Dangote Group has accused BUA of engaging in illegal mining of limestone deposited in its Mining Lease No. 2541, located in a boundary town of Oguda/Ubo in Okene Kogi State.
Last week, in a December 4, 2017 letter signed by Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu, to President Muhammadu Buhari, the company alleged that Dangote Group had connived with top government officials of the Ministry of Mines and Steel, to ensure its operations in Edo State were disrupted.
In its response, however, Dangote Group’s Executive Director, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, frowned at the media war instigated by BUA, over a matter the company said is already pending before a Federal High Court, Benin Division
At a press conference held at its corporate headquarters in Lagos, yesterday, Edwin insisted that “Dangote Group validly acquired its interest and mining title in the disputed Mining Lease No. 2541 from AICO Ado Ibrahim & Company Ltd sometime in 2014. AICO itself had applied to the Mining Cadastre Office and Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, for the said Mining Lease No. 2541, located in a boundary town of Oguda/Ubo in Okene, Kogi State, in 2007. The ministry, in exercise of its power, under the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, granted and issued to AICO ML. No. 2541, for a renewable period of 25 years, effective from February 1, 2008 and to expire on January 31, 2033. Thus AICO, by virtue of the said grant, became vested with the legal title over ML. No. 2541. In 2014, the Dangote Group approached AICO and indicated interest in acquiring AICO’s stake in ML No. 2541. In 2014, AICO, in exercise of its right under the Mining Act, applied to the ministry, for the transfer of its title in the ML No. 2541 to Dangote Group.
“AICO and Dangote Group equally paid all the transfer and statutory fees demanded by the ministry.” Edwin explained further: “By a letter dated February 5, 2016, the ministry wrote to the Managing Director of 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 successful transfer of ML. NO. 2541 to Dangote Group, the group became the holder of the Mining Lease No. 2541.” He said even BUA, in its process in court, acknowledged that “these illegal mining leases which it claimed were granted in 1997, were temporary mining leases.”
Edwin also recalled that then minister for Solid Minerals, during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, sometime in 2006, waded into the dispute and invited the managements of Edo Cement Company Limited and AICO, for a meeting and that, in the course of the meeting, the then 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 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, though an application for renewal was pending, AICO, in 2007, (under the Mining Act, 2007) applied for a fresh Mining Lease No. 2541 and the ministry granted it in 2008, without any objection from Edo Cement Company.” Edwin said AICO, which sold the right to Dangote, continued its mining operations in the Mining Lease No. 2541 undisturbed until BUA Group acquired Edo Cement Company Limited and resuscitated the dispute.
Edwin further revealed that it was BUA’s attempt to encroach on AICO’s mining title in Mining Lease No. 2541 that prompted AICO to write to the ministry in 2015 complaining of BUA’s encroachment.