The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), representatives of the Owan and Okomu communities and a host of civil society groups have urged the Dr. Godwin Obaseki administration in Edo State to uphold a revocation Order on 13,750 hectares of land expropriated by Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc in the rich forest reserves.
In a letter delivered to Dr. Obaseki after a protest march tagged “Peoples March Against Land-grabbing and Deforestation in Edo State” following Okomu Oil Company’s defiance of the revocation order, the groups and the global environment movement said the current administration owes the community people the duty of enforcing the order.
Under former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the sale of the lands in contention covering an estimated 13,750 hectares spread through Okomu forests reserve to Owan forest reserve were reversed. Till date, Okomu Oil Company Plc has reportedly disregarded the Edo State Government order.
The company is alleged to have militarised the communities and embarked on continuous bulldozing of the forests for expansion of large scale oil plantation.
“In the process, over 60,000 rural farmers in the farming communities have been displaced and a host of communities impacted. Some of the communities are Okomu Village, Agbede, Ik camp, Makilolo, Lemo, Oweike, Avbiosi, Sobe, Uhiere, Owan, Ugbebezi, Oke-Ora, Ekpan, Oke, Atorunu, Ogbetu, Umokpe, Orhua, Ozalla, Sabogida Ora, Odiguete, Agudezi, Uhunmora, Uzeba and Odighi,” the ERA/FoEN disclosed in a statement made available to EnviroNews on Wednesday, June 21, 2017.
The ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, was quoated in the statement as saying: “The defiance of Okomu Oil Company Plc to the revocation order is only typical of what multinationals in the landgrab business do. We anticipate the current administration will not fold its hands and watch.”
Dr. Ojo explained that the plight of the affected communities is further aggravated by the poverty that Okomu Oil’s unrelenting bulldozing has inflicted on their only source of sustenance, even as he pointed out that, “in the quest for industrial development, the local communities have become casualties”.
“This development is totally unacceptable and that is why we ask the Obaseki administration to act with the speed that this issue demands. Okomu Oil Company Plc is in the breach of the law and should not be allowed to go scot-free,” Ojo insists, even as he lists the community’s demands to include:
- Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC obey the Edo State Government revocation order of 13,750 hectares of de-reserved land in Owan and Okomu forest reserves.
- Support family farming and local food systems, not destructive industrial agricultural models.
- Stop Deforestation and Land grabbing for Large-scale Oil palm plantation expansion by Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC.
- Trading our forests for industrial oil palm plantations business is a dangerous eco-business that has devastating negative social and environmental impacts.
- Prioritise public good over private interest.
- No due process or EIA certificate for Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC.
- Communities are the best custodians of forests and nature, Community forest management method is the answer to food deficit.