From Tony Osauzo, Benin
The Federal Government has waded into the trade dispute between Dangote Group and BUA, over which firm owns the mining right of limestone in Obuh community, in Okpella, Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State.
Yesterday, government ordered all the parties involved in the dispute to vacate the site, to avoid breakdown of law and order in the area.
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who announced government’s directive, during a meeting with leaders and elders of Okpella, at the Government House, yesterday, noted that parties involved in the crisis are in court. Therefore, the federal government decided that further mining in Obuh be suspended, to allow peaceful resolution of the crisis in court.
“We are following the rule of law. There is a dispute. It is not unusual to have disputes over assets but, there are laid down methods to resolving disputes of this nature. What we understand as a government is that there is dispute or claim between two parties over an existing mining right and the Mining Act of 2007 is quite clear, the Federal Ministry of Mines decides how to award or issue leases.
“In this particular case, there are multiple claims and they have all gone to court. We have a letter from the ministry, instructing that the party currently mining that particular site should vacate; pending the outcome of the decision in court.
“So, the position of Edo State Government, today (yesterday), is that court orders must be obeyed. The federal government’s instruction should be obeyed; that mine should be shut until the outcome or the determination of the case in court,” the governor said.
But, in a swift reaction, the community leaders expressed worry over the development and accused the ministry of causing the crisis by giving licenses to the warring parties to mine in the same site.
The community urged the federal government and Edo State government to urgently find peaceful resolution to the crisis, pointing out that further escalation of the crisis will negatively affect both revenue and employment opportunities of the community people.
Spokesman and Counsel to Okpella community, Mr Ayuba Giwa, told newsmen, shortly after the meeting in Government House, that “what we are saying in our response to the reference of the matter to the Presidency is that we blame the ministry; they ought to be more prudent in granting mineral licenses.
“We implore all parties to abide by the rule of law and the rule of law includes the fact that in 1994, Okpella took this matter to the Federal High Court in Benin and judgment was given in favour of Okpella.
“When it dawned on us that the ministry did not comply with the judgment, which was partly responsible for this debacle we are in now, in 2014, Okpella went to the Federal High Court Benin. So, it is not just only BUA and Dangote that are in court, Okpella is also in court.
”So, it is fair and just that the matter is resolved; including the interest of the community and Edo State because, any breach of peace impacts on our people first and foremost and that is why we came to see Mr. Governor,” he explained.