Following frequent attacks on Okomu Oil Palm Company, the people of Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State now want soldiers to be deployed to the area.
According to them, soldiers should be deployed there in a bid to ensure that the area is safe for all concerned and terrorists and cultist groups are routed from the area for good.
Local sources say in less than three weeks, the oil palm company has been attacked four times. Earlier in February, the company suspended its operations after one of its workers was killed.
Okomu Oil Palm Company says it has suffered more attacks on its plantation by suspected “terrorists”. Its Communications Officer, Fidelis Olise, in a statement said the attack happened on Tuesday and Wednesday, adding ‘’on February 18, hoodlums set ablaze another part of Okomu rubber plantation.”
This is the fourth attack on the company in less than three weeks. Earlier this month, PREMIUM TIMES had reported that the company suspended its operations in the aftermath of an attack which led to the death of one of its workers.
The company has been embroiled in disputes over land ownership and its use of military forces for the protection of its plantations and environs. Okomu’s plantation borders the Okomu National park, a major habitat to leopards, chimpanzees and elephants.
The company has been accused of violating the rights of the host community, including locking them out citizens, harassing outspoken members of the community with security agencies, and seizing land. The company denies wrongdoings.
Okomu is one of Nigeria’s leading oil palm companies listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE). It covers an area of 33, 112 hectares, of which 18, 879 hectares is currently planted with oil palm trees and 7,335 hectares with rubber trees.
According to Olise, the “same terrorists” seemingly angered by the arrest of two of their supposed members carried out a further attack on innocent workers on the plantation.
He said the recent attack on the company’s property is to avenge the arrest of the “terrorist” accomplices who apparently confessed to the theft of rubber captured by the Marine Police on a boat after it had left the Okomu Ijaw Community on its way to Delta State a day before.
“The killing of innocent workers who are performing their legitimate duties and have no conflict or disagreement with any person whosoever is strongly condemned and the powers that be should immediately take action against those terrorists responsible for these murderous crimes,” the company said.
The statement noted that attacks on companies like Okomu raise fears that assailants are now focusing on these types of establishments, intent on bringing them to their knees.
The oil palm company said the attacks pose a great threat to the current and future investments in Edo State and Nigeria as a whole, especially the agricultural sector.
“The time has come for the Buhari and Obaseki Administrations to take concerted and decisive actions against these terrorists, otherwise investment in the agricultural sector will be greatly discouraged just as was the case with pipeline vandalization in the past, with the resultant negative effect on livelihoods and revenue accruing to both state and federal government coffers,” the statement said.
It urged the police to immediately undertake a thorough investigation and bring all those linked to the heinous attacks to book, thereby showing that they are a force to be reckoned with, and reinstating confidence in their ability to fight crime.