By Alfred Adasu
Dangote Cement Plc is in the news and for the wrong reason. The alleged acquisition of Obajana Cement Company in Kogi State is the crux of the matter. I was fortunate to stumble upon the report by the technical committee set up by the Kogi State government over the 100% ownership of the cement factory by Dangote Industries Limited.
There were indeed infractions by Dangote Industries, and the manner it had carried on since the beginning of the conflict has been most worrisome. They have resorted to spreading falsehood and threatening blackmail. I was a bit worried and curious. I was worried that the conflict was getting violent and curious as to why Dangote Cement Plc would attempt to cow the Kogi State government into submission regarding its ownership of Obajana Cement Company.
I am aware that several invitations extended to the management of Dangote Cement Plc by the Kogi State House of Assembly to appear before it was ignored. If the acquisition of Obajana Cement Company were legal, I do not see any reason why Dangote Cement Plc would elect to play the cat-and-mouse game.
Indeed something is fishy with the deal hence the attempt at distorting the facts by Dangote Cement. It is impunity of the highest order for a company to enter into a partnership with a state government and use the documents of the state to source funding for the project. After the take-off of the business, he changed names and claimed 100% ownership.
Dangote Cement went further also to claim ownership of the mining sites in the state. I am at a loss with this position. This is a criminal offence, in my considered opinion. And I expect the relevant security agencies to prosecute Alhaji Aliko Dangote for economic crimes. I won’t be shocked if that is how he succeeded in building his business empire.
I am also shocked by the findings in the report that Dangote Cement had not paid a penny to the Kogi State government since the inception of the cement factory. I wonder how this eluded the previous administration. Maybe, they were in connivance with Alhaji Aliko Dangote to impoverish the people of Kogi state.
I also align with the position of the Kogi State House of Assembly that the purported sale of Obajana Cement Company by the state government was not ratified by the State House of Assembly, which is statutory and a requirement for the sale of government property.
The sale remains nullity as it does not exist in the eyes of the law. This is supposedly why Dangote Cement had resorted to crude means, including instigating violence in the state to cover its tracks. This is such an incomprehensible move only made by people who are experts in exploitation. I dare say Alhaji Aliko Dangote falls under such a category. Those who know his business strategy readily say he is the king of cutting corners. He cuts deals, not minding whose ox is gored. He hoodwinks governments into dancing to his whims and caprices regarding policies that would guarantee him monopoly in businesses he is involved in.
Under Governor Yahaya Bello, Kogi State would be a hard nut to crack. Either he does the right thing or continues to live in self-denial. Kogi state has a solid case. I think he is lucky the state is willing to come to the table to resolve issues, and it is expected that he should grab the opportunity with both hands; instead of attempting to fight dirty in case, it is deficient.
He might have made concessions to previous governors of the state in the events leading to the contractual agreement, but they are not in the state’s interest, which is a point I think should be highlighted. If that is not the case, how can you explain a situation where the state government would grant tax holidays outside its constitutional mandate? This emphasizes that lots of underground dealings might have happened without the approval of the State House of Assembly.
This is where I salute the resoluteness of the Kogi State House of Assembly in instituting the probe into the ownership of the Obajana Cement Company. And Dangote Cement has been eloping from one end to another with fairytales that defeat common sense and insults the sensibilities of the people of Kogi state.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote must come out clean in the case. He must state things the way they are and admit that it is indebted to the Kogi State government and cannot claim 100% ownership of Obajana Cement. I believe that a clear conscience fears no accusation. Therefore, the onus lies on Dangote Cement to counter the position of the Kogi State government by appearing before the State House of Assembly to answer questions that are of utmost importance regarding the alleged acquisition of a state government property.
This case isn’t as complicated as Dangote Cement would want members of the unsuspecting general public to believe. It is about admittance to a wrong and coming to the table to right the wrong. There is no proof of payments made for acquiring Obajana Cement by Dangote Industries. There is also no proof that Dangote Cement has paid any dividend to the Kogi State government from inception till date. This is food for thought.
Adasu is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja.