SOCFIN and her subsidiary Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC rights violations in Edo State Communities/Villages: An S.O.S.

Edo State communities | September 2020

SOCFIN and her subsidiary Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC rights violations in Edo State Communities/Villages: An S.O.S.

A letter to Nigeria's President from communities of Edo State denouncing the land grabbing and other human rights violations committed by SOCFIN and its Nigerian subsidiary Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC.

Download the original letter

Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC impacted communities of Edo State

Abi Quarters, Qkomu Communify
Ovia South West Local Government Area
Edo State, Nigeria.
Your Excellency,
President Muhammadu Buhari
President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Federal Republic of Nigeria
Govemment House, Aso Rock
Abuja, Nigeria.

Dear Sir,
SOCFIN and her subsidiary Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC rights violations in Edo State Communities/Villages: An S.O.S.

The Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc was established in 1976 as a federal government project and was privatized in 1979. Now, the Socfin Group is the majority owner.
The activities of the company over the years have been caracterized by violations of citizens rights. Some of the violations accusations against Okomu Oil Palm Cornpany Plc ranges from locking out citizens of their host communities from the entrance to their communities to harassment of outspoken indigenes of their host communities with security agencies, circumvention of the global principles of free, prior and informed consent, land grabbing, destruction of citizens livelihoods, use of brute force and military might to dislodge, dislocate and disperse villages and settlements within their areas of operation. In all of these, citizens fundamental rights are thrown over board. In years past, Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc security forces in collaboration with men of the Nigerian Army have burnt down and dispersed villagers of Agbede, Oweike, Lehmon and recently on the 20th day of May, 2020 the village of Ijaw-Gbene on flimsy excuses and at this time of corona virus pandemic. We understand that the company may claim to be contributing to the Edo State Government's internally Generated Revenue, but at what expense? We cannot continue to accept a practice of profit above humans syndrome that has been typical of the operations of Okomu Oil Palm Company PIc/SOCFIN groups in Nigeria and Africa. Business must respect human rights and where these are in danger, the government must protect her citizens and remedy must be provided for victims, after all, Nigeria not only supported but also promoted the promulgation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc should not be allowed to continue to act with impunity!

 A report published in 2017 (1) shows how the company encroached on forest reserves and customary lands without consent or adequate compensation to the impacted communities. This land grabbing and forest destruction has put the livelihoods of over 60,000 forest-dependent people on the edge and increasing hunger and social conflicts. The report exemplifies both human rights vioiations as well as biodiversity destruction and water pollution. The report also analyses breaches of the Forestry Laws of Nigeria, among others, and occupation of part of the land illegally by the company.

Your Excellency Sir, based on the above, we humbly make the following requests:

1. A holistic and independent investigation into the acquisition of the large acres of the reserved and other community lands by Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc.

2. An investigation into the use of military and their security forces to destroy their host villages especially the recent one that occurred on the 20th May 2020.

3. That the company be directed to stop forthwith any form of attacks on their host viilages/communities but should treat them as equal stakeholders and immediateiy unlock the gates that are the entrance and exit routes for communities liaising with them on how to secure the access routes.

4. That the perpetrators who bumt down Agbede, Oweike, Lchmon and ljaw-Gbene should be fished out and brought to book and adequate compensations/damages paid to the victims of those violent destructions.

5. That in the interim, you use your good offices to direct the provision of relief materials for the people of Ijaw-Gbene who are the most recent victims in terms of food, clothes, utensils and shelter.

6. In the long-term, the Government should thoroughly investigate the disrespect of the law by the Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc. especialiy as it relates to lack of due process in the acquisition of some of the lands where they have their plantations and where found culpable, the company should be compelled to leave the illegally occupied land with other deterrent and punitive sanctions imposed.

7. The Governrnent should ensure that Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc stop forthwith their destruction, pays compensation for the destructions and losses caused to the communities as well as general and exemplary damages for the biodiversity destructions.

It is our further humble request Your Excellency that:

  • Before any further development of oii palm or rubber prroduction, a negotiation, survey, documentation and a genuine environmental and social impact assessment must be immediately carried out on the entire land occupied by Okomu Oil Palrn Company Plc. A failure to do so and to abide by the new terms should earn the company a status of an illegal occupier.
  • Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) is an internationally enforceable right, therefore Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc should go back to status quo ante to right the wrongs against Okomu communities or vacate the area totally.
  • Okomu Oil palm Cornpany Plc must urgently rebuild and reinstate the four commtinities forcefully evicted, restore the environment and properties extirpated and pay compensation for the farms and crops destroyed in all their communities and villages impacted by their operations.
  • Okomu Oil Palm Compatty Plc should conduct a medical check and treatment for the people of Okomu communities as a result of the pollution of the creek due to the agrochemicals used for the development of their palms and rubbers.
  • Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc must as a matter of urgency return the boats, fishing traps and hooks seized from the 35 women for their sustainable economic Iivelihood and pay compensation immediately.
  • That henceforth promises rnade by the company in the area of health, education, road and employment must be fulfilled and a yearly cooperate social responsibilities must be agreed on with a time frame aftached via a well-documented Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)./
  • Failure to comply with the above, Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc must be held responsible for any break down of law and order that might arise as a result of the non compliance.

Your Excellency sir, we are available, willing and ready to provide further information and evidence where needed as we await your fatherly favourable response to our above humble requests.
Yours faithfully,

(see attached original document for signatures)
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