Gov. Yahaya Bello’s thuggery against Dangote Cement – Ali Abubakar Sadiq
By Ali Abubakar Sadiq
Before i delved into the issue proper, we need first to understand how Governor Yahaya Bello’s mental furniture is arranged. I believe no one will disagree me that as much as his youthful vigor and exuberance, he exhibit equal energy in clamoring over controversies. He is a governor that can publicly flaunt his disregard for the law, considering he was once reported to have register twice with INEC and we all know double registration is against the law.
But to me his greatest absurdity was at its height during the Corona Pandemic when on June 30, 2020, he alleged that COVID-19 is an artificial creation aimed at causing fear and panic among people. And he went ahead to rejected N1.1bn support fund from the World Bank because of his belief that COVID-19 is a “glorified malaria”.
In defense of his view he told the world “I rejected the World Bank fund because I do not believe in COVID-19. Even the five cases reported in Kogi State is an NCDC creation” He also condemned the use of the vaccine, saying it is meant to kill people.
A statement even his comrades-at-arms, at the Nigeria Governors Forum quickly dissociated itself from. His other shortcomings, like most politicians, is he’s surrounded by sycophants that chose only to tell him what he wishes to hear.
During the recent Obajana furore, Dr. (Mrs) Folashade Ayoade, the Secretary to the Kogi State Government and Chair of the Technical committee that was saddled with the responsibility to evaluate “The Legality of the Alleged Acquisition of Obajana Cement Company Plc by Dangote Cement Company Limited” said “The claimed transfer of Obajana to Dangote Industries Limited was “invalid, null and void.” And goes on to contradict herself by saying “Kogi State Government should take steps to cancel the EXISTING seven Certificates of Occupancy in the name of Dangote Cement Company.” While also acknowledging that “Agreement between Kogi State Government of Nigeria and Dangote Industries Limited, dated 30th July 2002 and supplemental agreement dated 14th February 2003…are all invalid, null and void” and also added “All the transfer process of the share capital to Dangote from Obajana by the previous administration was without any law backing it by the state House of Assembly,”
In any society led by sensible leadership, dispute resolution always follow sane and legal channel and as enshrined in the MoU between Dangote and Kogi State, a clause called for arbitration in case of any dispute. Whenever dispute arbitration failed, there is always an alternative route through legal redress. But Kogi State government under Yahaya Bello prefer to use thuggery and intimidation against the company instead of rule of law.
To go down memory lane, beginning with a prayer to the departed soul of two-time governor of Kogi state, Prince Abubakar Audu, whose legacy led to the rise of Obajana Cement Company as one of the largest cement company not only in Nigeria but the African continent. The company was a brainchild of Abubakar Audu conceived during his first tenure in 1992. His dream was to make Obajana a household name in the world (God has granted him that wish) thus he registered a company under that name for Kogi State government. Successive governments for a decade between 1992-2002, failed to capitalize the company and make it up and running.
Abubakar Audu resurrected his pet dream during his second tenure and in 2002 approached Dangote to come and make Obajana Cement company a reality. After series of meetings and negotiations, Dangote added Obajana Cement under the umbrella of its Dangote Cement (that already have the former BCC under its umbrella) through an acquisition arrangement that concessed 90% share for Dangote and 10% share for Kogi State in which 5% stake is for the state government and the other 5% for its citizens interested in investing therein. Dangote was allowed to use the Obajana name as a vehicle of its investment.
It was also agreed that Dangote shall be granted tax relief and exemption from levies and other charges for a period of 7 years to stabilize the company and begin making profits. With the agreement sealed, Dangote seeks the intervention of World Bank under International Finance Corporation and acquired a loan, the first company in the country to have received such.
By 2003 Dangote Industries acquired the 2 square kilometer land in Obajana to build the factory after payments of compensations and receiving C of O’s. In line with Nigerian constitution, the Federal Government not state governments, had the licensing authority for extracting mines/resources, Dangote applied, obtained and paid duly the mining leases since inception. It was only in 2010, after the Kogi State government’s failure to abide by the agreement clause that stipulates Kogi State government should have the option to acquire 5% equity shareholding within 5 years, that Dangote Industries in an attempt to aligned with the Dangote Brand, changed the Obajana Cement Company’s name and the much older Benue Cement Company to Dangote Cement Plc.
In a nutshell, we can discern from the above that Kogi state has no equity claim since they did not invest a single kobo in the company, Dangote paid for the land and the lease for the mines and according to The Executive Director of Dangote, Alhaji Ladan Baki, they have documented proofs for consistent remittance of tax payments to Kogi State Government since 2007. He even went further to claim that Dangote had paid 16 Billion Naira to Yahaya Bello’s administration.
Now back to Governor Yahaya Bello’s fallacy in this charade. Obajana cement is one of the largest labor employers in the country, employing 22,000 people out of which 50% of them are indigenes of Kogi State. Traditional rulers in the state are usually the ones submitting list for the recruitment of their people at Obajana, yet they watch as Yahaya Bello is behaving like a bull in a china shop. He sent hooligans that besieged the factory, trespassed, intimidate and perpetrates act of violence by wounding several factory workers with gunshots and stabbing. The thugs even forcefully shut down a boiler that operates at a temperature of 1500 degrees, which a mishap could have been calamitous. As a governor that attains notoriety in his failure to pay salaries for his seven years in office and even in this year 2022, a state government employee claiming he received under 3000 Naira for the month of March, can he afford over ten thousand of his people having their livelihood threatened?
As the country is desperately in need for foreign investing, what signal is Yahaya Bello sending to potential foreign investors, when indigenous ones are being threatened like this? What about the loss of man-hours, money, goods and confidence his charade is creating? After being one of the worst performing Governors in terms of infrastructure and maintenance of his civil service (with record of longest unpaid months to civil servant) does he really want to cripple the biggest investment in his state at the twilight of his non-performance tenure?
I concur with Ladan Baki in his assesment that Kogi State has one of the most educated northerners, it is time they rise up to protect their state from ignominy. Politicians usually employs thuggery to cover their mistakes and the Kogi elites must demand what Yahya Bello did with the Dangote 16 Billion paid to the state coppers and other revenue accrued in the last seven years.
Finally, i think this saga should serve as lesson for us all; we must rise against politicians and demand rule of law and transparency and consider them based on what they offer not take from us; Yahya Bello should understand that it is what you do today that judges you in posterity, as we have seen how the Legacy of Abubakar Audu continue to live. As for Dangote Industry, i am vindicated for my earlier criticism of them in their choice of places to invest, closer home is always more secure. What the outcome of this conflict will be, remains to be seen, but hopefully we look forward to an amicable solution when the conflicting sides meets for the second time this Thursday under the arbitration of the presidency.