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Firm, others differ on land, performance

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The Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc is a company that has not been found wanting by independent international Non Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) such as Proforest and The Forest Trust (TFT), for example, in their audits to ensure compliance with international standards pertaining to social and environmental impacts.


The management of Okomu Oil Plc and some people in its host communities are at loggerheads over alleged incursions into their land and environmental impact assessment.

 
Under the aegis Stakeholder Coalition for the Protection of the Environment, the activists staged a protest round major streets in Benin City, Edo State capital on Wednesday alleging that about 14,000 hectares of land have been arbitrarily acquired by the company. 
  

They claimed that the company was told by the former Adams Oshiomhole state government to vacate 13,750 hectares of land but the firm allegedly had not complied.  
At the state House of Assembly, Speaker Justin Okonoboh assured them that he would work in conjunction with fellow lawmakers to see that all the salient issues raised in their were critically looked into.
    

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But the company’s communication officer, Mr. Fidelis Olise, described as unfortunate and unfair the protest, insisting that it has impacted positively in terms of developmental projects in its 25 host communities.
  

According to him, the company has spent over N350 milion in the past two years putting up developmental projects in the host communities and meeting up with its CSR commitments.
  

He spoke further: “It is not out of place to see pockets of people camouflaging themselves in the name of the community pressure group to complain and protest in pursuit of their personal aggrandizement. It is human nature, but unfortunately for this small group of people, the company as a matter of policy and standard, does not give money to appease any one person.
 

“We urge those seeking for money to come and register as contractors with the company as there are plenty of work opportunities, especially now that the company is in the planting season” adding however that the company will not relent in its efforts to bring succour to her neighbouring communities despite the plots of people he described as enemies of progress.

“The Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc is a company that has not been found wanting by independent international Non Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) such as Proforest and The Forest Trust (TFT), for example, in their audits to ensure compliance with international standards pertaining to social and environmental impacts. As part of her ongoing commitment to ensure ongoing international compliance, the company continues its quest to foster developmental projects, which even now have been commended by all her neighbouring communities, from Umokpe in Uhumwonde local Government Area to Okomu Ijaw in Ovia South West Local Government area, both in Edo State.

“The company has executed numerous, sustainable developmental projects in all her twenty-five (25) neighbouring communities for the past seven years, a feat that is unprecedented in the history of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Nigeria.”

Speaking at a media tour recently, Olise had also stated that the company would never relent in its efforts to bring succor to her neighbouring communities because the philosophy of its managing director, Dr Graham Hefer, is premised on the notion that ‘service to humanity is the best work of life.”

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He cited the on-going projects for 2017, such as that in the Okomu Ijaw Community where the company is currently undertaking a road project that involves the building of Eight (8) culverts over streams on the way to the community. The company has completed 4 of these culverts already and work is in progress on the other 4, this despite ongoing disruptions from the agbegie which destroy the road. He said that the road will be graded at the end of the rainy season, as agreed with the community in the last meeting with them. On Umokpe community, he said the company has also promised to grade the road to the community at the end of the rainy season and was busy finalizing the drilling of a borehole in Umokpe and Orhua communities.

On the importance of the company’s developmental initiatives, Olise stated that roads create accessibility and water sustains life within communities, without which, development cannot be brought to them. In the absence of potable water, people would be exposed to numerous water borne diseases. Education creates enlightenment, empowers the people and sustains the future. Hospitals, clinics and maternity homes help maintain our health and as we know, health is wealth.
According to Olise, these are the cardinal areas on which the company anchors her CSR. The Town halls, market stalls and other sundry projects are meant to compliment the above stated areas of basic development needs.

Olise also stated that communities have genuinely appreciated the efforts of the company. These appreciations from the communities are evident by the numerous appreciation letters from them and the ongoing peaceful relations and supportive/collaborative gestures from the Communities.

As an example of the good relationship between the company and its communities, somebody stole a bike on the plantation but was apprehended by vigilante people in one of her neighbouring communities.

In a related development, a community apprehended someone that stole wet rubber lumps from the plantation. In both cases, the suspects were handed over to the Police after the communities had handed them over to the company’s security.

To buttress the claim that the communities are appreciative of the company, Olise displayed several letters of appreciation from the communities. One of the letters from Oke-Irhue Community read “On behalf of Oke-Irhue Community, we wish to express our profound gratitude to you and the entire staff and management of Okomu Oil Palm Company plc for the grading of our community (road) which has over the time suffered lack of Government attention”.

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An appreciation letter from the Okomu–Ijaw community, where the company in the last seven years has spent more than N50 million alone on infrastructural projects (excluding scholarships and youth skills acquisition training courses), and signed by Yabike French as the General Secretary read” we hereby write to appreciate you for the bore-hole approved for Okomu Community. We also use this medium to confirm the Unity faithful star service has completed the job. We also appeal to you that in peace we shall move the company to a glorious height and we expect more development train”.

Olise noted that in-spite of these monumental commitments of the company’s CSR programme, which had gulped well over N350,000,000 in the last two years, not every person is satisfied. Thus, it is not out of place see pockets of people camouflaging themselves in the name of the community complaining and protesting in pursuit of their personal aggrandizement. It is human nature, but unfortunately for this small group of people, the company as a matter of policy and standard, does not give money to appease any one person. He urged those seeking for money to come and register as contractors with the company and that there were plenty of work opportunities, especially now that the company is in the planting season.

He further advised the press to always verify information given by attention seekers and people with questionable characters as attention seekers and expectant politicians may try to derail these laudable efforts by the company in the name of self-enrichment. The company would not allow this to happen and would continue to work with genuine community representatives who were interested in ensuring the progress and development of their communities, as a whole, together with the company.


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Okomu Oil Plc
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