Okomu Oil threatens to shut down over attacks by militants

“”We have to fund our own security and pay more charges in taxes without commensurate service delivery. What kind of investment friendly environment are you providing?”

Okomu oil threatens to shut down over attacks by militants
Bullet-ridden van

The Management of Okomu Oil Palm Plc, says its multi billion naira investment in Edo, is being threatened and might be forced to shut down operations by incessant militants’ disruptions of its operations and attacks on its personnel.

The Managing Director of the company, Dr Graham Hefer, expressed this possibility in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Okomu, in Ovia South West Local Government Area of the state.

Hefer said the latest of such attacks was the Monday early morning attack and assassination in cold blood of three of the company’s workers inside the plantation.

“The female worker, who was held hostage but managed to escape unhurt said the six armed gunmen came in through the Okomu Riverside and also escaped through the same route in their motorboat.

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“This is one of the two incidences within a space of one week. Last week, armed gunmen ambushed the company’s patrol vehicle which they riddled with bullets.”

Hefer, who decried the worrisome worsening security situation within and outside the plantation, said if the situation continued unabated, the company’s multi- billion naira investment might shut its operations.

“Government has to come and take absolute control of the area overtaken by squatters who now terrorise the locality as the owner of the land.

“Government that is supposed to be their custodian and protect the tenants like us, absolutely has no control whatsoever. We are left to our fate.

“There are no police  personnel or soldiers and no police post at all.

“Yet, government needs to provide security around the plantation and the people around the communities as law abiding citizens.

“We have repeatedly said government should put a military base in the plantation.

“It’s absurd that we pay over N12 billion in taxes to government annually and still are left to fend and seek security for equipment and personnel by ourselves.

“”We have to fund our own security and pay more charges in taxes without commensurate service delivery. What kind of investment friendly environment are you providing?” he queried.

The company’s MD, who said both the 4 Brigade and the police authority had been briefed of both incidences, however, lamented that ” since the incident the police are yet to bring reinforcement to the area to restore confidence in the workers.”

Speaking further, Hefer opined that the attacks had political, ethnic and ego for resource control undertone.

He, however, urged the state government to urgently address the security situation within the locality and the state in general to restore investors’ confidence.

The Commissioner of Police in the state, Funsho Adegboye, however, said that more men had been deployed by the state command to the area to forestall a repeat of the attack, saying it was shocking that the gunmen could carry out such attack.

He said that the attackers were from a neighbouring state, noting that efforts were on to arrest the culprits and bring them to book.

He also said that the police were working with the management of Okomu to perfect ways of making the environment safer for its staff at all times.

The CP said, “Preliminary findings showed that the gunmen came from the creek in a neighbouring state, which I would not like to mention. The attack is shocking.

“However, more men have been deployed to the area to forestall a repeat, while the police in conjunction with Okomu is working to ensure that the culprits are arrested.

“We will not allow such an occurrence to happen in the state again,” the CP added.

Contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the 4 Brigade. Capt. Chinonso Oteh, who confirmed knowledge of the incidences, said ” the Brigade has concluded plans on how to work with Okomu management on safety and security of the area and its operations.

“The Brigade commander has visited Okomu management since assumption of office few times.

“He has sent out strong warnings to those criminals to either stay clear of the locality or be ready to face the wrath of the law since this dastardly act,” he said.