By Simeon OSAJIE
The maiden edition of community stakeholders meeting in Udo, Ovia South-West local government area of Edo state was dominated by caution, complains of destruction and need for harmonious relationship today which was called arising from recent clashes and protests by some communities against the activities of Okomu oil palm company alleging harassment, invasion and evacuation of their land.
Chief Sunday Ajele, Coordinator, Voice of the Earth Initiative (VOTI) which initiated the meeting, called for mutual relationship between companies and host community which he said was the panacea to sustainable development and a lasting solution to security in the environment.
He said; “This meeting has become very necessary due to the recent developments widely reported which is painting inhabitants and companies in bad relationships.
“The protest by A.T. and P. Community against Okomu Oil company, that took place on the 4th of May 2022 which was reportedly alleged that a trench was dug by Okomu Oil Palm Plantation Company on right of way linking residential houses, schools and religious worship places of inhabitants, which unfortunately led to the shooting of one Mrs. Iyabo Butu, if not for the mercy of God, she would have been dead.
“We also do not have permanent enemies but we do have permanent interest. We believe that living in harmony and respect for all forms of life, human, animals, trees, birds, reptiles and microbes is essential to human happiness, therefore a Human Right.”
On his part, Chief Responsibility Officer, Josemaria Escriva Foundation, Dr. Jude Obasanmi who was represented by Dr. Bright Oniovokukor urged communities and Okomu Oil Company to work toward building an expected long-term engagement to drive the greatest impact.
Representatives of Iyase of Udo Community, Friday Araghagha, who is the community chairman, said his community and the company have been having mutual relationship while the Public Relations Officer of the company, Fidelis Olise said the company is taking all preventive measures to secure farms hence the seemingly infringement and complaints from communities.
However, Mrs. Helen Dise, from Agbede Community lamented that Okomu Oil Company has evacuated her community for its farm, adding that the river they used for fishing has been polluted while Ebiye Jonghan from A.T. and P. community decried the maltreatment they suffered from the company, lamenting that they have been tagged criminals in the community, stressing that the land belongs to them hence they should be treated in that regards.