By Simon Ebegbulem
BENINâ€”Edo State government has ordered the management of Okomu Oil Palm Company to pay N11.8million as fine for alleged illegal possession of 734 logs of various species, from the state government forest over the years.
The government also directed the company to take the Committee on Forestry round the Okomu forest reserve, with a view to determine the total number of trees felled, valued at N300 million, since the company started operation in the state.
In a letter addressed to the management of the company, signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Public Utilities, Engr.J.Ekenimoh, the government complained that the company had been involved in illegal procurement of logs from Okomu forest Reserve Area BC9 without the authority of a permit or a timber license to exploit and move timber from government reserve and free areas in accordance with section 41 of the Bendel State law.
According to the letter, â€œ the management of Okomu Oil Palm Company, as owners of Okomu Oil Palm Sawmill located within the factory premises, has defied all known forestry laws guiding forest exploitation and sawmill operations in the state, thereby resulting in a colossal loss of the much needed revenue to Edo State government.
â€œFor 15,00 hectares of reserve land de-reserved in Okomu forest by the company for the purpose of oil palm plantation, it must be noted that the trees remain protected and are the properties of the state government.
â€œTherefore, failure to comply with the directive would be treated as breach of the forestry laws and will be regarded as economic sabotage which would be dealt with accordingly,â€ the government stated.