…Accuse Him Of Land Grabbing
…Call On Edo, Federal Governments For Intervention
Ukomu and its adjoining communities have called on the Federal and Edo State governments to prevail on Dr. Graham Hefer, Managing Director, Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC, from destroying and seizure of their god-given land.
Hefer was also accused of environmental violation, maltreatment of host communities, encroaching and grabbing of the Ukomu National Park by his company.
This call and revelations were made recently during a combined visit by journalists and civil society organisations to the communities and the National Park located in the Ukomu forest reserve of Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State.
Speaking to journalists in Ukomu, an elder in the clan, Chief Augustine Yanky, chided Dr. Hefer for what he called attempts to further destroy the Ukomu communities.
Chief Yanky, who is founder of Ekerikete community under Ukomu clan, specifically accused Hefer of destroying the only bridge at the expense of his company’s plantation which leads to the heartbeat of the clan.
In his own part, Mr. Tony Okhale, Secretary of the Protection of Ukomu National Park and the Environment (PONPE), a civil society coalition, was also definite in his call to the Federal Ministry of Environment and the National Park Service to save the park from Dr. Hefer’s violation.
Also contributing, Mr. Olopele E. Olopele, a native of Nikorogha, lambasted the Okomu Oil boss for alleged destruction of the park, saying this is evidenced with the recent killing of a young rare elephant by workers of his company.
He joined Chief Yanky and others in calling on Edo State and Federal governments to immediately come to rescue the National Park and the local communities from the firm’s grip.
The accusations against Dr. Hefer was also confirmed at Makilolo, one of the communities under Ukomu clan by the traditional head of the village and his second-in-command, respectively.
Both men told journalists that the village and several others live without basic socio amenities and services, stressing that either government nor Okomu Oil has provided them any amenities.
They also alleged threats of environmental hazards, seizure of their ancestral land and threats of eviction from the land by Dr. Hefer and his company.
In corroborating the allegations, a fisherwoman (name withheld) who hails from the same Makilolo village, also alleged that the Okomu Oil, with Dr. Hefer as its present boss, had brought more hardship to her community than the past bosses of the plantation firm.
She accused Hefer of hostility to her village and the entire host forest communities, citing “unending harassment, demand for body pass, bodily search and flogging of the villagers by soldiers, on the order of Dr. Heifer”.