By Augustine Osayande
The Nigeria police on Thursday declared the Managing Director of BUA’s Obu Cement Company, Engineer Yusuf Binji, wanted over an attack on the convoy of the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Also attacked were some officials of the Edo State Government who were on the convoy of the Edo State Governor. According to the police, the decision to declare Binji wanted became necessary as it had earlier received intelligence that BUA International Limited is sponsoring militias in Okpella, Edo State, where the company has a cement factory and mine sites.
The Police added that the militias were allegedly sponsored by Binji and his team to attack the convoy of the governor, cause harm and mayhem.
The Edo State Government has countered the claim by BUA International Limited that it adopted “a gestapo-style to forcefully shutdown Obu mine site” in Okpella on Wednesday, describing the claim as ludicrous.
In a statement issued on Thursday in Benin City, the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr Crusoe Osagie, maintained that the Edo State Government’s primary duty as a responsible government is to ensure that the prevailing peace in all parts of the state is not punctured by any individual or organisation and that the rule of law is upheld at all times.
Osagie said BUA’s statement is fraught with contradictions and urged the company to behave as a decent corporate citizen of the state by virtue of its investment in the state.
“In the first paragraph of BUA’s statement, the company claimed that the Edo State Governor effected a gestapo-style to forcefully shutdown the mine.
“In the very next paragraph, BUA said that ‘Upon reaching the mining site and not meeting any personnel or equipment two BUA Cement employees were invited to the mining site to receive the Governor.
“Are these two statements not contradictory? If no one was at the site, then why would the governor use gestapo-style to shut it down?
“So why is BUA spreading falsehood? The workers and equipment were being evacuated by the time we got there, and understandably, they had heard that the governor was around and were rushing out of the site. They clearly flouted the Stop Work Order and now want to mask their violation of the order by resorting to blackmail.
“The Edo State government acted in the interest of Edo people in Okpella. We do not want any individual or organisation to create a mafia group within the state. We have intelligence that BUA is instigating a section of the Okpella community against other groups within the community and we will not fold our arms to allow such a plot to be hatched as it could lead to the loss of lives and property,” Osagie said.
He further added that the state governor has consistently maintained that no amount of money is worth the life of any Edo man or woman and that is our stand on this matter. “The matter is in court and we cannot even begin to pre-empt its outcome by commenting on it. We owe Edo people a non-negotiable obligation to protect them from harm’s way. As they say, when two elephants fight, the ground suffers. If anything will suffer from this fight, we want it to be the Obu site and not our people in Okpella” Osagie added
The governor’s spokesman also noted that “BUA’s narrative of what transpired at the Obu site is miles away from what transpired and suggests some desperation on their part.
“It may interest you to know that at some points, we faced resistance from some youths and security personnel planted by BUA at the site and this is disturbing. We welcome investors, but we do not want any organisation to turn any part of our state to a breeding ground for militias. BUA is not the first investor we have had in Edo State and will not be the last. We are open to investors but we insist on best practice.
“We want all the parties involved in the matter to respect the pronouncement of the court and in the interest of Edo people, refrain from acts that can result in crisis.
As we speak, some interest groups in Okpella have accused BUA of employing divide and rule tactics to dodge the fulfilment of social and economic benefits to the community contained in the Community Development Agreement as provided for in the Nigerian Mining Act.
“High chief Hanson Aimofumeh has threatened to go to court to stop the activities of BUA until it fulfills its pre-operational obligations. That is just one case. There are many more. But as a state that is committed to opening up our space to investors, we want to ensure that there is mutually beneficial relationship between investors and Edo people” Osagie said.