Okomu Oil threatened as militants kill three workers, unsettle staff

Militants are unsettling Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc and the manufacturer is rethinking its investment in Edo State. Experts say the Nigerian security agencies must act swiftly to protect the company and its assets and people.

Unknown militants killed three staff members of the palm oil producer working in plantations on Monday in an attack that frightened both company’s staff members and community people. The incident occurred at Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State.

Public Relations Officer of the company, Mr Fidelis Olise, confirmed the incident on Tuesday, saying that the killing was done by unknown persons. 

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“We enjoy cordial relationships with the communities around us and we cannot say whether members of the communities were involved. However, the matter has been reported to the police and we hope justice will be done,” he said.

Vanguard 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.”

“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.”

Okomu Oil’s CEO skeptical

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

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He 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 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 said 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.

READ ALSO: International firms exit Nigeria leaving oil communities worse off

He said police authorities were told of the incident but had not sent reinforcements to the area to restore confidence among the workers and the community.

He further said that the company was providing its own security, saying that the government had failed to do its basic job of security. “What kind of investment friendly environment are you providing?” he asked, rhetorically.

Okomu’s financials

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.

Okomu Oil is a major investor in Nigeria’s agro-allied sector. It recently installed $50million milling facilities with the capacity to process 30-tons per hour.

Expert wants immediate action

An expert wants the Nigerian government and its Edo State counterpart to act swiftly to save the mega event of the company.

An Lagos-based economist, Dr Agwu Alfred Agwu, said that the investment of the palm oil maker should be “protected by all means.”

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“They engage a lot of people and contribute in tax to the Nigerian and Edo State economies. So, we should use this situation to show the entire world that we mean business when we ask them to come and invest in Nigeria,” Dr Agwu said.

“All we need to do is to protect Okomu and its surroundings fiercely. We will be sending signals by whichever way we choose to handle this.”

Stella Odiche
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