By Codratus Godson
The troubles that turned Eleme into crisis over the right to manage the equity held by the host communities of the world class petrochemical plant seems over following judicial intervention. A court in Port Harcourt ruled on March 29, 2019, over who had the right to manage the company.
Thus, the authority of Elano Investment Limited as ‘legitimate manager’ of the 7.5 per cent equity granted to the host communities of Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited has been affirmed by a Port Harcourt high court.
The judgment is said to have not only laid to rest the acrimonies that erupted two years ago in Eleme areas leading to arson and violence but has restored peace in the area.
Elano had dragged 28 persons from the seven communities that own lands in Indorama to court over protracted violent actions including arson against the board members of Elano aimed at pushing them out of legitimate management of the shares. This came after the sharing of over N14Bn that had accrued to the host communities, an amount that stirred huge interest in Elano and Indorama. More funds began to accrue to Elano from Indorama on yearly basis.
The matter dragged on and went to the table of the Rivers State governor (Nyesom Wike) who asked the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs to look into it, but Elano later approached the high court to determine if the agreement that ceded authority to them (Elano) was valid and subsisting.
In his ruling, the justice, Hillary Oshomah, granted all the prayers of the Elano board, saying he did so after studying the claims by Elano and counter claims by the defendants. The court said it took cognizance of the fact that Elano was given due mandate by the communities to source for funds (almost N3Bn) to buy out the 7.5 per cent offered to the host communities by the Federal Government through the Bureau of Private Enterprises (BPE) and to manage it.
The judge said it also recognised the agreement between Elano and the host communities which provided for sharing of dividends and use of funds for development purposes. The court granted order of injunction restraining the defendants from interfering or obstructing Elano from acting as ‘legitimate manager’ of the 7.5 per cent Indorama Eleme petrochemicals limited host community equity.
Reacting, the chairman of Elano Board, an Eleme chief, Ogomba Okanje, told newsmen that the judicial resolution of the matter has brought all matters to rest and affirmed the fundamental issues. He said Elano saw an opportunity to capture what was about to escape and raised almost N3Bn to buy the shares granted the host communities.
He said the first time such opportunity of buying equity in a company located in one’s community was in Aladja Steel Company, but said because the community did not raise the capital to buy up the allotment, the shares went void. He said it was such realization that forced him and some well-meaning leaders to approach the community to grant them the right to pursue the equity. This was done, he stated.
He said Elano was incorporated as an investment company and the company sourced loans with which the 7.5 per cent equity was bought in Indorama. He said the communities reached an agreement with Elano on how to share out chunks of the dividends and how to use the rest for infrastructural facilities. The rest was devoted to welfare such as scholarships, health scheme, and empowerment.
He said some persons caused mayhem trying to dethrone Elano by saying they were not authorized to handle the shares, and that they wanted to deal directly with Indorama.
Now, he said, the courts have declared the true state of things. He said there is no notice of appeal on the judgment of the Port Harcourt high court.
The chief said it is now time for all parties to come together and develop Eleme and Elelenwo communities according to the terms of agreement. Okanje said he would not make claims from those who caused the mayhem.