The Edo State Government has ordered the immediate shutdown of the disputed Obu Mine site in Okpella community, Edo State, following a directive from the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and to avoid the breakdown of law and order in the community.
The State government directed security operatives in the state to ensure there are no operations in the mine site until the outcome of the suit, or pending further instructions from the supervisory ministry, which is the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel.
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki gave the order on Monday, when leaders of Okpella community paid a courtesy call at the Government House, in Benin City, to express their concern about the deteriorating security situation in the community.
“I am very concerned, particularly because of the security implication of this impasse on Okpella community. The issues are clear; two entities cannot own the same asset, particularly in an industry like mining with international best practices and processes for determining ownership rights. I don’t believe that Nigeria is different. And when there is a dispute as per ownership, there are also laid down globally accepted ways of resolving these disputes. People cannot resort to self-help in a country where there is rule of law.
“I understand that the matter of the ownership of Obu mines is in the court and parties are waiting the declaration by the court. Therefore, Edo State Government, today, following what we have received from the Federal Ministry of Mines will close down Obu mines until the determination of the suit currently pending in at the Federal High Court. Whoever the Court says owns the mines, becomes the bona fide owner after the judgement has been delivered. But between now and the outcome of the court, we do not want to see anybody – I mean anybody – in that property.”
He directed the Commissioner of Police in the State, Mr. Johnson Kokumo and other security operatives to make sure that there are no operations at the mine site “until the outcome of the suit, or pending further instructions from the supervisory ministry which is the Federal Ministry of Mines.”
Noting that the state government is not taking any sides on the matter because the issue in contention doesn’t fall within the jurisdiction of the state as mining is on the exclusive list, he said, “I want to state clearly that it is in the interest of all parties to ensure that there is the rule of law, because that is the only way they can protect their investments.
“Please note, effective today, everybody must move out of Obu mines, which is to be shut until the declaration of the suit which is currently at the court.”
Noting that the state government was committed to the protection of lives and property, even as it seeks for investors, he added, “We want to assure that as a government, we are committed to the protection of lives and property. No amount is worth any life. Yes, we want investors and investment, but people must be alive to benefit from this investment. We feel that that it is rather unfortunate that this matter has degenerated to this extent, but as a responsible government, we will do whatever is necessary to ensure that we remedy the situation. We hope that the contending parties will do what is right and in their own interest, follow due process.”
Legal counsel to the Okpella community, Dr. Ayuba Giwa said that the people of Okpella are happy about the governor’s investment drive as well as his infrastructural strides in his first year in office.
Noting that the visit was to submit a copy of the letter sent to the presidency on the lingering issue between Dangote Group Plc and BUA International Limited over the ownership of Obu Mines in their community, Giwa said that above all else, the community wants peace to reign, as they are ready to accommodate all investors.
He condemned the use of youth militias to protect perceived rights to solid minerals, pleading with the state government to constitute a technical team to resolve the issue.
In the letter, the community appealed to the Presidency to do justice to all parties on the matter including and particularly Okpella, “where the host community of Komunio belongs and in accordance with the Ministry of Mines and Steel’s new template for processing of consent for the acquisition of minerals rights/titles in Nigeria, the mandatory requirements of Community Development Agreements (CDAs) and Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (EISAs) as pre-requisites to legal operations in the solid mineral regime in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.