By Emma Njoku and Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
Kogi State House of Assembly complex, located at Hassan Katsina road, around Crusher village in the outskirts of Lokoja, the state capital, went up in flames yesterday morning.
The fire ripped through the roof of the Chamber, causing extensive damage to the floor of the house with some furniture and office items destroyed.
The Speaker of the House, Mathew Kolawole, and the state Security Adviser, Commander Jerry Omodara, were among the early callers at the assembly complex. As of the time of filing this report, no one has been able to ascertain the source of the fire. The Speaker of the Assembly, however, said he suspected sabotage, but did not say anything further.
“We should leave security people to do their work and give us a report going forward,” the speaker said.
Meanwhile, Dangote Group has debunked claims that it had a hand in the fire incident.
The Group Chief Branding & Communications Officer, Dangote Industries Limited, Anthony Chiejina, made the refutal while reacting to a press statement credited to the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, yesterday, in which he allegedly accused the Dangote Group of sponsoring arsonists to set the state House of Assembly complex on fire, “in an attempt to possibly destroy evidence relating to the ownership tussle between the Kogi State Government and the Dangote Group over the Obajana Cement Company.”
Chiejina not only condemned the allegation, but described it as “unprofessional and irresponsible attempt to smear our image before local and international investors and thus erode our brand value.”
He further stated: “Dangote Group would never stoop so low as to sponsor thugs to destroy any property, belonging to either government or any individual. This runs contrary to our business ethos and everything we stand for as a leading manufacturer with teeming customers and consumers across Nigeria and Africa.
“Our lawyers have been mandated to react appropriately to the damaging allegation from the Kogi State Government within the full extent of the law.
“We urge our stakeholders and the public to disregard such irresponsible and insane statements as we ask all our stakeholders, namely shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, and the entire community of Obajana and Kogi State at large, to remain calm while we follow the legitimate and lawful process to resolve this matter with the State Government.”
Regardless, Kogi government has appealed to residents to remain calm over the fire incident. The Commissioner for Information, Mr Kingsley Fanwo, who made the call in a statement in Lokoja, said security and technical experts were already working hard to unravel the cause(s) of the inferno, which he claimed had caused significant damage to the complex.
“We urge the general public to be calm, law abiding and resist the temptation of being lawless, as the government is capable of dealing with the likely outcome of the investigations. The state government will also make provision for temporary arrangements to ensure legislative business is not completely halted as a result of the unfortunate incident,” he assured.