By Folake Ogunleye
Citing security concerns arising from the proclamation by the Federal Ministry of mines that illegal mining activities are being carried out at the contentious Obu mines in Okpella, Edo state, the Governor, Godwin Obaseki yesterday shut down the mines until further notice.
However, Head Group Communications BUA Group Otega Ogra said the company is yet to be communicated officially by the administration of Gov Obaseki.
Obaseki was quoted as saying that the decision was taken in the interest of peace and tranquility, pointing out that flouting of his order will be met with wrath of the state government.
Consequently, the governor directed the state police Commissioner and the Army Brigade Commander in the state to halt further operations at the Obu mines with immediate effect.
It would be recalled that the ownership of the mines has been a subject of dispute between the Africa’s leading Cement manufacturers, Dangote Cement Plc and Bua Cement, which the Federal Ministry of Mines had asked to vacate the mines because it was an exploiting limestones in the area illegally.
Obaseki made the announcement while receiving in his office Community heads and Chiefs of Ukhomunyio Okpella, whose community is hosting the disputed mines and had come to express reservation at the alleged use of youths as militia to enforce perceived rights to ownership of the mines and thus creating security threat to the peace of the people.
The governor described Okpella as the mineral gem of Edo state and as such mineral resources ought to be a blessing to the people of the state “but regrettably, the situation on ground has degenerated to a security threat and therefore there is the need to nip it in the bud.
“The Federal Ministry of Mines which has authority over the mines has proclaimed that what we have there now is illegal mining and we don’t want break down of law and order. The situation has degenerated badly.
“Those of you were concerned have moved and tried to resolve the matter, we lost two of the people on the road to Benin while on the trouble shooting mission to Benin. We had a meeting in Abuja two weeks ago and we analysed the Obu mines issue.
“Two people can’t lay claim to one asset, until the court decides the ownership or the federal supervising agency, the Ministry of Mines says otherwise, I am closing down that Obu mines with immediate effect, because we believe there is globally acceptable way of determining ownership in a contentious matter as this without recourse to self help”
The governor noted that mines is on the exclusive list of the federal government and the ministry said there is illegal mining going on there, “from today there will be no further mining operations in Obu”
The Okpela Chiefs applauded the government decision and declared their loyalty to the state government saying the decision will bring relief to the people who have been living under fear.
Earlier, spokesman of the Okpella Chiefs, Chief Moshood Aliu told the governor that they were in his office to declare their support for the state government’s effort at industrializing the state and for him to intervene in the dispute between Dangote Cement and Bua.
The Community heads disclosed that the youths of the Community are being incited against one another in a bid to enforce perceived right to ownership of the mines, a situation he said generated tension in the area.
Chief Moshood explained that while the location of the mines is not in dispute, what is being disputed is the ownership, Obu mines was in the then Mid West, later Bendel and now Edo state. We are the occupier of the area and we don’t want trouble, the unilateralism and use of youths as militia to enforce ownership right is condemnable.
Otega said in a statement that the alleged closing down remains an hearsay since there is no official communication from the state government.
We heard of the alleged closing down of the Obu mines in Okpella, Edo State by the Governor of Edo State. Whilst this remains in the territory of hearsay,
According tonsil, the position of BUA on this matter remains very clear. “Just as the Edo state Government said in its statement, this is an issue no state government has jurisdiction over as it is a Federal Issue. It is however interesting to note that the mine under contention, ML2541, has been claimed repeatedly by the Ministry of Mines and Dangote to be in Okene, Kogi state.
He continued: “Thus, we are curious and are at great loss as to why the Governor of Edo State is closing down a mine in Edo State which has been claimed by the other parties involved to be outside his state in Okene, Kogi State and which the purported ML2541 license also states clearly. The Ministry has written us prior and our response was published in our open letter to His Excellency, The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on December 4, 2017. This case remains in a competent court of jurisdiction which has ordered all parties – BUA, Dangote, The Ministry of Mines and others to maintain status quo and we will continue to abide by the dictates of the court as a responsible corporate citizen.”
“We are however yet to receive some form of official communication asking us to close our mining sites ML18912 and ML18913 in Edo State, thus this alleged closing down report still remains in the territory of hearsay. We will respond accordingly when and if we get an official communication from the proper authorities.”