Awori Inhabitants Protest, accuse Okomu Oil of Flouting Court Interlocutory Order
The Inhabitants of Awori Village, Nikorogha, in Ovia South-West Local Government Area, Edo State, are increasingly worried over the continuous Flouting of High Court Interlocutory order Restraining Okomu Oil Palm PLC, from illegally encroaching its forest reserves.
They claimed that the unconventional act being perpetrated by the Oil Palm company, having been restrained by a Court of law, have left their farmers subjected to abject poverty, whilst, their Forest reserves and crops forcefully bulldozed.
While protesting yesterday, against the backdrops of an allegation of Invasion, the Protesters expressed their displeasure, urging appropriate authorities to call Okomu oil Palm company to order, even as they warned against dragging them to the unnecessary crisis that is capable of disrupting peace in the locality.
Speaking shortly after the massive protest, representatives of the Awori Community, Honorables Pimi Robert and Andrew Igiri accused Graham Hefer, the Managing director of Okomu Oil palm of Flouting the law and deliberately instigating Military and Police Personnel to harass their people in other to forcefully grab the forest reserves left for their farming activities as the only means of likelihood.
They explained that one of the reasons they staged the protest was to resist and avail the public of some of the attempts made by the operatives of Okomu Oil Palm, despite an Interlocutory injunction, restraining them from carrying out any form of Operations within the ambit of the Awori, Nikorogha Community.
A leader of the Yoruba cocoa farmers group in Ovia south west, Hassan Tajudeen who spoke also stated that In 2012 the case was presented at the High Court of law Okada seeking an Interlocutory injunction to restrain the company from further working in the forest reserves which he noted was granted them.
He revealed that Graham Hefer, the MD, Okomu Oil Palm called some of its stakeholders to lure them with 50 million Naira to give up the forest reserves which they rejected.
He said, 50 million nairas, when shared amongst the inhabitants will amount to twenty-two thousand Naira for each of the farmers to relocate, which they refused at the instance of their future, adding, “when he now resorted to taking laws into his hands-on knowing it was a hard nut to crack”.
He further stated that, in 2013, Graham Hefer, through the supervision of some Military Personnel, bulldoze 1,200 acres of Cocoa farm alongside other arable crops, which made the court fined him the sum of 200,000 for damages which he refused not pay.
His Words: “Graham Hefer sometimes last month sent some army, with a bulldozer to invade the forest reserve and to bulldoze all the Cocoa planted by the Awori people in Okomu forest reserve”.
“But after the farmers told the army they’re the real owners of the land and presented as well the necessary documents from Court restraining Okomu, the army left the forest along with the bulldozer they came with”.
“The Military Personnel vowed not to come with them, on knowing that there’s a Court Interlocutory injunction”.
Today again to our greatest surprise, the managing director of Okomu Oil palm sent some Mobile Policemen and a bulldozer to invade the forest where the Awori people planted there Cocoas because he wanted to plant palm trees”.
On her part, a 75-year-old grandma who said she was a commercial farmer, lamented that her crops were also destroyed, stressing,” as a farmer, I was born here and raised here by my parents. I have lived here all my life. since I was born, this is the only forest reserve we have farmed. Through my farm, I have been able to get my children to the peak of their Educational careers. But today, these aliens have come to destroy my only source of livelihood. We would continue to resist them because if we allow them we are finished”.
However, all attempts to reach the management of Okomu Oil Palm Company for Comments against the allegations were unsuccessful as calls put across to the Managing Director were unanswered as at the time of file-in this report