The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has described as misleading, a publication signed by the Executive Chairman of the BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu, published in several newspapers as an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Titled: 'A cry for Help: Wanton Abuse of Power By a Serving Minister Geared at Sabotaging Operations of BUA Cement,' the letter dated December 4, 2017, had called on President Buhari to intervene and investigate acts of sabotage against BUA Cement operations by Dangote Group in connivance with top officials of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
BUA accused the Ministry of Mines and Steel under the watchful eyes of the minister of trying to pervert the course of justice in a dispute between two of the nation's economic juggernauts, BUA Group and Dangote Group.
BUA, in the letter, also stated that Dangote Group had connived with top government officials of the ministry, including using thugs and agents of the state to ensure that operations at BUA Cement in Okpella were disrupted despite a suit pending before a Federal High Court due for hearing on December 5 and 6, 2017.
But in a swift reaction yesterday, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Mohammed Abass, described the publication as an unwarranted campaign of calumny against the ministry and the minister.
According to Abass, the letter was an attempt by the cement company to blackmail the ministry into granting a free pass for illegal operations.
While acknowledging that BUA Group has an enviable history of industrial performance, Abass alleged that the company's mining activities are illegal as the company does not have a mining lease over the contentious site No. 2541ML, according to the records of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and the Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office (MCO).
Abass insisted that the ministry stands by the stop-work-order issued to the BUA Group and signed by the Permanent Secretary, dated October 17, 2017.
"The letter was issued after thorough investigation confirmed that the BUA Group was indeed engaging in illegal mining of marble/limestone at a mine pit located on Geographical Coordinates N070 21' 47.4" E0060 26' 51.8', while the Run-of-Mine (ROM) is stockpiled at an area with geographical coordinates N070 21' 48.4"; E0060 26'37.2". Clarification provided by the Mining Cadastre Office shows that the coordinates of the mine pit and ROM stockpile area fall wholly within the area of mining Lease No 2541ML belonging to Messrs Dangote Industries Limited," Abass explained.
The permanent secretary further clarified that his ministry had earlier in 2015 issued a stop-work-order on this same disputed site but the BUA Group disregarded the order and went ahead with its illegal mining activities, under heavy cover of armed soldiers, policemen and men of the Civil Defence Corps.
According to him, BUA had also resisted the enforcement of the latest stop-work-order issued on October 17, 2017, using a combination of armed militia, soldiers and policemen to obstruct the team from the ministry in effecting the stop-work-order.
"While BUA Group in its publication admitted the fact that a suit over the ownership of the site was pending in a court of competent jurisdiction, the group, however continued with its illegal mining activities on the site, which in itself is subjudice to both the court and the Mining Act 2007, which guides mining activities in the country," Abass said.
"While the ministry restates its commitment to promoting local and global investments in the Nigerian mining sector, it has always maintained that due process must be followed, especially in line with the provisions of the Minerals and Mining Act 2007. This, we shall not compromise," he added.