How Dangote tried to ruin our cement, sugar businesses – BUA

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One of Nigerian richest men and chairman of BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu, has accused Africa’s richest man and chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, of launching a series of attacks on his businesses.

BUA, in a statement issued by its management on Friday, recalled Dangote’s efforts to ruin its sugar and cement businesses.

The company spoke in response to alleged blackmail of BUA Group by Dangote Group.

BUA recalled that Dangote made the first attempt to ruin its businesses in 1991 through the purchase of its sugar.

It said, “In August 1991, a young BUA was doing its commodities trading business just as Nigeria faced a scarcity of sugar. As sugar was scarce, BUA was lucky to be one of the few with any stock for sale, and we stood prepared to supply the nation’s needs as best as our stock could.

“It was during this period Aliko Dangote approached us to purchase sugar. If only we knew he was setting the first of many traps in our business history. He gave us a Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria cheque, which bounced upon presentation to the bank. Unbeknown to us, this was a ruse that would lead to a court-sanctioned freeze of our assets orchestrated by Dangote.

“For three agonising months, our accounts were garnisheed, warehouses shuttered, and our spirit tested. Yet, from the ashes of deceit, BUA survived.”

BUA stated that Dangote did not stop at that. The company said an attempt to start a sugar refinery in Lagos was frustrated by Dangote who used the instrumentals of the government to get the leased land revoked.

“Fast forward a few years later, we decided that since we were making good progress in our various businesses, we should open a sugar refinery. We approached one Usman Dantata (now late), Aliko Dangote’s uncle, and leased his NPA waterfront land (4.5 hectares) at the Tincan Island port, ‘Polo House’.

“We took the land, signed an agreement with the consent of NPA, and paid all applicable dues. Dangote waited until our contractors and equipment had been mobilised to the site, then he went to former President Obasanjo. President Obasanjo had the land revoked entirely and gave the lease to Dangote. As a result, even his uncle lost the land. BUA was only given 24 hours to vacate the land.

“It took us over a year to get another land. How?” BUA said.

BUA stated that the attack on its businesses from Dangote continued. The company said its venture into the cement industry was fiercely resisted by Dangote.

According to it, “Our businesses continued to surge forward amid several other attempts, too many to mention now. In 2007, under President Yar’Adua’s visionary mandate to broaden Nigeria’s cement industry and break the monopoly in the sector, BUA was among the six companies selected and granted licenses. Our approach was unconventional but effective: we introduced a floating terminal – ‘BUA CEMENT I’, which is a cement factory built into a large ship, as a stopgap while we were working on securing our land-based cement plant.

“What followed, however, was another act intended to drive us out of business. Our application to dock the floating terminal in Lagos met with resistance. We then decided to berth the ship at the terminal we owned in Port Harcourt. Despite this, we faced considerable pushback and it took the decisive intervention of late President Yar Adua, who directed that the Minister of Transport and the Chairman of NPA honour our right to contribute to the nation’s growth.

“But the hurdles didn’t end there. The drama intensified when Orwell Brown, a Deputy Comptroller General who was also an older brother to a Dangote staffer, launched a sudden strike, attempting to deport our vessel’s entire expatriate crew. It was a Friday that is forever seared into our memory – the shock of our expatriates rounded up, their confusion as they were shepherded onto a Dangote-funded one-way local flight from Port Harcourt to Lagos en-route Asia via Emirates.

“Upon hearing of what had happened, we reached out to Tanimu Yakubu, the then Chief Economic Adviser, who acted with the urgency that the situation demanded. His call to the CG of Immigration was a lifeline, and our expatriate team was brought back from the Emirates aircraft and not deported. The aftermath was swift action by the President, who ensured that such a misuse of power would not go unchecked. DCG Brown, caught in a tangle of undue influence, admitted what he did to the Minister, and he was later dismissed.”

The company added that it suffered in the hands of Dangote on its cement plant in Edo and sugar plant in Port Harcourt.

BUA said, “We also know what transpired whilst we were building our Edo Cement Plant. Everyone knows the issues we faced. The plant we are operating in Edo would not have been operating and contributing immensely to the economy, if not for the former President Buhari who had to intervene by calling Governor Obaseki that no staff must lose their jobs and the plant must not be shut down, no matter what happens. We cannot say more as the matter is currently sub judice – and is at the Supreme Court.

“Same thing happened again with our Port Harcourt sugar refinery – the only sugar refinery in Nigeria that is outside Lagos. Dangote utilized every means possible to ensure the refinery did not take off and we raised the alarm. At some point, the terminal was taken away from us and was to have been given to someone else at the behest of Dangote. There had to be a presidential intervention again for the NPA to do the right thing. Yet, we survived.”

The company concluded, “For over 32 years, we have been cast as the antagonists in a narrative woven with malice. We have not just survived; we have thrived, expanding our operations and contributing to Nigeria’s economy without resorting to subterfuge.

“To Mr. Dangote and the Dangote Group, we say: Let us build, not belittle. Let us cultivate, not conquer. While we may share the marketplace, we need not share malice. We have nothing to do with your self-inflicted issues. Blame no one but yourself.”