Following rumours that Alhaji Aliko Dangote has jettisoned his planned multi-million dollars investment in cement plants at Okpella in Edo State, youths in the community at the weekend staged a protest to the palace of the paramount ruler of Okpella Kingdom, Alhaji Yesufu Dirisu urging him to ensure Dangote Cement commences construction without delay.
Hundreds of placard carrying youths on motorbikes and bicycles stormed the palace insiting that the monarch should clarify the situation as it has taken too long for Dangote Cement to register its presence in Okpella.
Some of the placard read; “All we are saying, let Dangote Cement come to Okpella”, “Okpella youths earnestly ask for Dangote Cement” and “Okpella Chief and Elders, Please beg Dangote to come here. We are waiting for Him”.
Dangote Cement had recently announced plans to commence a three million tonnes per annum production capacity cement plant in Okpella along with another six million metric tons capacity plant in Itori, Ogun state.
Speaking at the Palace, the President of the Okpella Youths Forum, Mr. Christopher Kadiri said the protest was informed by information reaching the youths that Alhaji Dangote has changed his mind to start cement operations at Okpella at a time the youths were already expecting that more jobs are coming to them.
He said they decided to come to the palace to hear from the Chiefs and elders why Dangote should not be allowed into Okpella when his coming was supposed to be a blessing to members of the community who are yearning for development of the area.
The youths leaders said; “we are not a cursed people, why should we say an investor like Dangote should not come to Okpella. This is an international investor that even nations and heads of states are begging to come and invest in their countries. Now the same man says he wanted to come and build his cement plant here and we are hearing that some people are blocking him.
“We want to put it on record that we the youths are ready and are in support of Dangote to come and invest here. It is for our own good, we want employment, we want infrastructural development. Let Okpella enter into the world map as other cities in Nigeria. No investment is ever too much and many companies can come and set up businesses here, we welcome them.
“Your royal majesty and elders of our community, please help us tell Dangote that he has our 100 per cent support, we will maintain peace and tranquility, the atmosphere is conducive to his business. This is a golden opportunity, we can’t allow it to slip out of our hands.
“Posterity will not forgive us all if Dangote should take this plant to another place, please, tell him, the youths, the elders, the women, children and unborn ones in Okpella are calling on him to come quickly. It is long overdue even”.
Responding, the Secretary of Okpella Traditional Council, Chief Richard David dismissed insinuations that the Traditional council does not want Dangote. He said the Council has been in the forefront of agitation for Alhaji Dangote to come and make use of the abundant limestone in Okpella to start Cement production.
According to him, “Dangote coming to Okpella is a blessing to all, you can see the expression of joy, enthusiasm and excitement in the faces of the Chiefs when Dangote announced that he was coming to set up cement plant here. He is welcome and we promised him he woould not be disappointed. We pledged our solidarity and cooperation to him and his business. There is peace here and no threat at all to him. He should come quickly”.
Chief David explained that when Dangote Cement begins operations, Okpella people will also occupy managerial positions, “banks will come, other businesses will open. We are for Dangote Cement, none of us is against him”.
Speaking in the same vein, the Okuokpellagbe of Okpella, Alhaji Dirisu said his palace has said it times without number that nobody in Okpella can stop Dangote from coming to set up a cement plant here. In fact the day he announced he was ready to start construction, we were happy. It is the good of all and the community.
“I don’t want to be a ruler over undeveloped Community, I want a good life for my people. I want the youths to be employed, I want our women to have something doing, you cant imagine the ripple effect of Dangote Cement here in Okpella.”
Alhaji Dirisu assured the youths to maintain peace and that his palace will do everything possible to make Alhaji Dangote start works on his plant in Okpella, “we need him now more than ever before. Let it be on record that there is no bad blood between Okpella and Dangote. He is a friend of our people, he is my friend, he is our governor’s friend. We love him, he has nothing to fear. We want him to hasten things. Anything that can bring development is what we stand for. And Dangote cement is one of the things that can bring development and economic prosperity to our people and community”, Okuokpellagbe declared.”
It would be recalled that Dangote Cement Plc. Group Executive Director, Devakumar Edwin announced some production capacity expansion drives with the commencement of construction of new cement plants in two communities in the country.
The new plants are expected to add 9million metric tonnes per annum to the company’s current local cement output of 29.25 million metric tonnes, bringing it to a total of 38.25 million metric tonnes per annum.
The company had listed the communities in which it is setting up the new plants as Okpella in the northern part of Edo State, South-South of Nigeria with a three million per annum plant and another six million per annum capacity plants in Itori in Ogun State, South-west of the country.
Edwin, who made the announcement in Lagos, explained that the Okpella plant will be made up of one line and will produce a total of 3 million metric tonnes per annum, and the Itori plant which will deliver approximately 6 million tonnes per annum from two procution lines.
Both plants are expected to come on stream within the next three years.