Mmebers of Organised Private Sector (OPS) under the aegis of the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) have berated the Kogi State government for closing down Dangote Cement Plant in Obajana, saying it is hasty.
This is just as Lagos and Abuja branches of the chamber in separate statements described the action of the Governor Yahaya Bello as “shocking and disappointing.” They argued that for every day the factory is shut, millions of naira are lost and the reputation of Kogi State takes a negative shift.
NACCIMA expressed regret that the issues between the company and the state over tax disputes ought not to have led to the sealing of the company but should have been resolved in a conciliatory and amicable atmosphere.
The body, in a statement signed by its Director-General, Olusola Obadimu and issued in Lagos, noted that the Kogi state government should have followed amicable ways of resolving the impasse. However, it called for the immediate reopening of the factory for normal production activities to resume.
Obadimu said their position was based on some key considerations bordering on the impact of the factory’s closure on the economy and thousands of people whose means of livelihood depend on the production activities of the factory.
“It is vital to note that it is a huge production plant that supplies key domestic input (cement) into the economy and employs hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, directly and indirectly. This is aside from its substantial budget for corporate social responsibility outside of taxes.
“Shutting off the factory does not necessarily help the controversial issue of compliance on tax remittable to Kogi state government. Rather a continuous operation of the plant would more likely facilitate a faster resolution of the dispute,” he said.
The NACCIMA boss opined that the factory is reopened as soon as possible to enable it to continue its operation and fulfil its necessary responsibilities, not just on tax obligations, but also to keep the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in its direct and indirect employment dutifully engaged; while sustaining its crucial services not just to the people and government of Kogi State but Nigeria in general.
The chamber in a statement signed by its Director General, Dr Chinyere Almona said the attack on the cement factory reflected the poor handling of investment protection issues in the country. It added that there are more decent ways to handle regulatory and legislative matters concerning businesses in Nigeria than resorting to violence.
It said the invasion of the Dangote Cement Factory by youths that led to the shooting of factory workers is unfortunate, ill-construed, and avoidable.
“We advocate a win-win situation for businesses and the government. We will therefore call on all parties to exercise caution and be protective of jobs, assets of production, and government revenues from corporate organisations like Dangote Cement Factory”, she stated.
Almona noted that the Federal Government and Kogi State Government had hitherto benefited from business revenues and social investments. “It is therefore expected that the government would be interested in creating an enabling business environment that can attract both local and foreign investors. And where there are infractions, handling such should be in accordance with best practices and the rule of law that protect investors’ rights and human lives,” she said.
The body suggests that it is time to call a meeting of all government agencies connected with the acquisition of the cement plant to resolve any differences thereof. This process, it said, “can be taken without necessarily shutting down the factory and endangering jobs, products, and government revenues. This point is critical as wrong handling or unprofessional approaches to resolutions can send negative signals to potential foreign investors.”
It noted that with the activities of the Dangote Cement Factory, the growing mining industry in Kogi State has benefitted both in infrastructural and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects to enhance the standard of living in the state.
“We see a role for the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the Nigeria Investment Protection Commission (NIPC), and the Kogi State Government in resolving this issue. We, therefore, expect to see a swift intervention by these agencies toward a win-win resolution,” Lagos Chanmber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) opined.
Also in a statement signed by its Director General, Victoria Akai, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry enjoined the Kogi State government to employ the use of dialogue in resolving its differences with the company, noting that the approach taken by the government will dent its image as an investment destination.
According to Victoria, the duo of the state governor and Dangote are peace-loving people hence they should resolve any business dispute through consensus without jeopardising the multi-billion naira investment and thousands of jobs of Kogi indigenes.
“We, therefore, call for the immediate re-opening of the factory and commencement of alternative dispute resolution. Dangote Cement is a company with commendable sustainability records. The company has blazed the trail within Nigeria and across Africa.
“Nothing should therefore be done to truncate the growing business at a time other African countries are opening their doors wide for Dangote investment. The factory has been able to take many out off the street thereby reducing unemployment that has been a major problem in the country.
“The closure of the factory will further increase unemployment. It is in the best interest of Kogi state to reopen the factory so as not to scare away local and foreign investors,” the statement read.