… Court Ordered Return to Status Quo- BUA
By Lucky Isibor
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has ordered the arrest of two employees of BUA International Limited for flaunting the Federal Government stop-work order at the Obu-Okpella mining site pending the resolution of the dispute over the ownership of the mine site.
The Governor gave the order Wednesday when he stormed the disputed Obu-Okpella mine site along with security agencies comprising men of the Nigerian Army, the Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and Department of State Services (DSS).
Obaseki who was visibly angry on discovering that work was still ongoing despite relaying directives from the Federal Government on a stop-work order pending the determination of a court suit over the ownership of the mine site, said that the state government was more interested in the security of lives and property and that much as there was need for investors to make returns on their investment, no money is worth any life.
“There is a dispute over the ownership of this mine site. The dispute is in court. There was specific instruction from the Minister of Mines and Steel Development asking that work should stop pending the outcome of the matter before the court. I addressed a section of the Okpella community who came to me to express concerns about the growing tension in the community because of the dispute.
“At that point, I issued instructions that the work should stop in line with the Federal Government directive and the case in court. I said that status quo be maintained until the determination of the case in court. I think that is the simple, commonsensical thing to do. There is a quarrel and all parties should maintain peace and the status quo,” he said.
Reacting to the arrest, BUA in a statement said the Edo State government is violating an order of the Federal High Court sitting in Benin which said that they can work and status quo be maintained till the determination of the suit.
According to the statement by O’tega Ogra, “Whilst the Governor based the legitimacy of his actions on a purported Stop-Work order from the Ministry of Mines, BUA wishes to reiterate that there is a pronouncement of the Federal High Court sitting in Benin on December 5, 2017 that declared the Stop-work order issued by the ministry as a contravention of the Court’s directives to maintain status quo and thus deemed it illegal. The same court also threatened to arrest the Minister who is the first defendant in the case if the stop work order continues to be pursued.
“We once again ask all parties to await the conclusion of judicial process as this matter is already before a court of competent jurisdiction”, the statement said.
Governor Obaseki said it was regrettable that having gotten the directive, the management of BUA International Limited went on air to say that the state government has no authority and right to enforce a federal government directive.
According to him, “What they are saying in essence is that government does not matter. That sort of utterance and position is very dangerous for our country for a company that needs government to treat us with such disdain. With this, things will degenerate into anarchy. How can they operate in such an environment. We don’t care who owns what, but human life is more expensive than whatever money anybody can make.”
It was gathered that there are ten other mine sites aside the disputed one, and with the stop work order, BUA International Limited could mine from its other sites in the area to sustain its production.
The Commander of 4 Brigade, Major General Ibrahim Garba, who led the Army personnel to the enforcement exercise, directed that explosives being used for the mining activities be confiscated, adding, “We gave permission for the explosives to be used here. But now, they would be sent to the brigade headquarters.”
Speaking at the Palace of the Okuokphellagbe of Okpella, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Andrew Dirisu, Obaseki said the visit to the site was to assure the people of the area that government was on top of the situation and to ensure peace in the community.
“With the action we have taken now, we know there would be pressure on the concerned parties to resolve the situation,” he added.
Alhaji Dirisu reiterated that the people want peace in the area, noting, “There is no way we wouldn’t welcome people to invest. But what we want is for everyone to take what they get and no one should take from another. For now, as you have given your order, who are we to dispute it. I thank you for calling for peace in this matter.”