By: VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Landlord communities in Wilmer PZ Palm estates in the five local government area of Cross River State, have called for the release of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the company and the state government to see if their response rights as owners of the land was accommodated.
The call was made in a joint press briefing by the landlords and a non-governmental organisation “Environmental Rights Action Friends of the Earth Nigeria” in Calabar.
Speaking on behalf of the communities, the Executive Director of the NGO, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, regretted that “Wilmer, a multinational company has been in operation in the state for over seven years without letting the landlords sight what the MOUs looks like.
He said ” it is on record that some of the current plantations in which they are operating were the formally plan estates owned by the state, namely, the Calaro Oil Palm estate, Ibiae Oil Palm estate,Kwa Falls Oil Palm estate and a private owned oil Palm estates which were bought over by Wilmer from the erstwhile President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo then known as Obasanjo farms’.
Ojo said “prior to the commencement of Wilmer, it was believed that Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) we’re entered into between the state government and the company as well as the communities are yet to be made public’.
According to him, ” the locals who actually are landlords of the estates prior to the coming of Wilmer, had freely given their land to the state under the aegies of the then Eastern Development Corporation (EDC) for the establishment of the oil Palm plantations based on overriding public interest through customary land right laws”.
It is therefore regrettable to note that “agreements and MOUs were entered into so as to put both the comanies and the communities on the same page to foster rapid socio-economic development of the area are not bee. Kept nor honoured by Wilmer”.
The communities affected include, Ekong-Anaku, Akwa Ikot, Effanga, Ibogo, Umai, Better., Uwet and Atan Odot amongst others.
Ojo said that the communities are demanding the employment of their sons and daughters into managerial positions and not as labourers and no Free, prior, informed consent carried out by either government or Wilmer before their lands were appropriated.
Most still, he said, “if consultation ever occurred it was non inclusive as women , youths, and some.people.were.left out”.
Speaking on behalf of her community, Nkoyo Effiong,.said “Wilmer’s operation has led to loss of com.unity and individual arable.farm lands.
She said the women are the most hit as their only source of livelihood have been forcefully taken away from them.
Effiong called on the international community as well as the state government to come to their aid.
Also in his contribution, Decean William Ojobo regretted that there is no single infrastructure in his community since Wilmer came there. We need good access road, health centre and potsble drinking water. Our streams have been polluted by their various actions and.activities.
He demand that Wilmer enter fresh consultation with the landlord communities on how to implement the mandatory Cross River State scheme for the state and for the benefit of the people and halt.further expansion into individual, family and communities’ lands and conduct FPIC before any expansion commences.
Government, he said, “should
endure that communities’ customary land rights are protected and to co duct periodic monitoring and compilance to the existing MOUs and other laws of the government of Cross River State and the Federal government”.