Apprehension Heightens As Hoodlums Attack Okomu Oil Palm Company Again

By Isaac Asabor

For the time in the month of February, 2022, Okomu Oil Palm Company has been attacked by hoodlums. As conveyed through a Statement by the company’s Communication Officer, Fidelis Olise, “This is not the best of times for Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc as the company witnessed another attack by hoodlums who came again to steal rubber cup lumps from the company’s rubber tappers. Workers who were in the rubber plantation were attacked by seven hoodlums who came onto the plantation and ordered the headpersons (head woman and headman) to direct the workers to carry rubber lumps hidden inside the cover crop out of the plantation. Later they hit the headwoman with the blunt end of a cutlass, injuring her neck. The headman was also hit on the back and head. The hoodlums were identified later to be the same ones that attacked a headman on Thursday last week, February 17, 2022, setting his motorcycle alight and then setting fire to a portion of the rubber plantation.

He added “This attack comes on the heels of the expected deployment of about 120 security personnel by the Edo State Government to flush criminals out of the Okomu forest in Ovia South West local government area”.

He explained that the attack on Okomu also does not seem to be an isolated one. Other plantations have also been the subject of similar attacks against them in what seems to be a concerted effort to terrorise workers, destroy plant and property, to steal product or to occupy land illegally, thereby effectively forcing the plantations to stop their work in what is akin to an act of economic sabotage against the State. He added that apart from attacks from the creeks and from non-indigenes along the western boundary of Okomu’s main estate, Dufil also registered a number of arson attacks and the destruction of large areas of their newly planted palm trees by suspected herdsmen squatting on their land, even as Presco, Aden River and other estates have had similar misfortunes leading to hundreds of millions of Naira in loses to the companies.

Olise, ostensibly conveying the position of the company to the government and Nigerians said, the issue of criminality and banditry should not be handled with kid gloves by the government as failure to do so may elicit a further breakdown of law and order that will threaten the Governor’s Agricultural Renaissance Plan should the likes of the plantations be forced to close, along with far reaching implications for the local and national economy, as a whole.

He said, “Although the current insecurity, also illustrated by yesterday’s bank heists in which innocent civilians were purported to have lost their lives, is totally unacceptable, kudos to Governor Godwin Obaseki’s Administration for the rapid deployment of gunboats on the Okomu River to checkmate the activities of criminals using that waterway for the likes of illegal logging, theft of rubber and bunkering activities.

Olise explained that the move by the government has no doubt reduced acts of criminality on the waterway, and however noted that the result of the recent placing of 120 armed security agents in the forest is yet to be seen, saying that rather, all that peace-loving citizens do know is that they should show no mercy to any of the hoodlums they find, and advised that it is hoped that the Government will not only sustain this move, but also expand it to flush out all criminals in the forest areas of Edo State, and elsewhere, to make the State safe for both individuals and businesses again.