The recent unwarranted attacks in the media by the BUA Group against Dangote Industries Limited within the last couple of days have called into question the motive behind this campaign of calumny.
As a matter of policy we do not respond to media attacks. In addition, as a responsible corporate organization with utmost respect for the Rule of Law and constituted authority, the Dangote Group recognizes the wisdom in not making comments on matters that are already sub judice. However, given the present circumstances and coupled with the fact that Dangote Cement Plc, is a publicly quoted and premium listed Company, we are constrained to make official statements in reaction to BUA’s unending and misleading publications to reassure our shareholders, the regulators and members of the public that our Organization is and remains a responsible corporate citizen.
*Monday, December 4, 2017*
BUA’s issued its first publication and purportedly an open letter to the President titled “A CRY FOR HELP; WANTON ABUSE OF POWER BY A SERVING MINISTER CREATED AT SABOTAGING OPERATIONS OF BUA CEMENT.” This was published in Leadership Newspaper’s issue, amongst other platforms.
*Friday, December 15, 2017*
BUA issued a second publication in Punch Newspaper in respect of Suit No. FHC/LKJ/CS/25/2017 ADEIKA & 4 ORS v. AICO & 2 ORS pending at the Federal High Court, Lokoja, Kogi State. This publication was sponsored by BUA in defiance of the Order of the Federal High Court, Benin handling the ongoing Suits between the two Companies.
*Monday, December 18, 2017*
BUA issued its third publication contained in Thisday Newspaper.
Just before addressing the spurious allegations by BUA group on the substance, below is a summary of our position on the issues
*Status Quo Order*
There is no Status Quo Order made by any Court that allows BUA to continue mining over the disputed Mining Lease area. There is however a pending motion for Interlocutory Injunction dated April 27, 2016 seeking to restrain the BUA Group from continuing with its illegal mining activities on the Mining Lease Area. 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, BUA Group has in utter disdain to the Court continued with its illegal mining activities.
*Mining Leases 18912 and 18913*
The Mining Leases 18912 and 18913 purportedly granted in 1997 and in 1998 and upon which BUA predicate its entire claims were carved out by the Governor of Edo State at the material time over an existing Mining Lease No.17825 granted to our predecessor-in-title, AICO Ado Ibrahim & Company Ltd (“AICO”). To the extent that a Governor of a State has no title over mineralized land and the leases were granted over an existing mining lease, BUA’s Mining Leases are illegal, null and void and of no consequence.
*Ownership of Mining Lease*
Contrary to BUA’s claims over the illegal mining leases, its predecessor-in-title Ukpilla Cement Company Ltd (now Edo Cement Company Ltd) had as far as in January 1985, acknowledged in the judgement delivered by the High Court of Kwara State in Suit No. KWS/LO/18/78, Orumah Attah Omodivi vs Ukpilla Cement company Ltd that the ownership of the Mining Lease No. 17825 resides with AICO. Why has BUA refused to abide by that position as acknowledged by the court?
The fact that BUA has no title whatsoever over the disputed Mining Lease area and that ML. 2541 belongs to the Dangote Group is reinforced by the fact that in 2013, the BUA Group applied for a Mining Lease over the same area 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?
*Historical record of illegality*
That the BUA Group has been acting illegally and unlawfully, this was reinforced 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.
*Concealing the fact*
Contrary to BUA’s fraudulent claim that the Dangote Group is trying to monopolize the Cement business in the Country, 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. Who is then the monopolist?
The above summary and more are now fully addressed below:
First, we wish to state that the BUA Group is deliberately using the media to pull the wool over the eyes of the public in a bid to divert attention from its illegal mining on Dangote’s Mining Lease No. 2541. It is even more worrisome that such weighty but baseless allegations were signed off by the BUA Group’s Chairman, Abdulsamad Rabiu himself even after acknowledging the pendency of Suit No. FHC/B/CS/7/2016: BUA International Limited & Anor v. Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development & Ors and Suit No. FHC/B/CS/74/2016: Dangote Industries Limited & Anor v. BUA International Limited & Ors which are before the Federal High Court, Benin and without awaiting the decisions of the Court in those Suits.
The Dangote Group wishes to assure the general public that we validly acquired the Mining Lease No. 2541 from AICO sometime in 2016. AICO had applied for the said Mining Lease No. 2541 in 2007. The Ministry upon being satisfied with AICO’s application granted the ML. No. 2541 for the renewable period of 25 years effective from 1st February 2008 and to expire on 31 January, 2033. The Dangote Group and AICO entered into an agreement for the transfer of ML No. 2541 following which AICO applied to the Ministry for the approval of the Transfer. By a letter dated February 5, 2016, the Ministry of Mines wrote to the Dangote Group to convey the approval of the Ministry for the Transfer/Assignment of ML No. 2541 from AICO to Dangote Group with effect from February 3, 2016. Following the approval of the Ministry, the Dangote Group became the legal holder and owner of the Mining Lease No. 2541 and immediately commenced preparatory work for mining activities at the mining site. (Annexure 1 is a copy of the Mining Lease Certificate endorsed to reflect the transfer to Dangote Group)
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. Annexure 1 above also clearly shows that Dangote’s interest and title in the disputed Mining Lease No. 2541 is legitimate and was acquired through due process of law. BUA in its numerous publications has failed to disclose to the public that the dispute over the Mining Lease Area started long before the Dangote Group acquired the Mining Lease and way before the BUA Group purportedly acquired Edo Cement its immediate predecessor in title. The area covered by Mining Lease No. 2541 was formerly known as Mining Lease No. 17825 and has always been owned exclusively by AICO and to buttress this fact, BUA’s predecessor-in-title, Ukpilla Cement had indeed acknowledged on several occasions, AICO’s ownership of the Mining Lease No. 17825 which was granted as far back as in 1974.
AICO’s ownership of Mining Lease 17825 continued undisturbed until sometime in 1993 when the Governor of Edo State at the time, attempted to carve out the Mining Lease Nos. 18912 and 18913 (now claimed by BUA) which fell squarely within Mining Lease No. 17825 belonging to AICO and to grant same to Edo Cement. Quite apart from the fact that a State Government has no title over mineralized land such as to be able to validly carve out Mining Leases, the defunct Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources (now Ministry of Mines and Steel Development) in the letter dated 12 November 1993 wrote to the Governor of Edo State directing him not to grant the said mining leases as they overlap AICO’s then existing Mining Lease No. 17825 (now 2541). It is these same illegal Mining Leases Nos. 18912 and 18913 that BUA has been parading as the evidence of its mining title in support of its claim in this dispute. BUA has equally contradicted itself abysmally both in Court and on the pages of Newspapers in respect of the purported Mining Lease Nos. 18912 and 18913. In one breadth, BUA claims that these illegal Mining Leases were granted in 1997 and later in 1998 and in another breath, alleges in the recent Newspaper Publication of 18 December 2017 that the same mining leases were granted in 1976. And so we ask, when were these controversial Mining Leases granted and/or transferred to BUA and by whom? Who has the records of these illegal Mining leases at the moment? Were they granted in 1976, 1994, 1997 or 1998? The answers to these all important questions remain shrouded in mystery as the documents presented in Court and BUA’s wild allegations to the press are riddled with conflicting and contradictory narratives. It bears pointing out that BUA in its process in Court has also acknowledged that these illegal mining leases which it claims in one breadth, were granted in 1997 were temporary mining leases and went further to allege that it has been paying royalties over the same Mining Leases since 1994.
It is on record that in 2006 the Minister for Solid Minerals under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili invited the managements of the AICO and Edo Cement for a meeting over the disputed Mining Lease. In the course of the meeting the Minister again queried the legality of Mining Lease Nos 18912 and 18913 and the power of the Governor of Edo State to grant such mining leases. At the end of the Meeting, the Minister declared the Edo Cement’s Mining Leases Nos. 18912 and 18913 illegal and declared the mining site open for interested investors. Given that AICO’s then existing Mining Lease No. 17825 was yet to be renewed even though the application for renewal was pending, AICO in 2007 (under the Mining Act, 2007) as we have stated above, applied for the fresh Mining Lease No. 2541 and the Ministry granted it in 2008 without any objection from Edo Cement Company.
Edo Cement did not challenge the Ministry’s position in the meeting of 2006 chaired by Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili which explains why no action was taken to challenge the outcome of that meeting in Court. Recognizing that it no longer has a valid mining lease, BUA having acquired Edo Cement, in 2013 applied to the Ministry for the grant of Mining Lease No. 17260 in respect of the same areas covered by Mining Lease No. 2541 and Mining Lease Nos. 18912 and 18913. The Ministry after investigation rejected BUA’s Application on the sole ground that the mining area sought by BUA overlaps the existing Mining Lease No. 2541 belonging to AICO at the time (Annexures 2 and 3 are copies of BUA’s application and the rejection by the Ministry). Again, neither Edo Cement nor BUA went to Court to challenge the Ministry’s position. The critical question is, if BUA has the Mining Lease Nos. 18912 and 18913 as it claims, why did it apply for a fresh Mining Lease in 2013 over the same area?
AICO on its part continued its mining operations on the Mining Lease No. 2541 undisturbed until BUA attempted to encroach on AICO’s said Mining Lease No. 2541 in 2015. This prompted AICO to write to the Ministry in the same 2015 complaining of BUA’s encroachment. The Ministry after investigation, by a letter dated 21 December 2015 directed BUA to stop mining within the ML. No. 2541. It was this letter from the Ministry that prompted BUA to file a Suit at the Federal High Court Benin in 2016 and in the said Suit continued to maintain that it has Temporary Mining Leases ML. 18912 and 18913 both dated 24 October 1997 and only recently on 7th November 2017, amended its claim to state that the BUA group now has full Mining Leases signed by the then Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Alhaji Mohammed Kaloma Ali even though the said Mining Leases are still predicated on the illegal Mining Nos 18912 and 18913 created by then Governor of Edo State who lacked the power to do so. Why BUA waited this long to come up with these questionable Mining Lease documents is a puzzle that is yet to be resolved but one thing is certain – the said Mining Leases have their root in illegality as confirmed by the Ministry of Mines. Of course like they often say, one cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand and the documents being paraded by BUA as emanating from the Ministry has been described to be illegal, null and void by the same Ministry and at the minimum, 4 successive Ministers up to the present one.
Following the acquisition of the Mining Lease 2541 from AICO in 2016, Dangote Group filed its own Suit on 27 April 2016 to challenge BUA’s continuous encroachment on Mining Lease No. 2541. Dangote Group in its Suit has maintained that it is the holder of ML No. 2541 with the geographical coordinates clearly marked out as follows: E6º 26′ 30”; N7º 22′ 15; E6º 27′ 15”; N7º 22′ 15”; E6º 27′ 15”; N7º 21′ 30”; E6º 26′ 30” N7º 21′ 30”. On the heavy weather being made by BUA on the issue of location of the disputed Mining Lease, Dangote Group has consistently highlighted the provisions of the Constitution and Mining Act 2007 which vest all minerals found in any State in Nigeria in the Federal Government. The location of a Mining Lease is determined by geographical coordinates based on international standards and the fuss by BUA on the location of the Mining Lease is simply a deliberate attempt to create confusion as BUA is not the owner of the Mining Lease.
With these glaring facts, it is not difficult to see that BUA’s claim in respect of Mining Leases Nos. 18912 and 18913 are false and every attempt by BUA to validate its unsustainable position has met with failure every step of the way. Inquiries made at the Ministry of Mines and Mining Cadastre Offices confirmed that there is no record of BUA’s Mining Lease Nos. 18912 and 18913 in the Ministry. The Ministry of Mines very recently reiterated this position, in reaction to BUA Group’s misleading publication and attack on the Minister of Mines and Steel Development. The Ministry unequivocally stated that BUA’s purported Mining Lease Nos. 18912 and 18913 are invalid. The Ministry in its processes filed in Court equally denied that it revalidated BUA’s Mining Lease Nos. 18912 and 18913 in 2006 and challenged BUA Group to produce any Certificate of such revalidation issued by the Ministry. BUA on its part did not challenge the refusal of the Ministry to revalidate its Mining Lease in 2006 in any Court.
The Claim by BUA that it has always been in possession of the disputed mining lease is totally false. Dangote 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.
On the publication which makes reference to an Order of Injunction issued against AICO in Suit No. FHC/LKJ/CS/25/2017 ADEIKA & 4 ORS v. AICO & 2 ORS, by the Federal High Court, Lokoja Division, the public is advised to disregard the mischievous publication as Dangote Group was never a party to the Kogi Suit when the said Order was made and this fact is clearly evident on the Order which was annexed to BUA’s publication. Dangote Group on becoming aware of the Order had indeed applied and has now been joined to the Suit and is currently challenging the Order which was made in its absence.
It is therefore disturbing that the BUA Group in the midst of these overwhelming facts still expects the public to believe that Dangote Group is after its business when in actual fact it has been BUA mining illegally on our Mining Lease and attacking our officials without any justification. BUA Group in its desperation equally wants the public to believe that its survival and operations depend solely on Mining Lease No. 2541 which belongs to the Dangote Group. This is also not true as available records at the Ministry of Mines show that BUA Group currently holds not less than 10 Quarry Leases (Quarry Lease Nos. 9806, 22636, 19143, 8023, 8024, 7961, 21681, 11972 and 9559) and 2 Mining Leases (Mining Lease Nos. 79 and 785) around the general area where Dangote Group’s sole Mining Lease No. 2541 is located and BUA has always been mining on those leases even up till date.
Is it not clear to all that BUA is the antagonist in this whole saga? From engaging in illegal mining on a Mining Lease belonging to Dangote Group and depleting the limestone reserves in order to sabotage Dangote Group’s legitimate investment, even when the matter is sub judice and now engaging in publication of misleading reports in Newspapers to tarnish our hard earned reputation, the facts are indisputable. Lastly, it is on record that the BUA Group has been flouting the directives of the Benin Court in respect of the ongoing Suits. The Court had at its proceedings of 07 October 2016 stated in clear terms that even before hearing the Motion for Injunction filed by Dangote Group against BUA, the Court expects the parties to act responsibly and desist from mining activities in the subject matter of the Suit since the matter is already in Court but BUA in defiance of this position by the Court has continued to engage in illegal mining and at the same time arming the local militia and youths to attack Dangote Group’s personnel. We challenge BUA to furnish the public with the purported Status Quo Order granted by the Court which allows it to continue its illegal mining in ML. No. 2541 as there is no such Order. Again, the Court at its last proceedings of 05 December 2017 ordered BUA to stop its misleading publications and respect the authority of the Court to determine the issues in dispute but BUA in its characteristic manner of flagrant disobedience of Court’s directives, has persisted in publishing and sponsoring all the misleading publications earlier referred to against Dangote all in a bid to sabotage Dangote’s USD600 Million investments in the Cement project.
For the avoidance of doubt and contrary to BUA’s characterization of our position in its recent publication in Thisday Newspaper and Business Day Newspaper of 21 December 2017 to mention a few, we have always maintained our respect for due process of law and we reiterate our total reverence for the Court and our unalloyed commitment to upholding the Rule of Law in carrying out all our activities. We remain fortified in our confidence in the judiciary and in particular the Federal High Court Benin to adjudicate over this dispute to arrive at the justice of this case based on the facts placed before it. We must emphasize one last time that there is no status quo Order of Court that permits BUA to continue with its illegal mining and we resist in the strongest possible terms, BUA’s attempt to colour our position as a concession to its illegal mining. It is in this regard that we must appeal to the BUA Group to desist from its illegal mining and its current media campaign and to respect the Judiciary by allowing the Court to resolve this dispute one way or the other.