The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), representatives of the Owan and Okomu communities and a host of civil society groups have urged in June 2017 the Dr. Godwin Obaseki administration in Edo State to uphold a revocation Order on 13,750 hectares of land expropriated by Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc (a Belgian company) in the rich forest reserves. Under former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the sale of the lands in contention was reversed. They cover an estimated 13,750 hectares spread through Okomu forests reserve to Owan forest reserve. Till date, Okomu Oil Company Plc has disregarded the Edo State Government order. The company is alleged to have militarised the communities and embarked on continuous bulldozing of the forests for expansion of large scale palm oil plantation. “In the process, over 60,000 rural farmers in the farming communities have been displaced and a host of communities impacted. Some of the communities are Okomu Village, Agbede, Ik camp, Makilolo, Lemo, Oweike, Avbiosi, Sobe, Uhiere, Owan, Ugbebezi, Oke-Ora, Ekpan, Oke, Atorunu, Ogbetu, Umokpe, Orhua, Ozalla, Sabogida Ora, Odiguete, Agudezi, Uhunmora, Uzeba and Odighi,” the ERA/FoEN disclosed in a statement made available on June 21, 2017. There have been street marches and other forms of protest in June 2017 against this usurpation of land for oil palm plantations.(4) (5).
Two years earlier, in 2015, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) had expressed dismay by 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. Testimonies of field visits to communities impacted by the activities of Okomu Oil Palm Plc in Edo State noted with fear that if the trend by multinational companies involved in land grabbing was not addressed, more communities in Edo may face eviction with rife human rights violations. Rita Uwaka, project officer of ERA in her research findings, told journalists that it was noted that Okomu Oil Palm firm grabbed more land across forest reserves for oil palm business . Okomu Oil Palm Plc was a member of the global SOCFIN Group. Community-based livelihoods, comprising mainly farming and fishing, had been truncated with over 20 communities risking eviction and human rights abuses. According to her, ERA noted : "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. 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 said: "Community people's 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 Plc and that their coming is a development opportunity." Besides, 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 had been grabbed by the company, Okomu Oil Palm Plc, to further its industrial oil palm plantation expansion project in Nigeria. (6).(See less)