The Organised Private Sector (OPS) under the aegis of the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) has expressed disappointment on the Kogi State government’s closure of Dangote Cement, Obajana Plant, describing the action as hasty.
This is just as the Lagos and Abuja branches of the Chamber in separate statements described the action of the state governor, Yahaya Bello as “shocking and disappointing”, regretting that for every day the factory is shut, millions of naira are lost and the reputation of Kogi state takes a negative hit.
What they are saying
- NACCIMA expressed regret that the issues between the company and the state over tax disputes ought not to have led to the sealing of the company but should have been resolved in a conciliatory and amicable atmosphere.
- The body, in a statement signed by its Director-General, Olusola Obadimu, and issued in Lagos, said the state government should have trodden a path of caution and called for the immediate reopening of the factory for normal production activities to resume.
- Obadimu stated that NACCIMA’s position was based on some key considerations bordering on the impact of the factory’s closure on the economy and thousands of people whose means of livelihood depend on the production activities of the factory.
- “It is vital to note that it is a huge production plant that supplies key domestic input (cement) into the economy and employs hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, directly and indirectly. This is aside from its substantial budget for corporate social responsibility outside of taxes.
- “Shutting off the factory does not necessarily help the controversial issue of compliance on tax remittable to Kogi state government. Rather a continuous operation of the plant would more likely facilitate a faster resolution of the dispute,” he said.
- The NACCIMA boss then urged that the factory be reopened as quickly as possible to enable it to continue its operation and fulfill its necessary responsibilities, not just on tax obligations, but also to keep the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in its direct and indirect employment dutifully engaged; while sustaining its crucial services not just to the people and government of Kogi State but Nigeria in general.
- The LCCI, in its statement signed by its Director General, Dr. Chinyere Almona said the attack on the cement factory reflected the poor handling of investment protection issues in the country.
- The Chamber said it believed there are more decent ways to handle regulatory and legislative matters concerning businesses in Nigeria than resorting to violence. According to the Chamber, the invasion of the Dangote Cement Factory by youths that led to the shooting of factory workers is unfortunate, ill-construed, and avoidable.
- “We advocate a win-win situation for businesses and the government. We will therefore call on all parties to exercise caution and be protective of jobs, assets of production, and government revenues from corporate organisations like Dangote Cement Factory”, she added.
- The LCCI boss noted that the Federal Government and Kogi State Government had hitherto benefited from business revenues and social investments, and added, “It is therefore expected that the government would be interested in creating an enabling business environment that can attract both local and foreign investors. And where there are infractions, handling such should be in accordance with best practices and the rule of law that protect investors’ rights and human lives.”
- The body, therefore, called for a meeting of all government agencies connected with the acquisition of the cement plant to resolve any differences thereof. This process, it said, “can be taken without necessarily shutting down the factory and endangering jobs, products, and government revenues. This point is critical as wrong handling or unprofessional approaches to resolutions can send negative signals to potential foreign investors.”
- The Chamber noted that the growing mining industry in Kogi State has benefitted from the production activities of the Dangote Cement Factory, which offers both infrastructural and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects to enhance the standard of living in the State.
- “We see a role for the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the Nigeria Investment Protection Commission (NIPC), and the Kogi State Government in resolving this issue. We, therefore, expect to see a swift intervention by these agencies toward a win-win resolution”, LCCI advised.
- The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a statement signed by its Director General, Ms. Victoria Akai urged the state government to employ dialogue in resolving whatever differences it has with the cement company so as to protect the image of the state as an investment destination.
- She said both the state governor and the owner of Dangote Cement Plc, Alhaji Aliko Dangote are men of peace who should resolve any business dispute through consensus without jeopardizing the multi-billion naira investment and thousands of jobs of Kogi indigenes.
- “We, therefore, call for the immediate re-opening of the factory and commencement of alternative dispute resolution. Dangote Cement is a company with commendable sustainability records. The company has blazed the trail within Nigeria and across Africa.
- “Nothing should therefore be done to truncate the growing business at a time other African countries are opening their doors wide for Dangote investment. The factory has been able to take many off the street thereby reducing unemployment which has been a major problem in the country.
- “The closure of the factory will further increase unemployment. It is in the best interest of Kogi state to reopen the factory so as not to scare away local and foreign investors”, the statement noted.
What Kogi state is saying
- The Kogi State Government, on Thursday, presented to the public, the report of the Specialised Technical Committee on the Evaluation of the Legality of the Alleged Acquisition of Obajana Cement Company Plc by Dangote Cement Company Limited.
- The detailed report, submitted to Governor Yahaya Bello of the state, last month, was presented to the public by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. (Mrs) Folashade Ayoade.
- She revealed with documents that the purported transfer of Obajana to Dangote Industries Limited was “invalid, null, and void”.
- Ayoade disclosed in the report that three Certificates of Occupancy for Obajana Cement Company Plc, which was solely owned by the Kogi State Government at the time, were used to obtain a loan of N63billion by Dangote.
- According to her, the Committee, in view of its findings, has therefore recommended that Kogi State should take steps to recover Obajana Cement Company from the Dangote Group.
- The Committee, chaired by the SSG, also recommended that: “Kogi State Government should take steps to recover all accrued dividends from profits made over the years, including accrued interest on same.
- “Kogi State Government should take steps to cancel the existing seven Certificates of Occupancy in the name of Dangote Cement Company.”
What Dangote said
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- Dangote Cement Plc in a statement to the NGX had said: It wishes to enlighten stakeholders and the public on the recent shutdown at our Obajana Cement plant in Kogi State.
- “On Wednesday, 5 October 2022, thugs and local vigilantes from the State Government invaded and sealed the Obajana Cement plant over alleged claims of unpaid taxes and Kogi State Government purported equity interest in Dangote Cement Plc. This development led to several of our staff being harmed by these thugs and local vigilantes.
- “While we reassure stakeholders and the public that we are taking firm action to address this situation, we reiterate that Dangote Cement Plc continues to perform its obligations as a compliant corporate organization.
- The welfare of our staff remains our key focus as we work hard to minimise the further impact on our people and operations. However, we remain resolute in transforming Africa while creating sustainable value for our people, communities, investors, and customers”
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