Host communities of Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc in Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State, held a peace protest against what they tagged marginalisation and ill-treatment by the oil palm company.
The protesters drawn from the host communities of Gbelebu, Safargbo, Okomu, Oweike, Maikolo, etc, carried placards bearing inscriptions such as: ‘Govt tell Okomu Oil Company to open our road’; ‘Okomu Oil Company give us our fishing traps that are with you’; ‘stop polluting our stream with your agro chemical, it is our only source of drinking water’; ‘we are not terrorists, stop harassing us with military, Okomu Oil’, accused the company of blocking and positioning fiece looking military men on the only road that links them to Udo.
The protesters also acussed Edo State government of selling the whole land wherein they farm to the company thereby enslaving them, just as they lamented that they have no where to farm anymore in their land.
Speaking to the press shortly after the protest, the Fiyewei (spokesperson) of Okomu clan, Chief Sunday Ajele, said it quite unfortunate that government of Edo State has joined in the enslavement of the people with continuous sales of the land wherein the natives farm to a foreign company.
“The state government sells the land to multinational where this forest people farm and even trade. If you sell the land to multinational, where do you want these people to survive? Ordinarily, we expected the state government to come to the aide of these host commities and question this multinational why the ill-treatment but unfortunately, the state government has joined them in the enslavement.
“A country that has constitution, it is unfortunate that the constitution is not working. A country with laws yet the law is not working. The law protects only the rich while the poor who are the forest people that feed the nation are suffering. Everything we buy in the market comes from the forest,” he said.
On her part, Mrs. Biobokogha Pena-ere from Okomu said the company has put the communities into bondage through their maltreatment and harrasement, lamenting that they can no longer fish nor farm.
“Okumu Oil Palm is oppressing us, intimidating us, we don’t have good road, we don’t have good water. We cannot kill the fish we used to kill before because they have used their chemical to spoil our river, so no fish. The petty business we do to survive, they have blocked the road to access urban cities, so we can no longer do our businesses,” Pena-ere lamented.
Also speaking, Chief French Yabike decried the activities of Okomu Oil Palm Company, alleging that the company has been busy evacuating their villages, just he further lamented that yet “in terms of employment nothing; talking about scholarship, nothing, everything they promised, nothing was done.”
He said Okomu land is divided into two: area BC 9 and area BC10, and that they the native are in BC 10, alleging that Okomu Oil Palm Company has crossed to BC 10 part of the land and intimidating them with military.
“We are tired of the activities of Okomu Oil Palm Company. The company has been evacuating our communities. Some times ago, they came with soilders to evacuate Lemon camp. After that they proceeded to Agbede comminity and evacuated them, and later extended to Oweike, they evacuated it too,” he said.
Also speaking, a chief from Gbelebu comminity, Ejueyi Segun, said the only road linking the community and others has been blocked by the company, saying the company does not owe the road as claimed.
He said, “The company has blocked the existing road before the company was founded. Since 2019, the road has been under lock and today it been locked completely. They used COVID-19 as an excuse to finally lock up the road with lockdown excuse. The alternative road is bad.
“The road the company is claiming is not its road, that road was constructed by British West Africa Timber Contractors of those days before Okomu Oil Palm was set up there.”
Engineer Lawani Dumofaye, from Agbede community said “Just of last week, our local farmers mills were being burnt down by Okomu Oil Palm Company. We have been suffering. Our streams are being polutted with their Agro chemicals. We are suffering. We are calling on the international comminity and the government to come to our aides. We have a lot of graduates in our communities but none is being employed,” he said.
Calls and WhatsApp messages sent to the Public Relations Officer the company, Fidelis Olise were not replied even after reading them
Reported by: Edoko Wilson edoko-wilson.com