Members of civil society organizations (CSOs), community leaders and other stakeholders in the Niger Delta region on Tuesday stressed the mutual relationship between companies operating in the region and their host communities, as a panacea for sustainable development and a lasting solution to environmental security.
This was discussed at the first edition of a one-day community stakeholder meeting held in Udo, South West Ovia Local Government Area in the state of Edo, on the theme: “Sustainable development and security”.
Welcoming the meeting attendees, event organizer and Voice of the Earth Initiative (VOTI) coordinator, Chief Sunday Ajele said the meeting was organized to ensure that the companies, particularly Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc, and its host communities live harmoniously free from any interference by the communities and the company with the reciprocal rights of the parties.
Ajele, who expressed concern over the spate of reports of attacks and robberies on the oil company Okomu and reports of harassment, invasion and evacuation of communities by the company, said the program was organized to enlighten both parties.
“This meeting has become very necessary due to recent developments widely reported by all media which portray the residents and the company in a bad relationship,” he added.
The organizer mentioned in particular the demonstration of May 4, 2022 of the AT and P community against the Okomu Oil company, on the allegation that a trench was dug by the Okomu Oil Palm Plantation company on the right-of-way connecting the houses housing, schools and religious places of worship in the village, during which a Mrs. Iyabo Butu was shot dead but barely survived, as impetus for the meeting to find a lasting solution to the conflict.
“We don’t have permanent enemies either, but we do have a permanent interest. We believe that living in harmony and with respect for all forms of life, humans, animals, trees, birds, reptiles and microbes, is essential to human happiness and therefore constitutes human rights,” he said. warned.
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For his part, the Accountability Director of the Josemaria Escriva Foundation, Dr. Jude Obasanmi, urged the communities and the oil company Okomu to work towards building long-term commitment expected to have the greatest impact.
Obasanmi, who was represented by Dr Bright Oniovokukor, said that “on the part of the company, management must do everything in their power to show goodwill and not exploit the community just to maximize profit. , given that the day the community discovers this, the accumulated profit cannot offset the consequences.
“The community/company relationship has mutual responsibility and benefits, therefore all parties must play their part accordingly. The parties should consult each other and seek clarifications if necessary,” he pleaded.
Speaking on the theme: “Sustainable Development and Security”, Acting Chairman of Edo Civil Society Organizations, Comrade Austin Enabulele, said that there could be no meaningful development without peace, adding that to achieve peace, “individuals must first imbibe it”. before distributing it to others.
Enabulele argued that different communities must first seek peace in everything they do for there to be sustainable development.
He stressed that there must be trust, fairness and justice for peace to prevail.
Iyase representatives from the Udo community, Friday Araghagha, who happens to be the president of the community, said that his community and the company had a mutual relationship without hard feelings.
For his part, Public Relations Manager, Okomu Oil Company, Fidelis Olise, said his company has taken all preventive measures to secure its farms, hence the apparent breach and complaints from host communities.
He also agreed that Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc must also consider its host communities when carrying out its business to avoid conflicts of interest.
Mrs. Helen Dise from Agbede community said the oil company Okomu had evacuated her community for their farm, adding that the river they used for fishing had been polluted.
Ebiye Jonghan from the A/T and P community spoke out about the mistreatment they suffered from the company, lamenting that they were labeled as criminals in the community, pointing out that the land belongs to them, therefore , they should be treated in this regard.