry granted in 2008 without any objection from Edo Cement Company.
Even after the right to Mining Lease No. 2541 was transferred to DIL, he saidm AICO continued its mining operations in the site until BUA Group acquired Edo Cement Company Limited and resuscitated the dispute to the title.
“It was the attempt by BUA to encroach on AICO’s mining title in Mining Lease No. 2541 that prompted AICO to write to the Ministry in 2015 complaining of BUA’s encroachment,” Mr. Edwin said.
After investigating the complaint by AICO, Dangote said the ministry wrote to the Chairman of BUA Group on January 21, 2015 directing the company to stop mining within the ML. No. 2541 site, a directive that prompted BUA to sue the ministry at the Federal High Court Benin in 2016.
MINING CADASTRE OFFICE SPEAKS
For the Mining Cadastre Office, MCO, the contentious mining title was a fresh mining lease No. 2541ML granted AICO Ado Ibrahim & Co. Limited to mine marble in Okene, Kogi State for about 25 years, effective between February 1, 2008 and January 31, 2033.
The ministry accused BUA Group of carrying out its marble/limestone mining activities beyond the limits of its leases.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mohammed Abass, in a rebuttal to BUA Group’s claims insisted the mining lease belonged to DIL, pointing out that records at both the Ministry and the MCO showed the company did not have any mining lease over the contentious site.
ATTA OMADIVI FAMILY INDICTS MINISTRY
For the Atta Omadivi ruling Family of Okene in Kogi State, the decision by the ministry to assign the mining lease to Dangote was a ‘reflection of desperate, reckless, irresponsible and partisan conduct.’
The family, through a statement by Mahmoud Atta made available to PREMIUM TIMES, accused the ministry of continuing to flout all court injunctions relating to the allocation of the contentious lease.
The family said despite suit No. FHC/LK/CS/25/2017 pending before Justice M. Sani of the Federal High Court in Lokoja, the ministry was in a hurry to publish that the controversial mining site belonged to DIL.
The suit is between Mohammed Otaru Adeika & Ors.; AICO Ado Ibrahim and Company Limited, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, the Mining Cadestre Office and DIL.