05 January 2018, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Cement firm, BUA Group, has accused Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, of shutting it out of operation in one of its mining sites in the state.
The Edo State government and security agencies comprising men of the Nigerian army, the police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), and Department of State Services (DSS) in the state had on Wednesday stormed the disputed Obuh mine site and arrested two employees of BUA International Limited over alleged violation of a stop-work order issued by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
The stop-work order followed the tussle between Dangote Group and BUA Group over the mining right in Obuh community in Okpella, Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State.
Governor Obaseki of Edo State ordered the arrest of the two employees of BUA International Limited 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 mining site.
A statement by the corporate department of the firm, Wednesday, also alleged the arrest of two of the company’s staff during Mr. Obaseki’s visit to the site, located in Obu-Okpella.
BUA said the governor conducted “a gestapo-style forceful shutdown of that mine despite a subsisting court pronouncement that the Mine be allowed to operate”.
“Upon reaching that mining site and not meeting any personnel or equipment, two BUA Cement employees were invited to the mining site to receive the governor. We later learnt that these employees were arrested upon arrival on the orders of the governor and taken away for no just reason,” the statement said.
BUA said it is unaware why its two staff were being held, saying however that it has directed its lawyers to “secure their unconditional release immediately”.
The company said it has also ordered its lawyers “to return to court” as regards the shutting down of the premises, which, it says contravenes a court order for the status quo to be maintained.
Gov. Obaseki has defended the actions of his government, noting that the state government was more interested in the security of lives and property and that much as there was need for investors to make returns on their investment, no money is worth any life.
“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 the 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”, the governor said.
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, Major General Ibrahim Garba, who led the army personnel to the enforcement exercise, directed that explosives being used for the mining activities be confiscated, adding, “We gave permission for the explosives to be used here. But now, they would be sent to the brigade headquarters.”
Speaking at the Palace of the Okuokphellagbe of Okpella, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Andrew Dirisu, 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.
Alhaji Dirisu reiterated that the people want peace in the area, noting, “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.”