The Nigerian Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammud Mahmoud, has been called upon to urgently investigate an allegation of the killing of a calf of an endangered African Elephant species, inside an oil palm plantation, belonging to the Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC, Edo State, by workers of the company.
The calf was said to been attacked in a failed rescue attempt on the animal.
The group urged the Minister to bring the culprits responsible for the killing to justice.
The call was made through a petition to the Minister, dated 8th October 2019, by the Protection for Okomu National Park & the Environment (PONPE), a civil society coalition, as signed by Comrade Tony Erha, its convener.
The group also called for the thorough investigation of alleged cases of land grabbing, deforestation, environmental and livelihood losses leveled by host Edo communities, civil society organizations and conservationists against Okomu PLC and Dr. Graham Hefer, its Managing Director and South Africa national.
Okomu PLC and its boss, the group alleged, went ahead to grab and destroy over 16,000 hectares of assigned and buffer rainforest lands of Okomu National Park and more of high forest reserve from the Owan forest zone of the state, from which a total of 13,750 were revoked and gazetted in the “The Edo State Government of Nigeria Gazette, No.16 Vol.19 (page 48 – 50, published on 05th November, 2015…” as reinforced by the Forestry (as amended) Law of 2002”.
The petitioners chided Okomu PLC for flouting the directives from the Environment Minister for the company to carry out mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, as contained in a letter by the Federal Ministry of Environment, addressed to Dr. Heifer and Okomu PLC by the Environment on 22nd September, 2015 (Ref: No. FMEnv/EA/123:271?Vol.1/28).
“Unfortunately, Okomu PLC had long undermined the EIA process by bulldozing about two years earlier, on January, 2014, when the letter was written to it”. The group further hinted that “the Nigerian public also wishes to ascertain why Okomu PLC still parades EIA approvals from the same Minister for Environment, especially on the disputed Okomu PLC Oil Palm Extension II situated on Owan forest zone, whereas the company had breached the revocation order, directives from the Environment Minister and burgled due process of the recommended EIA study”
Regrettably, PONPE drew the attention of the Minister to the “negligence and complicity with which the Edo State Government, under Mr. Godwin Obaseki, its current governor, has handled the grave impunity by Okomu PLC. Indeed, Governor Obaseki’s support for the company’s careless activities in the state, comes very short of the expectations of the public, more so that he was an integral part of the decision making processes that had partly sanctioned the company, which the governor had reversed, not only by going to commission the Okomu PLC’ oil plantation located on a revoked and gazetted land by the immediate past government he was a principal, but by going to commission the Okomu PLC’s premised on the prohibited by government and refusal to removed Okomu PLC from the revoked land area and buffers of the Okomu National Park, which has again resurfaced as the cause of the hunting of the priceless Elephant” s
The group described the hunted baby Elephant as one from the very fewer herds of the endangered and rarest lowland rainforest African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana cyclotis) species, that is going extinct in the Okomu National Park, the last vestiges of lowland forest, that is perhaps, the old protected areas of the sort, around the world. It also stated that both park and some of its priceless wildlife species are lavishly named in the Convention on Treaties of Trades on Endangered Species (CITES) and worldwide sites and biodiversity catalogue.
A call was also made for more government’s funding and attention for the full protection of the Okomu National Park and others in the country.
Amongst those the petition was sent include: the National Park Service, Edo State governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, Square II, the Oba of Benin, NESTREA, Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Environmental Rights Action, the Senate and House of Reps’ chairmen of Environment Committee and Senators and Reps members from Edo State