Posted by News Express | 6 May 2022 | 573 times
Host communities of Okomu Oil Palm Plc in Edo State yesterday came out in their large numbers to protest the alleged blockade-digging of trench on the road leading to the communities-by the company and other forms of marginalisation by the management of the company.
The protest, which started since Tuesday, saw men, women and youths of the communities, particularly AT/P, Marioba communities, coming out as early as 6 a.m. to continues the protest on what they tagged: ‘Treating Us As Slaves in Our Father Land’.
Speaking to journalists, the Edionwere of Marioba community, Chief Gabriel Eigbe Okwolegbe, accused the company of treating the host communities like slaves without them benefiting much from the company.
He added that though the palm trees of the company are at the door steps of the communities, nothing to show for being host communities, rather, the company dug a big trench on the road leading to their home.
He said: “I don’t know why this company keeps treating us like slaves. You can see that the palm trees are at our door steps, yet there is nothing we are benefiting from the company. The only road we manage to get to our houses, the management has dug a big trench to cover it so that we will no longer have access to our houses.”
Another native from one of the communities, who identified himself as Rex Akpokiniobo, said “We have been enduring the arm-twisting antics of the managing director of the company for too long, but this one was too much. How can you dig your trenches to block our road? How do we get to our houses or come out from our houses.”
Also, a youth leader from one of communities, Lucky Okeodion, while berating action of the company, said: “Action of the MD was very barbaric, and we shall continue the protest until the MD covers the big gutter with which he has destroyed our road. It is sad that communities around multinational plantation companies are often treated with disdain.”
Reacting also, a human rights activist and environmentalist, Chief Ajele Sunday, blamed the Edo State Government for the maltreatment the communities have been subjected to.
“Edo State shares in the responsibility because it signed a contract that cannot be implemented without violating the rights of the community people. How can a state government bring investors without some cautions, without check? You allow the investors to operate and act with impunity.
”On May 20, 2020, Ijaw-Gbini community was burnt down by security operatives of the company. The state governor pretended to set up a committee headed by one of his Permanent Secretaries, Lucky Wasa, but it died a natural death. However, the day unknown gunmen attacked the company, the governor went there himself. So who is giving so much power to these investors?” he said.
But in his reaction, the spokesperson, Okomu Oil Company Plc, Fidelis Olise, denied the allegations, saying: “There is nothing of such. These are just blackmail against our company. You can come over and I will take you to the said place if you will see such a trench as claimed. Though as a company, we have right to dig any trench within our company, but I want to tell you categorically that such does not exist.” (THISDAY)
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