BY OLUSHOLA BELLO, Lagos –
As the Edo State Government yesterday ordered the immediate shutdown of the disputed Obu Mine site in Okpella community, Edo State, BUA International Limited, said the state government does not have jurisdiction over the matter since it is a federal issue.
There had been a dispute over a contentious site No. 2541ML between Dangote Group and BUA International Limited.
The Edo State government had in a press statement sent to LEADERSHIP from the office of the special assistant to the governor on media said it took the decision following a directive from the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and to avoid the breakdown of law and order in the community.
According to the statement, the state government directed security operatives in the state to ensure there are no operations in the mine site until the outcome of the suit, or pending further instructions from the supervisory ministry, which is the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel.
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki was said have given the order yesterday when leaders of Okpella community paid a courtesy call at the Government House, in Benin City, to express their concern about the deteriorating security situation in the community.
“I am very concerned, particularly because of the security implication of this impasse on Okpella community. The issues are clear; two entities cannot own the same asset, particularly in an industry like mining with international best practices and processes for determining ownership rights. I don’t believe that Nigeria is different. And when there is a dispute as per ownership, there are also laid down globally accepted ways of resolving these disputes. People cannot resort to self-help in a country where there is rule of law.
“I understand that the matter of the ownership of Obu mines is in the court and parties are waiting the declaration by the court. Therefore, Edo State Government, following what we have received from the Federal Ministry of Mines will close down Obu mines until the determination of the suit currently pending in at the Federal High Court. Whoever the Court says owns the mines, becomes the bona fide owner after the judgment has been delivered. But between now and the outcome of the court, we do not want to see anybody – I mean anybody – in that property,” said Obaseki.
The governor, according to the statement, also directed the Commissioner of Police in the State, Mr. Johnson Kokumo and other security operatives to make sure that there are no operations at the mine site “until the outcome of the suit, or pending further instructions from the supervisory ministry which is the Federal Ministry of Mines.”
But in a statement signed by the group head, Corporate Communications, BUA International Limited, Otega Ogra, obtained by LEADERSHIP, BUA said the Edo state government lacked powers to shut the site. The company said: ‘‘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. 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,’’BUA enthused.