The Edo State government has said that Governor Godwin Obaseki was attacked in the state when he went to a mining site.
Obaseki had led state officials and security agencies to the mining site of which BUA Group and Dangote Cement are in court for over ownership. The state government termed the move a “clamp down on BUA for violating Stop Work Order,” adding that two BUA employees were arrested with the army confiscating explosives on the site.
BUA had earlier accused the minister of solid minerals Kayode Fayemi of abuse of power over the issue, alleging that the minister, in collaboration with Dangote Group, is carrying out activities capable of undermining the peace and security around the BUA cement plant in Okpella, Edo State.
A statement by Obaseki’s media aide Crusoe Osagie, said that the police had declared the Managing Director of BUA’s Obu Cement Company, Yusuf Binji wanted over the attack.
Osagie said in his statement:
The Nigeria Police have declared the Managing Director of BUA’s Obu Cement Company, Yusuf Binji, wanted over an attack on the convoy of the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki.
Also attacked were some officials of the Edo State Government who were on the convoy of the Edo State Governor.
According to the police, the decision to declare Mr. Binji wanted became necessary as it had earlier received intelligence that BUA International Limited is sponsoring militias in Okpella, Edo State, where the company has a cement factory and mine sites.
These militias, the police said, were allegedly sponsored by Binji and his team to attack the convoy of the governor, cause harm and mayhem.
This development follows an earlier statement by BUA and subsequent rebuttal by the Edo state government.
BUA, in a statement sent to Leadership Newspapers, had accused the state government of effecting “a gestapo-style forceful shutdown of the 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.
As it stands, we do not know why they were arrested but have requested our lawyers to secure their unconditional release immediately as these employees are innocent and have no knowledge of why they were being arrested. Now that one of our mining sites has been forcefully closed down by the Governor without regard to the court’s pronouncement on maintaining status quo at that particular site (and without any formal communication from the Edo State Government), BUA as a responsible corporate entity has instructed its lawyers to report back to the courts on this latest developments and pursue all legal channels to enforce its rights,’’ the statement read in part.
According to the statement, while the Governor based the legitimacy of his actions on a purported Stop-Work order from the Ministry of Mines, BUA ‘‘wishes to reiterate that there is a pronouncement of the Federal High Court sitting in Benin on December 5, 2017 that declared the Stop-work order issued by the ministry as a contravention of the Court’s directives to maintain status quo and thus deemed it illegal. The same court also threatened to arrest the Minister who is the first defendant in the case if the stop work order continues to be pursued.
‘‘We once again ask all parties to await the conclusion of judicial process as this matter is already before a court of competent jurisdiction,’’ BUA added.
Countering BUA’s statement, the Edo state government said it “acted to forestall outbreak of violence” adding that it’ll investigate sponsorship of militias in Okpella by BUA.
In a statement issued on Thursday in Benin City, Crusoe Osagie, maintained that the Edo State Government’s primary duty as a responsible government is to ensure that the prevailing peace in all parts of the state is not punctured by any individual or organisation and that the rule of law is upheld at all times.
Osagie said BUA’s statement is fraught with contradictions and urged the company to behave as a decent corporate citizen of the state by virtue of its investment in the state.
“In the first paragraph of BUA’s statement, the company claimed that the Edo State Governor effected a gestapo-style to forcefully shutdown the mine.
“In the very next paragraph, BUA said that ‘Upon reaching the mining site and not meeting any personnel or equipment two BUA Cement employees were invited to the mining site to receive the Governor.
“Are these two statements not contradictory? If no one was at the site, then why would the governor use gestapo-style to shut it down?
“So why is BUA spreading falsehood? The workers and equipment were being evacuated by the time we got there, and understandably, they had heard that the governor was around and were rushing out of the site. They clearly flouted the Stop Work Order and now want to mask their violation of the order by resorting to blackmail.
“The Edo State government acted in the interest of Edo people in Okpella. We do not want any individual or organisation to create a mafia group within the state. We have intelligence that BUA is instigating a section of the Okpella community against other groups within the community and we will not fold our arms to allow such a plot to be hatched as it could lead to the loss of lives and property,” Osagie said.
According to him: “The state governor, Godwin Obaseki, has consistently maintained that no amount of money is worth the life of any Edo man or woman and that is our stand on this matter.
“The matter is in court and we cannot even begin to pre-empt its outcome by commenting on it. We owe Edo people a non-negotiable obligation to protect them from harm’s way. As they say, when two elephants fight, the ground suffers. If anything will suffer from this fight, we want it to be the Obu site and not our people in Okpella.”
He noted that “BUA’s narrative of what transpired at the Obu site is miles away from what transpired and suggests some desperation on their part.
“It may interest you to know that at some points, we faced resistance from some youths and security personnel planted by BUA at the site and this is disturbing. We welcome investors, but we do not want any organisation to turn any part of our state to a breeding ground for militias. BUA is not the first investor we have had in Edo State and will not be the last. We are open to investors but we insist on best practice.
“We want all the parties involved in the matter to respect the pronouncement of the court and in the interest of Edo people, refrain from acts that can result in crisis. As we speak, some interest groups in Okpella have accused BUA of employing divide and rule tactics to dodge the fulfilment of social and economic benefits to the community contained in the Community Development Agreement as provided for in the Nigerian Mining Act.
“High chief Hanson Aimofumeh has threatened to go to court to stop the activities of BUA until it fulfils its pre-operational obligations. That is just one case. There are many more. But as a state that is committed to opening up our space to investors, we want to ensure that there is mutually beneficial relationship between investors and Edo people.”