‘Save us from threats to our existence’
• ERA, Edo State communities decry indiscriminate land use by multinationals
THE Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN has expressed dismay with the activities of most big multinational companies in the country over the ugly trend of forcefully denying their host communities the use of their lands without any commensurate compensation.
The environmental activists’ Report & Testimonies of Field visits to communities impacted by the activities of Okomu Oil Palm Plc in Edo State, South-South, Nigeria, noted with fear that if the ugly and fast-becoming trend by multinational companies involved in land grabbing is not addressed, more communities in Edo risk eviction with rife human rights violations.
Several Okomu rural dwellers also described as worrisome activities of the company in the two forest reserves allegedly acquired by the multinational company as a violation of their rights and a threat to their socio-economic existence.
Rita Uwaka, Project Officer of ERA in her research findings told journalists that it was noted that Okomu Oil Palm grabs more land across forest reserves for oil palm business and that “another 11,000 hectares of farmland including two Forest Reserves grabbed for Oil Palm Plantation Expansion by Okomu Oil Palm Plc- a member of the global SOCFIN group is worrisome, adding that community based livelihoods comprising mainly farming and fishing have been truncated with over 20 communities risking eviction and human rights abuses.
According to her, ERA noted with dismay that,” There is increasing threat to existing food security system as hunger prevails. Sicknesses and diseases arising from plantation chemicals and poor sanitation are having differentiated impact on women and children. There is no documented evidence of an Environmental Impact Assessment in sight. Entry and exit of community people from their territories is at the mercy of the Plantation Company.”
She posited: “Community peoples capacities need to be improved upon on their rights as many of them have been brainwashed to believing that they have no right to challenge any land deal with Okomu Oil Palm Company and that their coming is a development opportunity.”
Okomu Community is home to about 20 villages, and plays host to Okomu National Park, French rubber giant- Michelin Plc (fronting as Rubber Estate of Nigeria Limited), and Okomu Oil Palm Plc.
ERA alleged that over 11,000 hectares of forested land as well as communal farmlands located within Owan and Ehor Forest Reserves in Ovia North East Local Council of Edo State have been grabbed by Okomu Oil Palm to further its industrial oil palm plantation expansion project in Nigeria.
This recent land grab excludes the already existing 15,578 hectares of oil palm plantation located in Okomu Native Forest Reserve neighbouring over 20 riverine communities in Ovia South West Local Council of the state.
“This plantation expansion by the company in the name of development by Edo State Government through its public private partnership, has fuelled more deforestation, human rights violations and environmental degradation across nearly 20 agrarian and forest dependent communities.
This has led to cases of eviction of men, women and children, extinction of plant and animal species, cultural dislocation, spiritual contamination, hunger, livelihood loss and threat to local food security,” the Environmentalists noted.
ERA’s findings revealed that the most impacted communities in Okomu’s recent land grabbing activities are Odighi, Odiguetue, Uhiere, and Oke. Others are Osasinmwinoba, Ekokpetin, Igbekhue, Ugboke, Owan, and Agbelikeke adding that, “Okomu has been involved with expansion of its plantation since 2000 where 8000 hectares of forest reserve for rubber and oil palm plantation was added to the already existing 15,578 hectares.