Edo communities lament dearth of forest life, deforestation, others
Activist charge firms, govt on RSPO certification
Residents of Uhiele, Odighi and Odiguetue communities in Edo State have lamented the devastation of their environment and loss of livelihoods resulting from deforestation by multinational firms in the area.
Village head of Uhiele Community, Ovenseri Owakhina, while lamenting the neglect of the communities by a multinational agribusiness firm, said the company has taken over their farmlands for plantation purposes, thereby leaving them without any means of livelihood.
Owakhina said the community still lacked basic social amenities in spite of the multinational firm’s promises to bring development to the community.
He said the Uhiele Community has no electricity, community hall, functional borehole, healthcare centre and a primary school.
He sued for government’s support for the community’s development, just as he appealed to the Oil Palm Company to assist them with provision of infrastructure.
In Odighi and Odiguetue communities in Ovia North East Local Council, Akonofua Osazee and Ada Osasuyi, both local farmers, held divergent views on the activities of the firm.
Osazee expressed dismay at the oil Palm company whose presence and activities had led to loss of several hectares of farmlands, adding that the company’s activities had resulted to deforestation and loss of livelihoods of the communities following alleged land grabbing.
But Ada said the Odighi Community had benefited from several developmental projects from the Oil Palm firm and queried the allegations of deforestation by other host communities.
They added that the forests were essential for their livelihoods, adding: “Forests also provide habitat for a vast array of plants and animals, many of which are still undiscovered.”
Speaking, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN), Godwin Uyi Ojo, urged the Edo state government to revoke all certification in the interest of the communities and their livelihood.
He said the three local government councils mostly affected by the activities of the multinational firm are in Ovia North East, Ovia South West and Uhunwonde local councils of the state.
Ojo said government must stop all forms of Oil Palm plantation expansion that are detrimental to community farmlands, biodiversity hotspots and historical sites.
He urged the multinational firms operating in Edo State to respect communities and seek their consent in development processes and land acquisitions that affect them.
Insisting that the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) inspired by the idea of ‘roundtable’ in which all members have equal rights, he lamented that the rights of community members have not been protected.
Ojo also noted that multinational firms should follow due process of the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), with the full involvement and participation of local people and members of the public.
He charged the multinational agro firms to desist from land grabbing under the guise of obtaining RSPO certification.
“The impact of these activities has ruined the livelihoods of inhabitants of these communities. The multinational firms do not address environment and social problems in these communities. We call on them to remove RSPO) from their products,” he added.