ABEOKUTA – The Coalition of Ogun State Students under the auspices of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and National Association of Ogun State Students (NAOSS) has demanded for the immediate closure of Lafarge Cement factory in Ewekoro, Ogun state over the alleged funding of international terrorist group, ISIS by the French Cement company.
The United States justice department in Brooklyn fined Lafarge with $778 million after pleading guilty to making payments to terrorists to retain its operations in Syria.
This is the first time a company will be pleading guilty to charges of providing material support to a terrorist organization.
According to AFP media report, LAFARGE admitted it paid millions of euros to middlemen to keep its Syrian cement factory running in 2013 and 2014, long after other firms had pulled out of the country — in what the Justice Department branded an “unthinkable choice.”
Earlier this year, a French court ruled that the company was aware that much of the money had gone to finance Islamic State operations.
Lafarge SA and its defunct subsidiary Lafarge Cement Syria “have agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations in Syria,” the company said.
US Attorney Breon Peace blasted Lafarge’s actions in a Justice Department statement.
“In the midst of a civil war, Lafarge made the unthinkable choice to put money into the hands of ISIS, one of the world’s most barbaric terrorist organizations, so that it could continue selling cement,” Peace said.
“Lafarge did this not merely in exchange for permission to operate its cement plant — which would have been bad enough — but also to leverage its relationship with ISIS for economic advantage.”
Lafarge invested 680 million euros in the construction of its plant in Syria, which was completed in 2010 — just a year before the outbreak of the ongoing war that is estimated to have killed more than half a million people.
In its own statement, Lafarge said: “Lafarge SA and LCS have accepted responsibility for the actions of the individual executives involved, whose behaviour was in flagrant violation of Lafarge’s Code of Conduct.
“We deeply regret that this conduct occurred and have worked with the US Department of Justice to resolve this matter.”
Holcim Group, the Swiss conglomerate which took over Lafarge in 2015, said the US Justice Department had cleared it of any wrongdoing.
It said it only learned of the allegations in 2016, and launched its own probe, and cooperated with US justice authorities.
“None of the conduct involved Holcim, which has never operated in Syria, or any Lafarge operations or employees in the United States, and it is in stark contrast with everything that Holcim stands for,” it said in a separate statement.
The company statements came shortly before a planned press conference by Justice Department officials in New York to announce the settlement of the longstanding case.
However, the students’ bodies in Ogun state called for the immediate shutdown of the Nigeria branch of Lafarge situated in Ogun state and investigation into the activities of the company in the last five years.
This, according to a statement issued in Abeokuta on Thursday and jointly signed by Comr. Ogunrombi Leke, NAOSS global President, Comr. Bestman Okereafor, President, Progressive Students Movement, Comr. Ekundina Elvis
NANS National Deputy Senate President, and Comr. Kehinde Damilola Simeon, Chairman NANS Ogun state was due to the presence of their students in DS Adegbenro ICT Polytechnic in Ewekoro and high level of reported kidnap and murder cases in the axis.
The group said they are concerned with the confirmed presence of ISIS in Nigeria and Lafarge branch in another country sponsoring the terrorism group, did not only portend great danger for Ogun state, but Nigeria entirely.
The students, therefore, said if the company is not shutdown in the next 72 hours, they would be forced to move in their thousands to clampdown on the company.
“We are concerned about the fact ISIS presence have been confirmed in Nigeria, yet the news have exposed a LAFARGE branch in another country fully sponsoring terrorists group, if the company is not shutdown at the expiration of our 72hours ultimatum Nigeria students will be forced to move in our thousands to shut the company down as Nigerian Students in that axis have been living under high apprehension since the news of LAFARGE sponsoring terrorist came out. For LAFARGE SA and LAFARGE Syria to have agreed and pledged guilty to funding and supporting a notorious terrorist group, what assurance do we have that the company in Nigeria is not doing the same thing, hence, the need for an immediate shutdown and investigation.
“It is extremely important for security agents to rise up to this task because an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, we are not unaware that the said terrorists have sophisticated weapons that security agents in Nigeria do not have, this simply means they may decide to go on rampage anytime even as the 2023 general elections is fast approaching.
“It is very disheartening that at a time when companies such as DANGOTE have been busy supporting security agents with mobility and logistics basically to combat crimes across the country, another is busy sponsoring terrorists, it is very disturbing and calls for immediate action .
“Finally we are imploring the commissioner for industry, SA Security, DSS, Nigeria Army and Police to as a matter of urgency swing into action in investigating the company in line with building our future together agenda of Prince Dapo Abiodun, Executive Governor of Ogun state. It should be specifically noted that we shall be mobilizing our battalions in our thousands to shutdown LAFARGE CEMENT In Ogun State if the company is not honorably shutdown in the next 72 hours.”