Okumu Oil threatens to exit Nigeria over assassination of three workers

The management of Okomu Oil Palm Plc has threatened to exit Nigeriia over by incessant militants’ disruptions of its operations and attacks on its personnel in Edo State.

Managing Director of the company, Dr. Graham Hefer, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.

Hefer, who spoke on Wednesday in Okomu, Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State, said the latest of such attacks was  early on Monday early morning, which led to the assassination in cold blood of three of the company’s workers inside the plantation.

He said: “The female worker, who was held hostage but managed to escape unhurt said the six armed gunmen came in through the Okomu Riverside and also escaped through the same route in their motorboat.

“This is one of the two incidents within a space of one week.

“Last week, armed gunmen ambushed the company’s patrol vehicle, which they riddled with bullets.”

Hefer, who decried the worrisome worsening security situation within and outside the plantation, said if the situation continued unabated, the company’s multi-billion naira investment might shut its operations.

He added: “Government has to come and take absolute control of the area overtaken by squatters who now terrorise the locality as the owner of the land.

“Government that is supposed to be their custodian and protect tenants like us, absolutely has no control whatsoever.

“We are left to our faith.

“There are no police personnel or soldiers and no police post at all.

“Yet, the government needs to provide security around the plantation and the people around the communities as law abiding citizens.

“We have repeatedly said the government should put a military base on the plantation.

“It’s absurd that we pay over N12 billion in taxes to the government annually and still are left to fend and seek security for equipment and personnel by ourselves.

“”We have to fund our own security and pay more charges in taxes without commensurate service delivery.

“What kind of investment friendly environment are you providing?”

The company’s MD, who said both the 4 Brigade of the Nigerian Army and the police authority had been briefed of both incidents, however, lamented: “Since the incident, the police are yet to bring reinforcement to the area to restore confidence in the workers.”

Speaking further, Hefer opined that the attacks had political, ethnic and ego for resource control undertone.

He urged the state government to urgently address the security situation within the locality and the state in general to restore investors’ confidence.

The Commissioner, Edo State Police Command, Funsho Adegboye, however, said that more men had been deployed by the state command to the area to forestall a repeat of the attack, saying it was shocking that the gunmen could carry out such an attack.

Adegboye said that the attackers were from a neighbouring state, noting that efforts were on to arrest the culprits and bring them to book.

He also said that the police were working with the management of Okomu to perfect ways of making the environment safer for its staff at all times.

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

“The attack is shocking.

“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.

“We will not allow such an occurrence to happen in the state again.”

Contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the 4 Brigade. Captain Chinonso Oteh, who confirmed knowledge of the incidents, said: “The Brigade has concluded plans on how to work with Okomu management on safety and security of the area and its operations.

“The Brigade Commander has visited Okomu management since assuming office a few times.

“He has sent out strong warnings to those criminals to either stay clear of the locality or be ready to face the wrath of the law since this dastardly act.”

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