Okomu Oil Company, more than 40 years on
The history of Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc (Okomu) is well known in Nigeria and in some cases, even beyond its shores. Since its inception by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1976 as a pilot test for the cultivation and processing of palm oil in Nigeria, the story of the company has been one of consistent progress, especially after the Federal Government carried out a successful initial public offering of shares and, subsequently as a result of its technical partners, who have provided sound management practices and support in the midst of adversity along with thousands of Nigerian shareholders the likes of whom include individuals, communities and government agencies, who were never given, but all bought, Okomu shares out of their hard earned cash because they believed in the future success of their company.
It is also worthy to recall that Okomu, was not the only pilot palm plantation scheme established by the Federal Government at the time. Other pilot palm plantation schemes established about the same time as Okomu are still, decades later, either moribund or lagging far behind, in what can be described as a modern palm plantation.
Like Okomu, these plantations were nearly all started by the Federal Government in formerly de-reserved forest areas which by law, even today, are not permitted to be inhabited in. Furthermore, all plantations were duly surveyed and beacons placed by State surveyors at all corners of these plantations to delineate their boundaries, and these maps appended to the company’s certificates of occupancy (C of O), which were then duly registered in the respective Government lands and survey departments for public scrutiny. These demarcated areas have not changed since this time and is also true in the case of Okomu in the forty-two years since Okomucame into being.
Being a duly registered public company, all of Okomu’s C of O’s and all other legal documents are routinely audited by NGO’s, private and public agencies for their authenticity. Furthermore, the international organization called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which Okomu is a member of, dictates that all land areas should be authenticated by them and that Okomu should verify their boundaries, together with their neighbouring communities, during their Free, Prior and Informed (FPIC) meetings so that all parties are conversant with the areas to be, or which are, currently under the company’s existing C of O’s. Okomu’sneighbouring communities within at least a 10km radius of the company are all conversant with the boundaries and this has ensured that no insinuations of land grabbing by Okomu, who has been on the same piece of land for more than 40 years, have arisen. Communities even use the company’s boundary roads freely to gain access to markets, especially when the roads to their respective communities have become impassable due to neglect.
Also, as part of the FPIC process, Okomu has worked very closely with its neighbouring communities such as Udo, OkomuIjaw, Inikorogha, Gbelebu, Amadagbayo, Mariogbinoba, Ofunama, Opuma, Gbole-Uba, Safarogba and many other communities around the Okomu main estate and Extension1 plantations who all have testimonies to give on how Okomuhas worked and communicated with them and contributed to their respective community’s socio-economic wellbeing and development. Also, Okomu’s Extension 2, was recently commissioned by His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, the Executive Governor of Edo State where he gave credence to the excellent manner in which the company had gone about developing the plantation at a gala ceremony witnessed by all of the surrounding community’s representatives who had been involved with the FPIC process and who had all confirmed the extent of Okomu’s boundaries in this regard.
For those in the diaspora, worldwide, the company’s website also contains all of the respective C of O’s for one to study as well as various links to the RSPO website and other organizations like The Forest Trust (TFT) who all, independently, monitor the company’s environmental, social and ethical responsibilities at all times. (Further information can be obtained from the following sites. www.okomunigeria.com,www.tft-earth.org,www.rspo.org,https//web.facebook.com) In the 42 years that Okomu has existed, its impact on the Nigerian Economy and on her neighbouring communities is monumental. In 2017 for instance, the company’s Managing Director, Dr Graham Hefer, received the coveted Business day award as one of the top 25 CEOs in Nigeria for adding N29.77billion to the company’s market capitalization and its share price increased by 65% (Source: Business day 23rd April 2018).
In the last 6-7 years, the company’s contribution to community development within her Corporate Social Responsibility sphere has, indeed, been highly commendable.
*Osayi writes from Benin City, Edo State.
No comments yet