The Edo State Government and security agencies comprising officers of the Nigerian Army, the Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, State Security Services, SSS, in the state on Wednesday stormed the disputed Obu mine site and arrested two employees of BUA International Limited over violation of a Stop Work order issued by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel.
The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki ordered the arrest of the two employees when he visited the site and discovered that work was ongoing despite relaying directives from the federal government on a stop-work order pending the determination of a court suit over the ownership of the mine site.
Mr. Obaseki said that the state government was more interested in the security of lives and property. He said though there was need for investors to make returns on their investment, no money is worth any life.
He said: “There is a dispute over the ownership of this mine site. The dispute is in court. There was specific instruction from the Minister of Mines and Steel Development asking that work should stop pending the outcome of the matter before the court. I addressed a section of the Okpella community who came to me to express concerns about the growing tension in the community because of the dispute.
“At that point, I issued instructions that the work should stop in line with the federal government directive and the case in court. I said that status quo be maintained until the determination of the case in court. I think that is the simple, commonsensical thing to do. There is a quarrel and all parties should maintain peace and the status quo.”
He said it was regrettable that having gotten the directive, the management of BUA International Limited went on air to say that the state government has no authority and right to enforce a federal government directive.
According to him, “What they are saying in essence is that government does not matter. That sort of utterance and position is very dangerous for our country for a company that needs government to treat us with such disdain. With this, things will degenerate into anarchy. How can they operate in such an environment. We don’t care who owns what, but human life is more expensive than whatever money anybody can make.”
It was gathered that there are ten other mine sites aside the disputed one, and with the stop work order, BUA International Limited could mine from its other sites in the area to sustain its production.
The Commander of 4 Brigade, Ibrahim Garba, a brigadier general, who led the Army personnel to the enforcement exercise, directed that explosives being used for the mining activities be confiscated.
“We gave permission for the explosives to be used here. But now, they would be sent to the brigade headquarters,” he said.
Speaking at the Palace of the Okuokphellagbe of Okpella, Andrew Dirisu, Mr. Obaseki said the visit to the site was to assure the people of the area that government was on top of the situation and to ensure peace in the community.
“With the action we have taken now, we know there would be pressure on the concerned parties to resolve the situation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Dirisu reiterated that the people want peace in the area.
“There is no way we wouldn’t welcome people to invest. But what we want is for everyone to take what they get and no one should take from another. For now, as you have given your order, who are we to dispute it. I thank you for calling for peace in this matter.”