Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc yesterday denied that seven of its workers died during a protest that unsettled its plant in Numan, a town in Adamawa State.
The company refuted this claim in a statement its Managing Director, Mr. Ravindra Singhvi issued yesterday, saying there was neither protest by its staff members nor any case of death recorded in the community.
Some youths of Gyawana, the host community of Dangote Sugar Refinery, had protested against the company for allegedly sacking some workers from the community, among other complaints.
In its statement, however, the company said the attention of its management “has been drawn to an online report by Sahara Reporters about the deaths of some protesting staff members at our Sugar Refinery, in Numan, Adamawa State.
“We would like to state categorically that this report is an absolute falsehood. None of our staff protested. No life was lost as well. On several occasions, members of the Gyawana Youth Association have shut down the operations of the company while threatening staff members on duty to stop work.”
The firm said the activities of these hoodlums had been reported to security operatives following which the Commissioner of Police and Director of Security Services, Adamawa State invited the executives of the association and asked them to desist from interfering and threatening the DSR staff and operations.
The firm added that it had obtained a restraining order from the Magistrate Court, Numan against the Gwayana Youth Association to protect its staff members from external violence and ensure seamless operations at the refinery.
It explained that the youths disobeyed the order, which according to the firm, resulted in its resolve to obtain from the court against the executives of the youth association.
It noted that the association issued another threat on July 15 on the plan “to forcefully enter and destroy the assets of the company and attack any person found within the company premises.
“With this threat to life, family and company assets, the management requested the assistance of law enforcement agencies in Numan to help protect life and assets of the company. The request was granted, and some officers were drafted in to secure the gates against the protesters.
“In a bid to prevent the protesting youths from forcefully shutting down the company’s operations, the law enforcement officers mounted a barricade at the entrance of the company during which three people sustained minor injuries and were promptly taken to the hospital for treatment and discharged accordingly.
“We repeat that no single casualty was recorded during the protest as erroneously reported in the online publication. As a responsible corporate organisation, we believe in due process and rule of law and the sanctity of human lives and that was why we went to court and also reported the disturbance to the security agencies.
“We also urge the media to always check thoroughly to have all the facts before rushing to the press as to avoid misleading the populace,” the company advised.
At a session with journalists Friday, however, the youths confirmed that only five of their members were critically wounded while others sustained various minor degrees of injuries following a confrontation between security operatives and angry youths of Gyawana, the host community of Savannah Sugar Company Ltd.
The Secretary of Gyawana Youth Development Association (GYDA), Mr Joseph Ishaih said the youths had risen against the company in protest of alleged sacking of some staff members from the community, among other complaints.
He said the initial report, which mentioned that seven persons died during the protest, was not true. However, according to him, many were critically wounded.
He explained that the security operatives shot at the protesting youths; noting that some, who were critically injured during the protest, were taken to hospital in Lamurde.
He disclosed that one of them was so critically wounded that he was referred to the University of Jos Teaching Hospital for intensive treatment, though no one died.
The secretary disclosed that the soldiers at the company shot at least five persons, who sustained varying degrees of injury during the protest that rocked the firm.
In its reaction yesterday, the 23-Armoured Brigade in Yola acknowledged that the youths protested against Dangote Sugar Refinery and threatened to shut the company down.
The brigade, in a statement by its spokesman, Major Haruna Sani, noted that the protesting youths also threatened to abduct expatriates for sacking some staff members of the company who are members of the host community.
It said efforts to calm the situation by the officials of the Nigeria Police and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps proved abortive, saying the youths, wielding cutlasses, machetes and other dangerous weapons, overpowered them.
“When a distress call was made to an internal security outfit in Adamawa a.k.a Operation Farauta, comprising soldiers and other paramilitary agencies, they mobilised and moved to reinforce the Police and Civil Defence deployment at the location.
“In the process, tear gas as well as warning shots were fired as some of the non-violent means of crowd dispersal and to further prevent own troops from being lynched by the mob,” the brigade said in its statement.
Consequently, according to the brigade, the situation was brought under control. Unfortunately, some soldiers sustained minor injuries from the stones thrown by the mob but no single protester was killed.