Stakeholders berate ERA/FoEN over alleged displacement of 60,000 farmers in Edo
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector including the Edo State Council of Agriculture and Allied Employees Union of Nigeria (AAEUN) has condemned the alleged staged protest by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) that Okomu Oil Palm Company has displaced no fewer 60,000 farmers as a result of the firm’s deforestation activities.
Briefing journalists in Benin City, Chairman Edo State Council of Agriculture and Allied Employees Union of Nigeria (AAEUN), Comrade Benson Imasuen said the allegations by ERA was baseless and unfounded.
He said the claim that over 60,000 people across 30 communities risk impact due to deforestation was a deliberate misinformation and mispresentation designed to bring potential job loses to its members.
According to him, ERA/FoEN alleged that Okomu Oil Palm Company ignored a purported State Government Order, as well as further claimed that over 60,000 people across 30 communities risk impact due to deforestation is a calculated attempt to drag the name of the company to the mud as the state union (AAEUN) is a major stakeholder in Okomu Oil Palm company.
Imasuen said the allegations by ERA/FoEN was unacceptable to the trade union which has the customary duty to defend and protect the oppressed, particularly as over 50 percent of its union members are indigenes of the various communities mentioned in ERA’s field report as well as being employees of the Okomu Oil Palm Company.
He added: “The federal Land Act vested ownership of all land to the State Government, and it has full control of all forest reserves within the state. It is thus interesting to note that an NGO that claims it has the interest of forests at heart, should state that 60,000 people are at risk of deforestation as a result of Okomu, when they know full well that Okomu Oil Palm has been farming strictly within a portion of the respective forest reserves in question that were officially ‘re-reserved by the state government initially for other companies between 10 and 20 years ago, as a result of their degraded nature, mainly due to the illegal encroachment into the forest reserve by farmers and illegal logging.
“These de-reserved land areas were then transferred legally over to Okomu in the recent past by immediate past governor of the state.Also their NGO should show due statistical proof of how they arrived at a figure of more than 60,000 displaced people when the independent environmental and social impact assessments that have been completed, according to the law through the Federal and Edo State Ministries of Environment showed no such displacement, nor any migration whatsoever.”
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