I’m writing you this open letter to register my concern over the ongoing face-off between the Kogi State government that you lead and Dangote Plc, which should never have been allowed to degenerate to a situation where thugs and agents of the state vigilante service were unleashed on a multi-billion dollar manufacturing outfit to force a shut down.
Throughout the period, the facility discontinued operations with all its staff sitting at home while many sustained injuries from the attack.
Sir, as you may be aware, Dangote Group started business in Kogi State in 2002 and has grown over the past 20 years to be synonymous with the growth of Kogi people and the stability of the state.
They have created significant value for our people and have committed billions of Naira towards corporate social responsibility aimed to uplift our dear state and our people.
I am, therefore, urging you, my dear governor, to immediately place logic over ego/emotions and leverage other lawful means of engaging the owners of the facility.
This is the right thing to do because as of now, Kogi State is holding on to the shorter end of the stick.
Your Excellency Sir, contrary to whatever information or security report is at your disposal, the truth that stares everyone in the face today is that the Dangote Group has been of more impact to the people of Kogi State than the federal, state and local governments put together.
It is common knowledge that in present day Kogi State, hundreds of thousands of families owe their survival to the existence of the Dangote Group because there is evidence that suggests that every single extended family in Kogi State has at least one of its own on the payroll of the conglomerate.
On the human front, Kogi people who work in other plants of the Dangote Group are presently a laughing stock. They are now being mocked as a people whose state government still utilize thuggery and brigandage as dispute resolution mechanism at a time the whole world has moved on to arbitration.
Information available indicates that the issues causing the dispute are the ownership structure of the Obajana cement plant and the failure of the company to pay the appropriate taxes.
As much as these issues look cogent on the face value, they are not sufficient grounds to deny over 10,000 Kogi people a chance to earn their monthly income with which they pay school fees, feed, cloth, shelter, buy medications and also stimulate small businesses in their locality.
This isn’t about Aliko Dangote. It is about Kogi people who should not be dragged into this squabble.
Already, Kogi State is trending on both national and international media space and it’s for the wrong reason. The consequences of this bad publicity is that serious investors will perceive Kogi State as a place where business-related disputes are settled with machetes and guns not arbitration.
If indeed the Dangote Group has short-changed Kogi State for non-remittance of correct taxes, a constitutionally created and recognised tax tribunal exists to adjudicate on the matter.
If indeed, the Dangote Group has not remitted correct dividends to Kogi State on account of its part ownership of the conglomerate, there’s a Securities and Exchange Commission as well as other statutory agencies to appeal to.
If the issue in contention is ownership of the land hosting the cement plant, then the state government should immediately issue a proper certificate of occupancy to the conglomerate and demand the full market value of the property from it. This is what works elsewhere.
Your Excellency Sir, you joined government from the private sector and I take it for granted that you have a very clear understanding of the time value of money and its impact on employees whose daily output is what is calculated and computed to monetary terms.
Your Excellency Sir, do the right thing now and reverse this action so that our people can be sure of where their next meal will come from by engaging in lawful engagement with the conglomerate and ensuring that non-state actors are kept away permanently.
Now that the facility is back on stream, the scars of the forceful closure will haunt the state for a long time to come. It’s my prayer and hope that this will be the last time the state government will adopt this approach in the resolution of any misunderstanding with entrepreneurs and businesses that operate in the state.
– Mohammed A Shaibu Tettes, Ph.D
MD/CEO, Mohsha Nigeria Limited, Abuja.