The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has criticised the Kogi State Government’s forced closure on Wednesday of the Obajana factory of Dangote Cement Plc.
The trade union said it feared the shutdown could have far-reaching implications for the economy as well as labour and investment.
Dangote Group, under which Dangote Cement operates, is one of Nigeria’s biggest employers of labour after the federal government.
“You cannot use strong-arm tactics to shut them down or impose very severe restrictions on their operations simply to force them,” MAN President Mansur Ahmed said at a press conference held ahead of the trade body’s 50th annual general meeting.
“This is illegal and I believe that what has happened will not happen in a normal operating environment.”
A security outfit had on Wednesday stormed the plant on the order of the Kogi government to seal it over dispute arising from the company’s fiscal obligation to the state.
The government claims there was no evidence Mr Dangote properly acquired the company from the state government about two decades ago.
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The News Agency of Nigeria Thursday referenced a report by Folashade Ayoade, the secretary to the state government, as disclosing that the ownership of Obajana Cement (formerly owned by the Kogi State Government) was wrongly transfered to Dangote Industries Limited and dismissing the transfer as “invalid, null and void.”
The report by a committee Mrs Ayoade headed proposed that the “Kogi State Government should take steps to recover all accrued dividends from profits made over the years, including accrued interest on same.”
Kingsley Fanwo, the commissioner for information, said Aliko Dangote, the chairman of the company, had not appeared before lawmakers despite an invitation sent to him.
Dangote Cement has not commented on the allegations. A company spokesperson did not respond when reached by phone Thursday.
The manufacturers association sought the involvement of the Ministry of Trade and Investment in resolving the conflict, according to Mr Ahmed, who added that Kogi State Government should have taken the honourable path of legal action instead.
“We have no reason not to pay taxes to the Kogi State government as and when due and I am aware that Dangote Industries is one of the highest tax-payers in Nigeria,” he said.
“But, if indeed for whatever reason that there is a tax for the Kogi State government on Dangote, it has measures and ways of recovery and there is no justification to threaten the closure of that industry.”
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