Again, militants kill one more Okomu Oil worker, demand 25% of company shares

IN a rather bizarre situation, Okomu Oil is facing an intense attack from militants who killed one more worker on Sunday night after snuffing life out of three others earlier last Monday, May 6.

The militants are also shockingly demanding one-quarter of the company’s equity.

Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc announced the killing of three of its staff members on May 6, 2024, in an attack that frightened both company’s staff members and community people, Economy Post had reported.

READ ALSO: Okomu Oil threatened as militants kill three workers, unsettle staff

Four other workers were injured in another attack the following day by a group named “Ijaw Freedom Fighters,” according to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

The incidents occurred at Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State. NAN quoted a community leader, Mr Rex Akpokiniovo, as saying that an Okomu Oil Palm worker was killed.

He noted that Mr Gabriel Okorugbe, a chief in the community, sustained injuries during the attack and was receiving treatment at the hospital.

He said the militants left a warning note for Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, on the chest of the deceased person.

READ ALSO: Misleading video of armed men stripping Nigerian students naked resurfaces online 

“The corpse of the dead person has been taken away by the police. My house was attacked and my car burnt down by the gunmen who came into the community at midnight and started shooting sporadically into the air,” Akpokiniovo said, as reported by NAN and The Cable.

“One of the Okomu workers, who resides in the community, was killed while the invaders left a warning note on his chest.

“According to the note addressed to Gov. Godwin Obaseki, the attackers, who identified themselves as Ijaw Freedom Fighters, made several demands from the management of Okomu Oil Palm Plc,” he noted.

Militants demand 25% equity

According to Akpokiniovo, the gunmen also demanded 25 percent shares in the palm oil company.

“Some of the demands included a directorship position in the Okomu Oil Palm company and 25 percent of the company’s shares. They said they were not fighting any security personnel but Okomu oil company.”

Police vs OKomu

Economy Post had quoted Commissioner of Police in Edo State, Mr Funsho Adegboye, as saying that “more men have been deployed by the state command to the area to forestall a repeat of the attack.”

READ ALSO: Insecurity still a major problem despite Nigerian govt’s claims

“Preliminary findings showed that the gunmen came from the creek in a neighbouring state, which I would not like to mention,” he said.

“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.”

Nevertheless, Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc’s Managing Director, Dr. Graham Hefer, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) last Wednesday in Edo State that “we are left to our fate.”

He had said federal and state governments were supposed to be the people’s custodian and protect the tenants like Okomu’ staff, noting that this was not happening.

Mr Hefer had also wondered why his company’s assets and people could not be protected despite its huge tax contribution to both state and federal governments.

He urged the government at all levels to take absolute control of the area overtaken by squatters now terrorising the locality as owners of the land. 

The 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,” he said.

He had also noted that despite paying over N12 billion in taxes to federal and state governments annually, his people were still seeking self-help to improve security in the area.

Insecurity as cancer

Insecurity is a major challenge facing Nigerian businesses. Poor insecurity increases firms’ operational costs and reduces the risk of missing annual margins targets. Like in several parts of Nigeria, insecurity leads to loss of lives and jobs.

READ ALSO: Insecurity: Shettima fails to lead military against criminals as promised during 2023 campaign

Okomu Oil grew its revenue by 80 percent to N43.48 billion in the first quarter (Q1) of 2024, from N24.21 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2023. Profit after tax stood at N15.080 billion, representing a 48.18 percent increase from N10.177 billion reported in the corresponding period of 2023.

The oil palm maker earned N4.183 billion from export sales, indicating a 194 percent increase from N1.425 billion revenue from export in the corresponding period of 2023.

However, this is now threatened.

“The company may not meet its revenue and profit targets by the end of this quarter. But what is more at stake is that it may consider relocating some of its assets to other places that are convivial to doing the business of production,” said an Lagos-based economist, Mr Chukwunonso Idibie, who is also an accountant.

Stella Odiche
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