By Jethro Ibileke/Benin
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has set up a committee to look into the age-long impasse between Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc, and its host communities in Okomu.
This followed a petition written by the host communities to the Presidency, in Abuja, where they accused the company of marginalisation, land encroachment, amongst others.
Coordinator of the communities, Chief Sunday Ajele, at a meeting summoned by the committee headed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Mr. Lucky Wasa, to hear the grievances of the people, said they have lost hope in the state government, particularly previous ones, hence sending a ‘save our souls’ to the federal government.
He said several petitions were written to Edo State government in the past, wherein they narrated the agony, pains and suffering Okomu Oil Palm company subjected them to, did not yield any result.
According to Ajele, the state government rather asked them to go and settle with the company.
He, however, expressed optimism that the Obaseki-led government will do justice to the matter and compel Okomu oil to do the needful.
Narrating their ordeals in the hands of management Okomu Oil Palm Plc to the committee, Chief Ajele accused the company of forcefully evicting his people from their ancestral land without compensation, rather using the security agencies to threaten and terrorise his people.
“It is strange to evict people from their ancestral land and then claim that it is because you have the certificate of occupancy. It is strange for a multinational to disallow the people from using the stream for their fishing.
“Between 1990 and year 2000, four communities were evicted, their houses demolished; their property demolished; their farmland demolished without compensation. The company claimed that because they have Certificate of Occupancy they can evict any community of their choice in the area.
“Tell me, how do you evict the people-farmers from their farmland and you said you will not compensate them? Imagine anything cash crop like cocoa, no compensation. If you have cassava and others, you are only compensated N12,000 for an acre of land.
“In the year 2010, a petition letter titled ‘enough is enough’ was written to Edo State government, and later the government said we should go and settle with the company,” he said.
In his remarks, chairman of the committee and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Mr. Lucky Wasa, assured the delegates from the communities justice and a fair playing ground.
He urged the delegates not to lose hope in the committee, stressing that proffering a lasting solution made the governor set up the committee.