Last update:

Land-grabbing of communities' forest lands by Wilmar International in Cross River State, Nigeria

Wilmar's concessions of Biase, Ibiae, Calaro and Obasanjo in Cross River State trigger deforestation, land grabs and threat the locals' livelihoods and culture.


The Cross River state government in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria has handed over vast concessions of land (including forest land) to Wilmar International in its bid to revive the oil palm industry in the state and to restore its past glory. Wilmar International acquired four concessions in Cross River State: the northern and western triad of concessions of Calaro, Ibiae and Biase, in 2011, and a southern and eastern area namedObasanjo, in 2012 [1]. 

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Land-grabbing of communities' forest lands by Wilmar International in Cross River State, Nigeria
State or province:Cross River State
Location of conflict:Biase Local Government Area
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Cross River State government handed over to Wilmar International the Calaro, Biase and the Ibiae palm oil estates (representing a total of 19.173 ha.). Wilmar purchased these estates through the Cross River State Privatization Council, created in 2010 to incentivize foreign direct investments into the country. Later, in 2012, the former President Olusegun Obajanjo’s company, sold to Wilmar the concession named after him: the Obajanjo concession (10.791 ha.). Thus, Wilmar has already acquired at least 21.000 hectares in Cross River State. Environmental Rights Action (hereafter ERA), considers that at least 10% of the areas acquired are located within forest reserves. Save Wildlife Conservation Fund alarms in 2013 that Obasanjo concession puts in jeopardy the forests biodiversity and wildlife [1]. A mapping analysis led by ERA revealed at least 8% of the total land area acquired in Cross River state by Wilmar has been deforested between 2011 and 2013, representing an equivalent to 5,133 hectares. Wilmar enjoys a great support from the state and national governments. The Cross River State government declared that it would ensure that Wilmar has access to a minimum of 50,000 ha of land on which to cultivate palm plantation within a five year period after its arrival in 2011. In 2014, Wilmar even expressed its willingness to expand over 240,000 hectares. For now, Wilmar was prevented from such a major development of its plantations in Nigeria. Only during this first phase of expansion in Nigeria (Calaro Oil, Biase, Ibiae and Obajanjo concessions) it is considered that Wilmar has at least invested $165 million dollars. For its endeavors in the country, Wilmar international formed a joint venture partnership with PZ Cussons Nigeria PLC (subsidiary of the British company PZ Cussons). The joint venture aims to process the palm oil that would be produced from the estates in Cross River state. The venture already built a palm oil refinery in Lagos state.

See more
Project area:30,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project165,000,000,000.00
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:10,000 - 20,000
Start of the conflict:1992
Company names or state enterprises:Wilmar International from Singapore
Biase Plantation Limited from Nigeria
PZ Cussons from United Kingdom
PZ Cussons Nigeria PLC from Nigeria
Obasanjor Farms Ltd from Nigeria
Relevant government actors:Cross River State Forestry Commission, Cross River State Government, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Justice, Cross River State Privatization Council
International and Finance InstitutionsRound Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) from Malaysia
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Rainforest Resources and Development Centre (RRDC), Environmental Rights Action (ERA, Friends of the Earth Nigeria), World Rainforest Movement, Grain, Forest Watch, SAVE wildlife conservation fund
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights
Potential: Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:The total size of the lands acquired and their location need to be clearly identified. Many different figures were suggested by different persons interviewed.
It is also important for government to work with the communities to ensure the protection of the forests and the resources therein
Civil Society Organisations should support and actively participate in processes that would lead to the carrying out of a proper environmental audit of the entire plantation under consideration.
They should support groups resisting the clearing of forests and the acquisition of the same for use as palm oil plantations.
It is necessary to investigate the water pollution problems affecting nearly 10,000 community members in the Betem axis and see how this problem can be alleviated.
The Ekong Anaku communities want their lands back.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The communities complained that they were not adequately consulted on the transfer of the land to Wilmar and that they only got to know about the transfer after the state government had concluded all negotiations with Wilmar. They in fact wrote a petition to the state government via their lawyers dated April 5, 2012 where they specifically said that the government had by virtue of the breach of fundamental provisions of the 1963 lease agreement ceased to have any legal rights over the lands that form part of the estates. The communities alleged that the failure of government to pay rents and royalties as agreed over a 24 year period determined the lease contract and that government therefore had no rights in law or any interest to transfer to Wilmar.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Free, Prior and Informed consent, FAO
[click to view]

Nigerian National Park Act and Forest Laws and regulations

Environmental Impact Assessment Act

Land Use Act of 1978

The United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Issues pertaining to Obasanjor farms which is being turnover to Wilmar, letter from RRDC to RSPO, February 2013
[click to view]

Nigeria: Wilmar, RRDC, and the Calaro/Ibiae Oil Palm Estates, September 2013
[click to view]

Exploitation and Empty Promises, Wilmar’s Nigerian land grab, Environmental Rights Action Nigeria, 2015
[click to view]

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil New Planting Procedures Summary Report of Assessments, Biase Plantations Limited, 2009
[click to view]

Schoneveld, G.C., 2014. Land Use Policy, The politics of the forest frontier: Negotiating between conservation, development, and indigenous rights in Cross River State, Nigeria, volume 38, pp. 147 - 162
[click to view]

No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation Policy, Wilmar, December 2013
[click to view]

RRDC Memorandum to the European Union, January 2017
[click to view]

C’River host community drags foreign investor to court
[click to view]

Communities in Nigeria Take Wilmar to Court for Land grabbing, Friends of the Earth
[click to view]

RRDC drags Wilmar International to Court
[click to view]

Nigeria Villagers Want their Land Back from Wilmar, GRAIN
[click to view]

Submission of complaint in respect of Wilmar Nigeria Limited, by RRDC to RSPO, December 2012
[click to view]

Nigerians object to land grabs by a foreign palm oil company, March 2013
[click to view]

Articles on WIlmar International,
[click to view]

Cross River communities protest, allege land grabbing in Wilmar’s N45b project, August 2018
[click to view]

Stolen land: Nigerian villagers want their land back from Wilmar, December 2013
[click to view]

Global presence, Wilmar 's Map
[click to view]

Jobs from PZ backward integration in palm oil coming, Mary 2015
[click to view]

PZ - Wilmar Joint Venture
[click to view]

RRDC’s REJOINDER: Wilmar International Announces Policy to Protect Forests and Communities, December 2013
[click to view]

PZ Cussons invests N60b in oil palm estates…
[click to view]

Sign CSO Unity Statement
[click to view]

Nigeria : article de GRAIN sur le village d’Ekong Anaku privé de 10.000 hectares de forêt, Grain, Décembre 2013
[click to view]

PZ WIlmar, Sustainable plantations - Investing in the future of local communities and the environment
[click to view]

Wilmar International Limited, Profile on RSPO website
[click to view]

Sign CSO Unity Statement
[click to view]

Nigeria – RSPO legal opinion ignores core of the complaint against Wilmar International subsidiary Biase Plantation Limited, May 2014
[click to view]

Stolen land: Nigerian villagers want their land back from Wilmar, Grain, December 2013
[click to view]

Stolen land: Nigerian villagers want their land back from Wilmar, Grain, December 2013
[click to view]

Deforestation, exploitation, hypocrisy: no end to Wilmar's palm oil land grabs, May 2015
[click to view]

Other documents

Villagers, “By taking our farms, Wilmar is declaring us dead.” - Elder Aning Oja, Ibogo Village Source. FoE Nigeria, 2015
[click to view]

"Recently cleared farmland and forest near Ibogo Village, May 2015" Source. FoE Nigeria
[click to view]

"Cleared land near Mbarakom Village, May 2015" Source. Friends of the Earth Nigeria
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Maria Obaseki (Earth Rights International, Nigeria), Winnie Overbeek, Teresa Perez & Camila Rolando Mazzuca (EnvJustice Team)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:647
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.