Operators of the Organized Private Sector (OPS) under the aegis of the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) have criticized the Kogi State government over the closure of Dangote Cement, Obajana Plant , describing the action as haste.
This is as the Lagos and Abuja branches of the Chamber in separate statements described the action of the state governor, Yahaya Bello, as “shocking and disappointing” at least, lamenting that for every day that the factory is closed , millions of naira are lost and the reputation of Kogi state takes a negative hit.
NACCIMA lamented that the tax disputes between the company and the state should not have led to the closure of the company but should have been resolved in a conciliatory and friendly atmosphere.
The body, in a statement signed by its Director General, Olusola Obadimu, said the state government should have taken a precautionary approach, and called for the immediate reopening of the factory to resume normal production activities.
Obadimu stated that NACCIMA’s position was based on some key considerations that limit the impact of the factory closure on the economy and thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the production activities of the factory.
“It is vital to note that it is a large production plant that provides key domestic input (cement) in the economy and employs hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, directly and indirectly. This is apart from its substantial budget for corporate social responsibility outside of taxes.
“Closing the factory will not necessarily help the controversial issue of tax compliance remitted to the Kogi state government. Rather a continued operation of the plant will most likely facilitate a quicker resolution of the dispute,” he said.
The boss NACCIMA then urged that the factory be reopened as soon as possible to enable it to continue its operation and fulfill its necessary responsibilities, not only on fiscal obligations, but also to maintain the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians in its direct and indirect employment dutifully committed; while supporting his crucial services not only to the people and government of Kogi State but to Nigeria at large.
The LCCI, in its statement signed by its Director General, Dr. Chinyere Almona, said the attack on the cement factory reflects the mishandling of investment protection issues in the country.
The Chamber said it believes there are more decent ways to deal with regulatory and legislative issues relating to business in Nigeria than resorting to violence. According to the Chamber, the invasion of the Dangote Cement Factory by youths that led to the shooting of factory workers is unfortunate, ill-conceived and avoidable.
“We want a win-win situation for business and government. Therefore, we will call on all parties to be cautious and protect jobs, productive assets and government revenue from corporate organizations like Dangote Cement Factory,” he added.
The LCCI boss noted that the FG Federal Government and Kogi State Government had so far benefited from the business revenue and social investment, adding that, “It is therefore expected that the government will be interested to create an enabling business environment that can attract both local and foreign investors. And where there are violations, the management of such should be in accordance with best practices and the rule of law that protects the rights of investors and human life.”
LCCI has called for a meeting of all government agencies connected with the purchase of the cement plant to resolve any differences. This process, he said, “can be taken without necessarily closing the factory and endangering jobs, products and government revenues. This point is critical since a wrong handling or unprofessional approaches to the resolutions can send negative signals to potential foreign investors”.
The Chamber noted that the growing mining industry in Kogi State has benefited from the production activities of Dangote Cement Factory, which offers infrastructural and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects to enhance the standard of living in the State .
“We see a role for the Presidential Enabling Environment Council (PEBEC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the Nigeria Investment Protection Commission (NIPC) and the Kogi State Government to resolve this issue. Therefore, we expect to see swift intervention by these agencies towards a win-win resolution,” LCCI advised.
The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a statement signed by its Managing Director, Mrs. Victoria Akai, urged the state government to employ dialogue to resolve any differences it has with the cement company to protect the image of the state as an investment destination. .
She said the State Governor and the owner of Dangote Cement Plc, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, are men of peace who should settle any business dispute by consensus without jeopardizing the multi-billion naira investment and thousands of jobs of Kogi indigenes.
“Therefore, we demand the immediate reopening of the factory and the initiation of alternative dispute resolution. Dangote Cement is a company with a commendable sustainability record. The company has paved the way in Nigeria and across Africa.
“Nothing should therefore be done to truncate the growing business at a time when other African countries are opening their doors for Dangote investment. The factory has been able to take a lot off the road, thus reducing unemployment which has been a major problem in the country.
“The closure of the factory will also increase unemployment. It is in the best interest of Kogi state to reopen the factory so as not to scare local and foreign investors,” the statement noted.