AgriPalm pays off farmers, to develop 4,500-ha oil palm plantation

AgriPalm General Manager presenting a cheque to compensate a farmer
The Guardian Nigeria | 17 December 2021

AgriPalm pays off farmers, to develop 4,500-ha oil palm plantation

By Femi Ibirogba
To facilitate development of oil palm plantation, believed to have the potential to boost Nigeria’s economy through the value chain, affected farmers at Agbonbayemwen, via Ikoha, Ovia South West Local Government of Edo State, have been fully compensated and disengaged after interventions from various royal and council authorities.
This is as AgriPalm Ltd, a subsidiary of Flour Mills Nigeria Plc, new owner of the plantation, has unfolded its plan to cultivate the remaining 3000 hectares of land with palm oil trees, to bring the total cultivated land to 4,500 hectares.
The General Manager of AgriPalm, represented by the Farm Manager, Herman Smit, paid off and disengaged the farmers on December 8, 2021.
Tracing the history of the land, he said in 1976, the Oba of Benin, Oba Akenzua II, granted the late Chief E.E Eribo the land, which today is known as AgriPalm.
“When the land was granted to Chief Eribo, it was a thick forest with no human habitation, and farming was conducted without any dispute.
“Crosby Osadolor Eribo, one of the sons of Chief Eribo, acting on his power of attorney, sublet the entire farmland to Majekodunmi Ventures Ltd and the ventures mortgaged the unexpired term of the sublease to now defunct Assurance Bank Ltd. Following recovery of the loan made to Majekodunmi Ventures Ltd by the bank, the unexpired term of the sublease was sold to A & Hatman Ltd in 2001,” the general manager explained.
However, upon takeover in 2001, A& Hatman discovered that a parcel of the land was occupied by illegal squatters. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that there was an agreement made, dated July 3, 1995, between Agbonbayemwen settlement, and the Enogie of Siluko, Prince Omoregie Akenzua and the Odionwere and Elders of Ikoha, permitting the use of the land for farming.
Following negotiations and interventions, it was agreed that all the farmers would relocate within a period of six years from January 2003 to 2009, but was extended to December 2010.
In 2013, Agri Palm took over the land lease possession from A & Hatman and a nursery was developed to plant all parts of the plantation.
He added that in 2014, Agri Palm wanted to plant seedlings at the Sule Camp area and found Yoruba settlers, who were predominately cocoa farmers there. With change of possession from A & Hatman to Agri Palm Ltd, the demise of the Enogie, Prince Omoregie Akenzua and the then Baale, Alhaji Sule, who led the relocation of the farmers to Ohosu Forest Reserve, some of the farmers seized the opportunity to create issues and decided to remain on the land.
A petition was subsequently written by the farmers to the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa, who set up a panel of chiefs headed by Chief Oiaye of Benin Kingdom to investigate. After hearing evidences from both sides and visiting the site, the general manager explained, the panel recommended and the Omo N’Oba ruled that A & Hatman Limited duly acquired the land legally and ordered the company to take over the land unhindered; the company to allow farmers three months after date of this resolution to vacate the area south of the pipeline, within the three-month period, the company pay compensation based on government standards to the farmers for their crops; the company should develop the area north of the pipeline as staff quarters and rebuild the demolished Oba Akenzua II Primary School.
“This, firstly, was to key in into the vision of the state governor’s oil palm development strategy and secondly to fully develop the potential of the estate of about 4,500 hectares, of which only 1,500 hectares are planted.
“This will give employment opportunities and economic empowerment to the host communities. In order to fully achieve this, the management took the humane and bold decision to pay some ex-gratia to the aggrieved farmers,” he said.
AgriPalm explained that all aggrieved farmers that had not previously benefited from the two previously paid compensations and had collected and submitted claims forms were addressed positively.
The firm commended His Royal Highness, Auguobasinmwin Omoregie Akenzua, the Enogie of Siluko Dukedom, the Odionwere and elders of Ikoha community for their fatherly roles and zeal to see to the full development of AgriPalm plantation. They also thanked the Honourable Commissioner of Agriculture, Edo State. The chairman and council members of Ovia South West LGA of the state and to our numerous well-wishers.
Meanwhile, the official foundation-laying ceremony of the Oba Akenzua II Primary School at Agbonbayemwen (Sule Camp) via Ikoha, which was performed by His Royal Highness, Aiguobasinmwin Omoregie Akenzua – The Enogie of Siluko Dukedom, is according to the directive of His Royal Majesty – the Oba of Benin.
The company said the project is expected to be completed and handed over within four months, and about N17 million is budgeted for the school.
Once completed, it will be open to not only children of company’s staff but also to children from neighboring communities and settlements.
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