Natives of Akamkpa community in Cross River accuse Wilmar International of destroying their sources of livelihood by channeling chemical infested erosion water into their streams and farmlands. (Photo: FOE)
Land grab: Cross River community wants firm to pay compensation
by Kingston Obung
Natives of Akamkpa community in Cross River, hosting the Singaporean multinational company, Wilmar International, have accused the company of destroying their sources of livelihood by channeling chemical infested erosion water into their streams and farmlands. According to the community, the company has also refused to pay compensation for the destruction of crops and fountains of drinking water.
Speaking, 88-year-old Madam Veronica Asuquo, said Wilmar’s activities had impoverished her entire family as their farmland and palm plantation had been completely destroyed.
Richard Asuquo, her first son, speaking on his mother’s behalf, said: “My family is sad that our ancestral land which borders Wilmar plantation in Akamkpa has been completely destroyed.
My family has been in possession of that land from time immemorial, planting palm estate when State government were encouraging individuals to collect palm seeds and plant in order to assist in improving their condition of living.
“When the state government sold the former Calaro palm estate to Wilmar who took over both assets and liability of the estate, the company decided to use heavy earth-moving machines to clear the land and to replant.
“Apart from the erosion water which has been channelled to our plantation, the chemicals they use in their activities have killed every green plant, cassava, vegetables and other cash crops as well as economic trees as you could see. The water, which has no outlet, grows everyday particularly during this rainy season. The land and the crops are all gone. The more painful thing is that they are not discussing anything about compensation.”
But Wilmar’s Sustainability Manager, Asen Ako, disagreed with the allegation, saying their plantation “does not use or discharge any toxic chemicals into nearby water bodies or the environment.”
“We have Community Liaison Officer (CLO), who they should report to or come to us directly but nobody has told us of any erosion water in any farmland. If they do, we would have looked into it. They can still lodge their complaints. We also have a legal department which handles issue of compensation if any. When government handed over the land to us, there were some squatters in the plantation who were compensated.”