Okpamakhin communities of Owan appeal to Obaseki to stop bulldozing ancestral forest


The people of Okpamakhin Communities of Owan Forest Zone (OCOFEZ) has appealed to the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki to respect ECOWAS Court’s summon and quit their communities, stating that he “must stop bulldozing our ancestral rainforest and farms.”

Addressing a protest march held recently at Uhonmora Ora in Edo State, the people of OCOFEZ said “over 55 communities of Okpamakhin, cutting across the four local government areas (LGAs) of Ovia North East, Ununmwode, Owan West and Owan East of Edo State, Nigeria, supported by the Owan General Assembly, the Tabitha Women Prayers Group, a global charity with headquarters in Belgium and the United Kingdom, the Nature Conservation Observance of the United States of America and indigenes of our communities at home and in the diasporas, are intensely opposed to the movement of bulldozers by the Edo State Government and its proxy companies to our two remaining ancestral rainforest reserves of Owan BC 10 and luleha/Ora/Ozalla, respectively, consisting the Owan Forest Zone (OFZ).

“Governor Obaseki is insistent on grabbing, bulldozing and replacing our biodiversity rich forest lands and our crops with mono crop oil palm, for open grazing and mining, to some notable companies and several other of his business friends and owners of the local multinational companies.

“This means robbing our poor of the poor to pay his superbly rich associates.

“After months of arm twisting, blackmail and intimidation of our poor villagers with heavily armed policemen, soldiers, civil defence corps and other security men, the public machinery of the state has finally been deployed with the bringing of the bulldozers for the forced possession, cruel destruction of the forest biodiversity, our farmlands and livelihood.

“This is despite that our various communities and organizations had severally briefed and wrote petitions to the state government that its ceding of our remaining forest reserve land is an illegal act that would dispossess, impoverish and destroy our communities and people, particularly the youths, who solely depend on the land for farming and source of foods, logging, medicine, harvest of non timber forest products, ancestral worship, environmental replenishment and source of water etc.

“Mr. Obaseki and his company allies, with the bulldozing of our ancestral forest and crops, have ignored with impunity the court case already instituted against them by the Okpamakhin Community Initiative (an NGO consisting our community) and our local farmers, being answered to by the Federal Government of Nigeria, at the Court of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), Abuja, through Suit No: ECW/CCJ/APP/22/22.

“Indeed, it is very terrible that Governor Obaseki soon turned around to cede our last ancestral forest reserves to the companies as he had earlier released over 15,000 hectares from the same Owan Forest Zone to Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC, whereas the same other company was previously indicted for selling our land, where part of 13,750 hectares was revoked by the immediate past Executive Council of the state government, where Governor Obaseki was a vital part, as it’s former Economic Adviser.”

Going further, OCOFEZ stressed, that “the drafting of the bulldozers to our community, with armour tanks, heavily armed soldiers, policemen and vigilante men, with the support of the Divisional Police Officer of Sabongidda-Ora and the Head of Service of the Owan West Local Government Council, even when there is a substantive ECOWAS Court case, is profane.”

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