Again, Dangote rejects BUA’s ownership of mining lease

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…BUA insists on court’s decision

By Samuel Ibiyemi

The management of Dangote Industries Limited has again vehemently rejected the many assertions of BUA Group, on its dubious claim to being the rightful owner of Mining Lease No 2541. In response, BUA INTERNATIONAL Limited said that Dangote Group is playing to the gallery and insisted on the Ownership of the mining leases

Dangote in a statement made available to our reporter revealed that its reaction became very necessary as a result of its status as a publicly quoted company and to further re-assure its shareholders, the regulators and members of the public that the company is and remains a responsible corporate citizen

Faulting   BUA’s fraudulent claim that the Dangote Group is trying to monopolize the Cement business in the Country, the Group   said that BUA has willfully, deliberately and mischievously concealed the fact that it has at least 12 Mining/Quarry Leases within and around the area in question as opposed to this sole Mining Lease No 2541 owned by the Dangote Group.

Dangote further stated that: “First and foremost, there is no Status Quo Order made by any Court that allows BUA to continue mining over the disputed Mining Lease area. In fact, there is no Status Quo Order at all. It is critical for us to point out that there is currently pending, a Motion for Interlocutory Injunction dated 27 April 2016 seeking to restrain the BUA Group from continuing with its illegal mining activities on the Mining Lease Area but in spite of having been served with this Application and contrary to all tenets of the law which forbid a party served with an Interlocutory Injunction Motion from taking any step in respect of the subject matter of the Suit, the BUA Group has in utter disdain to the Court continued with its illegal mining activities.”

Dangote said BUA, that is now using the media to cause confusion applied for a Mining Lease over the same area in 2013 but the Application was rejected by the Ministry on the sole ground that it overlaps ML. 2541 which at the time belonged to AICO. “If BUA  had title that dates back to 1998, is there any conceivable reason why it will apply for the same title over the same  area in 2013” the statement queried.

Dangote, while debunking the claim by BUA that it is trying to monopolize the cement business stated that: “It is misleading for BUA to falsely accuse Dangote of undermining its operations and attempting to create a monopoly in the Cement Industry in Nigeria, as we have always coexisted peacefully with other competitors in Obajana and Ibese”

The Claim by BUA that it has always been in possession of the disputed mining lease was also faulted by Dangote Group, as it affirmed that the Group “  … has been the one in possession of the Mining Lease since 2016 and this was recently confirmed by the Kogi State High Court’s Judgment delivered on 27 October 2017 in Charge No. HCL/65C/2017: State v. Joshua Oghene, Hon. Haruna Afegbua and Bulus Golit which sentenced the Chief Security Officer of BUA Group, Mr Bulus Golit to one year imprisonment without any option of fine, for attacking Dangote Group’s officials and workers in the Mining Lease No. 2541. The imprisonment of BUA Chief Security Officer amongst other things has confirmed that the claim by the BUA Group that it has been in possession is totally fallacious”

However, Group Head, Corporate Communications, BUA International Limited Otega Ogra said that

BUA thus views with disdain, further attempts by the Dangote Group to play to the gallery in the dispute over our Mining Areas covered by Mining Leases ML18912 and ML18913. BUA wishes to restate without equivocation that it has never laid claim to ML2541 as our operations covered by ML18912 and ML18913 are in Obu, Okpella, Edo State and not Okene, Kogi State where Dangote’s license 2541 is sited.

Otega argued: “As Dangote has asserted, BUA’s licenses for ML18912 & 18913 were issued in 1997 and their ML2541 issued in 2016 (AICO, his predecessor-in-title, claims to have received his in 2008). How can they then claim to be in possession when even their predecessor-in-title, AICO, was issued his license 10years after BUA’s licenses was issued and two years after the completion and commencement of production at our over $1billion Obu Cement Factory? In any event, AICO had instituted a suit at the Federal High Court, Lokoja claiming to assert his title to ML2541. Whilst that was pending, AICO, against all known principles of law, transferred his title to Dangote. It is also worthy of note that Dangote further applied to the courts to assert his rights to ML2541. How can a party who claims to be in possession ask the courts to assert his rights to his license?”

“It should also be noted that this is asides the notorious fact that our license was initially issued in 1976 to Bendel Cement Company, one of our predecessors-in-title. (See attached the 3 licenses and also, a publication from the Ministry of Mines in Thisday, revalidating our ML18912 AND ML18913 in Okpella, Edo state and royalty payments to the Federal Government in respect of ML18912 and ML18913.

With reference to Dangote claims that we applied for a lease in 2013, Otega said that to the company’s knowledge we are not aware of any application of this sort. “In any event, it is common knowledge that participants in the mining industry continuously apply for mining rights on a regular basis and if/when we were made aware of such, we discontinued such a process.

To further buttress our point, the Nigerian boundary commission’s report of 2006 clearly states that Obu, Okpella is in Edo State and not Kogi State. Even as recent as July 2017, the ministry confirmed through a letter to BUA, our right to possession of licenses ML18912 and ML18913 up till 2017 (see attached).

“Isn’t it rather strange that Dangote who claims to have acquired Mining Lease 2541 from AICO in 2015 now seeks to interfere with BUA’s mining rights in ML 18912 and ML 18913 in Obu, Okpella in Edo State? It is also instructive to state that Dangote has on several occasions attempted to obtain injunctive reliefs from the Federal High Court, Benin, Edo State, in the course of the pending litigation, but the Court declined making such injunctive Orders because whilst Dangote claims right to Mining Lease 2541 located in Okene, Kogi State, BUA claims right to Mining Leases 18912 and 18913 located in Obu, Okpella, Edo State. Dangote has now resorted to using other means to achieve what it could not legally achieve in a court proceeding before a Court of competent jurisdiction.

“As BUA has advised on various occasions, Dangote Group and anyone who faults the court’s pronouncement to preserve status quo should write to the courts for an interpretation. The court made a pronouncement and Dangote’s lawyers cannot deny knowledge of that. The onus is not on us, as they have wrongly alleged to provide an order of the court but rather they should seek an interpretation from the courts if they so wish.

To further reiterate the court’s pronouncement as to maintaining status quo, on December 5, 2017, counsel of BUA raised the issue of the encroachment by the Ministry and Dangote in its Mining areas covered by ML18912 and ML18913 at the courts. When this matter was raised, counsel to Dangote and the Minister of Mines promptly apologized and they were thereafter cautioned by the courts that once a matter is before a court, no party should take any step that will affect the subject matter of the court.

It is a known fact that BUA is in possession of the mining site at ML18912 and ML18913 in Obu Okpella, Edo state and this has accounted for several attempts made by Dangote through his counsel to obtain restraining orders against BUA. These have been declined by the courts on all occasions.

In the case of Bulus which was cited by Dangote in their publication, he said there was a 22 count charge out of which 21 were dismissed and Bulus discharged and acquitted on those 21 counts. It is however curious that Bulus, out of 3 accused persons, was jailed for conspiracy on the same charges which he was discharged and acquitted on 21 counts while the others were discharged. Clearly, this judgment depicts the biblical saying of the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. We do not intend to join issues further on this point because this issue is now a subject of litigation at the Court of Appeal and we are certain Justice will prevail.

“In any case, we wish to reassert that this issue will not be resolved on the pages of newspapers or through a barrage of misinformation but rather, through the courts. Whilst we are now aware that Dangote Group will stop at nothing to keep pushing these false narratives as well as keep distracting from the core issue at hand, we once again enjoin Dangote Group and their cohorts to await respectfully, the outcome of the judicial process.

We intend to say no more on this because this is before a court of competent jurisdiction and we trust the court’s ability to effectively adjudicate this matter.

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