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Okomu Oil: Insecurity, lack of forex affecting our operations

Three workers killed, four injured as armed men attack Okomu Oil premises in Edo Three workers killed, four injured as armed men attack Okomu Oil premises in Edo

Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc says the consistent attacks by armed men and lack of foreign exchange (FX) are affecting operations.

Graham Hefer, the company’s managing director (MD), spoke to NAN on Saturday.

On May 6 and May 7, armed men attacked the company’s premises situated at Okomu-Udo Ovia southwest LGA, Edo state.

The attack led to the death of three rubber plantation workers on May 6, while four workers were injured in another attack on May 7.

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Hefer said Okomu Oil needs the protection of the government as insecurity poses one of the major challenges to the company’s operations.

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

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

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

“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,” he said.

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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.”

Speaking further, Hefer said the devaluation of the naira, lack of foreign exchange (FX), and poor infrastructure, among other things, affect the company.

The MD said some government policies and regulations, especially multiple taxation, were other obstacles facing Okomu Oil.

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

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Hefer added that 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,” he said.

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

‘ATACKS AFFECTED OUR RUBBER PRODUCTION’

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

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

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

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

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).

“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,” he said.

“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.”

On his part, Gbenga Oyebode, chairman of the company, reiterated the importance of tackling insecurity around the environs of the company’s plantation.

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

On climate, he said Okomu Oil’s activities had no negative effects on its environs, adding that they would continue to plan sustainably to drive their business.

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