Anybody listening to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State on the Obajana Cement Plant’s dispute with Dangote Cement PLC would think there was a cement production company owned by the Kogi State Government and sold to Dangote Industries Limited in 2002. NO! There was never anything like that. The Kogi State Governor has been dishing out fairy tales about Obajana to weep up sentiments for personal gains. Back in 2002, all that the state’s government had on ground was a cement bagging company. It was importing bulk cement and bagging “Kogi Cement.”
There was no cement manufacturing by the defunct Obajana Cement PLC. It did not also own a mining licence for the vast limestone deposit in Obajana. Even the bagging of cement was done for only a few months before it went under. This is the truth that must be told. Regrettably, Yahaya Bello has been going about blackmailing Dangote Cement with a view to exploiting the company.
Now, let’s critically look at the sales agreement Governor Bello has been twisting. Obajana Cement Plc was the idea of the late Abubakar Audu in 1992, during his first (brief) tenure as governor – January 1992 to November 1993. His ultimate dream was to have a cement manufacturing plant in the state in view of its huge limestone deposit. When late Audu returned as governor in 1999, Obajana Cement was still dead with no assets. In a bid to stimulate manufacturing in the state, he invited Aliko Dangote to buy the dead Obajana Cement PLC and use it as a springboard for cement manufacturing in Kogi State.
That was what gave birth to the July 30, 2002 agreement signed by late Audu, selling Obajana Cement to Dangote Industries Limited (DIL). It was an outright sale of all the shares of Obajana Cement PLC to Dangote. It is on record that Kogi State Government and Dangote entered into a binding agreement to document their understanding
The agreement was amended in 2003 and remains binding on them. Governor Bello acknowledges that he has this agreement as reported by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry he established to probe the sale of Obajana. So, let him print out and show the world the portion of the sales agreement that gave 10 per cent of Dangote Cement to the Kogi State Government. The deal was that Kogi State Government would buy five per cent of the Obajana plant within five years. It did not take up this offer.
It is also preposterous for Governor Bello to assert that there was no evidence of payment by Dangote Industries Limited to Kogi State Government from the transfer of Obajana Cement and that no dividend was paid to the state “from the profits realised from the inception of Dangote Cement Company Plc to date.”
If Governor Bello truly wants evidence of payment by Dangote Industries Limited for Obajana Cement, he should consciously check the records of the state’s Ministry of Finance. After Audu left in 2003, there were four governors after him – Ibrahim Idris, Clarence Olafemi, Ibrahim Idris again and Idris Wada. None complained about non-payment for Obajana Cement Plc. Bello has no facts and figures to back his claims.
Likewise, governor Bello can’t be talking about “unpaid dividends” when the Kogi State Government is not a shareholder of Dangote Cement PLC. According to documents released by Dangote, it was agreed, inter alia, that “Dangote would establish a cement plant with a capacity of 3,500,000 metric tonnes per annum; DIL shall hold 100% of the shareholding in OCP, and source for all the funds required to develop the cement plant; KSG shall have the option to acquire five per cent equity shareholding in OCP within five years; and KSG shall grant tax relief and exemption from levies and other charges by KSG for a period of seven years from the date of commencement of production.”
Dangote commenced manufacturing of cement at Obajana in 2007 as agreed, providing vital assets like machinery and a vast limestone deposit covered by mining leases issued under licence by the federal government.
While demanding a share of the plant, but without any evidence that the Kogi State Government is a shareholder of Dangote Cement PLC, Governor Bello invaded Obajana cement plant with touts last Wednesday, to shut the multi-billion-naira cement company. Hundreds of armed non-state actors, under the command of Governor Bello, attacked the plant, destroying property and inflicting grievous injuries on many of the workers. I was shocked that the Kogi State Police Command did not respond to distress call from the plant. The police obviously compromised.
Bello admitted the invaders acted on his instructions to shut the plant. I have never seen this kind of lawlessness in my life. This governor, who has spent almost seven years trying to force Dangote into a deal that will solely benefit him, remarked last Thursday that he invaded Obajana Cement in line with his mandate “to safeguard the lives and livelihood of the people of Kogi State, including residents, and to ensure their wellbeing.”
Bello said this was also coming on the heels of protests by the people of the state “who felt they had been suppressed and marginalised by the Dangote Group which he alleged was ripping them off.”
Bello declared: “I am here to defend my people, and from all reports, it is clear that Obajana Cement Company does not belong to Dangote”. What nonsense! This governor is talking about a sale at the instance of the duly established government of Kogi State, done in accordance with all enabling laws, and the papers effectively, lawfully and duly executed by the governor and Attorney General of the State at the time, after approvals were obtained from the government.
This man shut a plant providing jobs for thousands and sustaining economic activities on a very large scale in his state because of selfish desires. Private citizens, bearing arms to shut down a corporate citizen of Nigeria? This action is illegal, worrisome, irrational, insensitive and capable of discouraging investors. It is likewise a danger to Nigeria’s quest for foreign direct investment as investors will be concerned about the security and legal system of this country. I’m surprised that relevant authorities have not sanctioned Yahaya Bello. I’m also shocked that Yahaya Bello has not shown any remorse for his gangster tactics. His action in Obajana last Wednesday was pure brigandage.
This Kogi State Governor must not be allowed to get away with his shenanigans at the Obajana plant. As a first step, the Kogi State Police Command and all other security agencies in the state must rise and protect Dangote Cement. Allowing Governor Bello’s goons to take over the factory speaks poorly of these security agencies. Those who carried out the dastardly invasion of the Obajana plant must similarly be apprehended and prosecuted. Governor Bello should approach a court of law if he thinks he has a case against Dangote Cement.
Huge Holes in Budget 2023
Budget 2023 is dead on arrival. That’s the plain truth about the junk submitted as federal budget by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 7. Virtually everything in the budget is depressing. The budget, which is almost N3 trillion more than the N17.126 trillion for 2022, will have a record N10.78 trillion deficit. Yes, the total fiscal operations of the federal government in 2023 is expected to result in a deficit of N10.78 trillion. This represents 4.78 per cent of Nigeria’s estimated GDP, slightly above the three per cent threshold set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007. Our President is evidently a lawless man.
Buhari has decided to sink Nigeria into bigger debt with Budget 2023 because the deficit would be financed mainly through borrowings, totaling N8.80 trillion. This same Nigeria is expected to spend N6.31 trillion servicing debt in 2023. The budget has a paltry N5.35 trillion for capital expenditure. The money expected to go into debt servicing is more than what is set aside for capital projects. So, how will this kind of country develop?
The total revenue available to fund the 2023 Federal Budget is estimated at N9.73 trillion. Estimated federally-collected revenue is under N20 trillion. This includes the revenues of 63 government-owned enterprises. Crude oil revenue is dwindling because of huge theft. It is a shame that the federal government will be struggling to obtain estimated N9.73 trillion revenue. Nigeria will not be in this financial mess if the massive fraud in federal revenue generating agencies are blocked and the agencies properly managed.
So, there is a big problem with revenue, a lot will be going into debt servicing while new borrowings will be greater than the revenue, with little for capital projects. This is clearly not how to manage the economy of a country that wants to develop. The revenue side is poor because of massive corruption. How can estimated federally-collected revenue be under a paltry N20 trillion in 2023? Customs alone can generate N10 trillion in 2023 if the holes are blocked. Big revenue agencies can double federally-collected revenue within a year and substantially fund budgets at all levels. This has always been my position.
Chibok Parents Still Waiting for their Girls
Parents in Chibok, Borno State are still waiting for their abducted daughters, eight years after the gory incident. Last Wednesday, the Kibaku Area Development Association, also known as Chibok Community, said over 110 girls were still with their abductors. The community raised the alarm over the neglect of the schoolgirls abducted in their school by Boko Haram in 2014.
No fewer than 276 Chibok schoolgirls were abducted, 57 escaped on their own, 109 were released after the payment of ransom and 110 are still unaccounted for. That’s the grisly story.
The release of the remaining Abuja-Kaduna train abductees has encouraged Chibok parents to renew pressure on the federal government to free their daughters.
The National President of KADA, Dauda Iliya, said: “The issue of the abandonment of the Chibok schoolgirls has come forth again following the release of the remaining abducted train passengers…The statement on the release has caused the Chibok people pain, despair and a deep feeling of neglect by the federal government.”
Aside from the pain of still waiting for their girls, eight years after abduction, Boko Haram has not ceased attacks in Chibok. The statistics are frightening. In the last 10 years, there have been 72 attacks by Boko Haram, with 407 people killed and 332 people abducted. Scores of houses, churches, farms, vehicles and businesses were also burnt.
Iliya Laments: “The parents and the community have continued to be subjected to persistent and sustained attacks, killings, abductions, maiming, arson and other myriads of criminality without adequate government protection. Chibok has been for all intents and purposes abandoned by all layers of government in Nigeria.
“Last January, Kautikari, the second largest town in Chibok was attacked with five girls abducted, three persons killed, many houses and churches burnt. Piyemi, another big town in Chibok was attacked on January 20 with 19 persons, mostly girls, abducted and one person, the Vigilante leader, beheaded. The town was razed and virtually all the recently harvested agricultural produce completely burnt or looted.”
The promise of Buhari when he assumed office was that all abducted Chibok schoolgirls would be freed. He must fulfil this promise. The President still has seven months to do this. I challenge him today to actualise his pledge.