• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Okomu Oil Plc and terrorist attacks!

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There have been several terrorist attacks on Okomu Oil plc this year. It is a desperate attempt to destroy the good image of the Okomu Oil Company. Some terrorists who are operating along the Benin River want Okomu Oil to use the money meant for corporate social responsibility to serve them. Okomu Oil is under attack because some people want to collect the money Okomu Oil uses to develop host communities. Okomu Oil has spent millions working with NGOs and community development organisations to strengthen education and health care, provide vocational training, and establish protected nature reserves. Okomu Oil PLC generates millions of dollars in export earnings. These terrorists want to close down the Okomu Oil Company.

I am writing this article concerning the recent incidents of violence at Okomu Oil Company and neighbouring communities. This article aims to clarify certain facts in response to allegations and malicious reports published by the news platform Mongabay.

As a company committed to global best practices in palm oil and rubber production, Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc prioritises not only its products but also the well-being and livelihood of the communities around it. It does not engage in exploitative activities, nor does it dehumanise people or forcibly take their lands or resources.

Okomu has maintained good relations with the communities surrounding its concessions, ensuring a harmonious relationship through continuous corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that reflect their needs. Despite its efforts, a certain individual, Sunday Ajele, has been working with others to malign the company with unfounded allegations of land grabbing and other baseless claims.

Approximately seven weeks ago, four Okomu Oil workers were tragically killed: three within our plantation and one during an attack by the same terrorists in a nearby community known as AT&P. Reports indicate that the group responsible for these attacks is the Ijaw Freedom Fighters, led by Lawrence Yambor and his gang. This group has not only targeted Okomu Oil Company but has also unleashed terror and destruction in their community, Okomu Ijaw.

The internal crisis in Okomu Ijaw, where Lawrence and his gang have been terrorising community members, has nothing to do with the Okomu Oil Palm Company. However, Sunday Ajele has continually spread falsehoods, falsely implicating our company in the unrest.

The information I present was not originated by me but is available in the public domain on social media, confirming that Lawrence and his gang are the perpetrators of violence in Okomu Ijaw. This has been corroborated by various local media outlets. Recently, this group also attacked military personnel from the Nigerian army who were attempting to restore peace in the community.

It is particularly troubling that Mongabay appears to disregard these facts, instead siding with Sunday Ajele and publishing untrue and unfounded reports, thereby damaging the Okomu Oil Company’s reputation. As a news reporting platform, Mongabay is expected to uphold the principles of balance and fairness, yet it has failed to do so in this instance.

Local media reports, such as the one from Punch Newspaper, provide clear evidence of the attacks by Lawrence and his gang. A member of the community detailed an account which underscores the gang’s responsibility for the violence.

A section in the report reads thus: “Chief Cousin, who said he is also affected as his house was completely burned down by the gang, added: “I wish to categorically state that the publication by some ill-trained bloggers a few days ago that our king invited Lawrence and his gang for a meeting in disguise for them to be arrested by the military is not true. This is a lie peddled by Lawrence and his supporters. And the online platforms, rather than calling chiefs in the kingdom or persons like me who represent the apex body of the Ijaw nation in the kingdom, failed to do so but went ahead to publish the lies. This is unprofessional conduct in the little I know about journalism. Now, if we take such online platforms to court, they will call us all sorts of names.”

He added, “This is exactly what happened in Okomu. According to the 4 Brigade Commander, there was information that there were some persons involved in the Okuama killings in Delta State who were hiding in the Okomu forest with Lawrence Yanbor. So, on the 7th of May, they went to the Okomu community, led by the 4th Brigade Commander, and from there they went to Okorodudu and to Opuba, where Lawrence and his group were hiding. So, on the third day of their stay, the soldiers pulled out of the area in line with the directive from the 4th Brigade Commander, believing that there would be peace.

“Lawrence Yanbor and his gang came to the Okomu community and alleged that it was Okomu community people that brought the army.

“Lawrence and his gang thereafter invaded the community and burned down over 30 houses; the base of the Edo State Security Network and a double 85-horsepower speed boat the Edo State Government donated.”

He continued: “After this incident, the Brigade Commander sent another troop to the scene of the crime. Thereafter, they left some soldiers in the Makilolo community. They were saddled with the responsibility of maintaining peace through regular patrols between the Makilolo community and the Okomu community.

“And this was exactly what they were doing when, on the 7th of June, on their normal routine patrol, they went to the Okomu community, went to the King’s palace to greet him, and stayed with him for a while. Immediately they left; according to the King, Lawrence and his gang surrounded the palace and said they heard that the soldiers were in the palace. But unfortunately, the soldiers had left before they came.

“So, as this happened, the king put a call across to one of the leaders of the troop and informed them that Lawrence and his gang had taken over his palace. They were about to enter their boat en route to Makilolo community, but because of the call from the King, they retrieved it, and as they were trying to get back to the palace for intervention as requested by the King, Lawrence and his gang laid ambush on the soldiers and opened fire on them.

“At this point, three soldiers sustained injuries. The gang scattered the soldiers’ gunboat glass with bullets.

“After the attack on soldiers, the gang went back to the palace, shot the king, destroyed his house, and took away some valuables from the palace. As people tried to rush the King to the hospital, the gang stopped them, insisting that he must die. But along the line, some people summoned courage and rushed the king into a wooden boat to an undisclosed hospital in Ondo State. As we speak, he is still receiving treatment,” he narrated.

“On the allegation that the king invited the soldiers to Okomu to attack Lawrence and his gang and that the soldiers shot him (the king), Chief Cousin questioned: “If truly he invited the soldiers, would they have shot him? Would they have destroyed his palace and carted away valuables?”

Inwalomhe Donald writes from ??]Okomu Village, Ovia South West, Edo State.