By Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN—FOURTEEN communities in Ovia South-West Local Government Area of Edo State have petitioned the Federal and Edo State Governments accusing the management of Agri Palm Limited, a subsidiary of Floor Mills of Nigeria Plc, of encroaching into their farm lands.
The communities denied claims by the management of the company that it legally acquired large expanse of land from the affected communities in its plans to expand its area of operation, stressing that they would not have sold their inheritance no matter the amount offered by the company.
There has been tension in the communities in the past one month after the company claimed it had purchased more farm lands for its operation from the leaders of the communities.
The communities are Okoro, Edogun/Drivers Camp, Ebalogban/Thomas Camp, Sule Camp, Iguiye, Aden, Iguobanor, Ugbogui, Osa, Ikoha and Ufelure villages.
The petition addressed to the Minister of Environment by elders of the 14 communities, said: “There was never a time, whether in the past or recently, did the villages either by themselves, proxy, agents, collectively or individually, agree to sell their village lands for economic reasons to Agri Palm Limited.
“We could not have sold our entire land to Agri Palm without recourse to the economic implications it might have on our people, especially in view of the spiral effects it might have on our farms in future, if not now.
“We will not accept any amount of money to sell our inheritance and we will fight anyone who intends to force such move on us. Our people are finding it difficult to go to their farms now after the company invaded and encroached on our land illegally.
“There is no truth in their claim that they bought the land from us because what they intend to do was to plunge our communities into poverty and economic hardship because our people are predominantly farmers.
“We are appealing to our royal father, the Oba of Benin and Governor Godwin Obaseki to come to our rescue before it will turn into a major crisis because we cannot cede our future to the company.”