Okomu Oil seeks govt, stakeholders support amidst bandits attacks

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By Lucy Ogalue

The management of Okumu Oil Palm Company Plc. has urged Federal and State Governments to support the company in tackling the bandits whose activities are affecting the company’s operations.

They spoke in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja.

NAN reports that the multi-million naira company had threatened to shut down operations in Nigeria following a recent attack by militants on its staff on May 6.

One of the recent attacks led to the death of three of the company’s workers inside the plantation.

The company’s Managing Director, Graham Hefer, told NAN that insecurity posed one of the major challenges for the company.

“It is a very difficult task for the company because we are not a security outlet but rather deal in oil palm production.

“So we have to look to the government to assist us in this kind of situation, be it federal or state,

“We need the government to step in and to protect us because that is part of the provisions in the constitution to protect properties and lives.

“The Edo State government has done quite a lot to help us. These workers need to be protected to do their work,” he said.

He said the company was also making efforts to collaborate with the local community to ensure security.

Hefer said: “on our part, we are having a lot of discussions with the local community. They have also been attacked by the same youth. It is not just Okomu oil.

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“So everybody is trying to work together to ensure that this does not happen again; we are taking a holistic approach.”

The managing director said that in addition to insecurity, the devaluation of the naira, lack of forex, and poor infrastructure, among other things, affected the company.

Hefer said some government policies and regulations, especially multiple taxation, were other obstacle facing the firm.

He expressed hope that the government would tackle these to make it easier for businesses to perform better and attract more foreign investors.

The managing director said there were no immediate plans to expand the company’s business unless its board decides otherwise.

“At the moment, we have a good market for what we are producing, and we are happy within that market; we feel we are comfortable with that.

“But if later on, my board decides to look into different things, we may, but right now, we are happy with where we are,” he said.

Hefer said rubber production was strategic in the firm’s operations because it is one its major sources foreign exchange earnings.

However, he decried some losses encountered in its production, which he said were also a result of insecurity.

“Last year, we also had attacks. The same people were attacking us last year, so we had to stop our rubber farming.

So we did not fulfil our obligations in terms of our commitment because we could not tap at that stage,” he said.

Hefer, who said the company was keen on quality products, said it was also part of a Compliance Certification Scheme such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Oil Palm (RSPO).

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“We are with the European Union Deforestation Recertification (EUDR) and have all of these available. We are also certified ISO for our environment, so we are very cognizant of afforestation.

“Remember, being an agriculture company, it is critical that we keep our soil and environment safe because, without that, we do not have a company,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr Gbenga Oyebode, chairman of the company, reiterated the importance of tackling insecurity around the environs of the company’s plantation.

Oyebode said: “we will continue to do what we have to do, and we are working very hard to reduce this incidence of insecurity.”

On climate, he said the company’s activities had no negative effects on its environs, adding that they would continue to plan sustainably to drive their business. (NAN)

Edited by Uche Anunne

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