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Okomu Oil battles host community over trench



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The feud between Okomu Oil Palm Company Ltd. and one of its host communities, Maroghioba, will not escalate into a full-blown crisis.

The assurance was given on Friday by the Iyase of Udo, Patrick Igbinidu.

The digging of a trench by the company in the Maroghioba community (aka AT&P) led to a protest. The protest was spurred by the alleged shooting of an elderly woman, Iyabor Butu, in the leg by security operatives of the firm.

The company claimed it dug the trench to stop the stealing of oil fruits.

Members of the community, however, said the action was an infringement of their right of passage and an oppressive tendency by the company.

Iguobazuwa divisional police officer CSP Bamidele Ade held a peace meeting with members of the community and the firm.

The acting Odionwere (village head) of the community, Gabriel Ikhuolegbe, said residents and the company had enjoyed cordial relationships before Tuesday’s fracas.

“I worked and retired as a senior security officer of the company. Majority of our people are workers in Okomu Oil. As a matter of fact, we have been working together peacefully,” he explained. “It is true that the company has provided many facilities like borehole, school buildings, classroom chairs, perimeter fence and a town hall for the community, but our immediate needs now are road and electricity. This is why we are angry with the company that its managing director ordered the workers to dig a deep hole which has blocked the only access road to our houses.”

Responding, Fidelis Olise, Okomu’s spokesman, said the protest was uncalled-for.

“The fact that the company allowed them access these past years doesn’t translate that they should tell us how to look after our property. The volume of theft of the company’s oil fruits runs into 50 tons monthly,” said Okomu’s spokesman. “That is massive and because we can no longer tolerate the theft, we resolved to dig the trenches to create an obstacle against easy movement.”

He added,  “That’s all we did and nothing else and that’s why I have said that their protests are unwarranted.”

Mr Ade appealed for calm insisting that the best way to resolve the misunderstanding was through dialogue and assured community leaders that having assessed the situation and seeing the extent of blockade of the road, he would meet with the company and the Iyase (the traditional ruler) for an amicable resolution.