OIL palm giant, Wilmar Nigeria Limited, and the Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC), an environmental rights group, are currently at logger heads over a massive land grab in a rural community in, Southern Nigeria.
But the group has dragged the oil palm firm before the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in Malaysia, for sanctions. The oil palm plantation company is however, claiming that they paid huge compensations to the state government on behalf of the communities.
In an e-mail to RSPO dated November 10, 2012 that was wired to AkanimoReports on Friday by the Executive Director of the protesting group, Mr. Odey Oyama, they argued that the claim of the company is not consistent with the law of Nigeria.
According to Oyama, ''the Land Use Act No.6, of 1978 (Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) place rural lands under the powers of the local governments'', pointing out that under the public consultation window for comments on Biase Plantations, the company did not adhere to the rules.
The group is alleging failure to reach an agreement with landlord communities, unlawful acquisition of land leased to CARES farmers, failure to properly account for migrant communities within the estate, none commitment to transparency, and none compliance with applicable municipal laws and regulations.
They said it was surprising that Wilmar begun land development activities on the Ibiae estate before relevant RSPO procedures were finalized.
The group wants Wilmar to halt all their activities on the estate until all comments are dealt with in a manner consistent with RSPO protocol.
Local sources however, told our correspondent that while representatives from the landlord communities have had opportunities to engage with Wilmar and the government on the privatization of Ibiae, ''to date Wilmar has failed to make any direct agreements with the landlord communities''.
Under the 'Fundamental Terms for Privatization of Ibiae Estate' (May, 2012), clause 4(4), Wilmar is required to "assist landlord communities in the provision of such facilities as shall be mutually agreed by the investor and the landlord communities" (see below an excerpts of the clause). Contrary to how Wilmar portrays the Fundamental Terms (as being developed by the Privatization Council on behalf of communities), the agreement, as the clause implies, does not relieve it from developing mutually agreed terms of engagement with landlord communities.
But none of the landlord communities have been provided with copies of the Fundamental Terms despite repeated and futile requests to government and Wilmar. Both parties are no doubt aware that once the Fundamental Terms are made public, fierce protests by the landlord communities will ensue for failure to include numerous demands made by representatives of landlord communities during earlier consultations.
This does not appear to be in the spirit of transparency, as advocated by the RSPO.
During consultations on August 9, 2011, community representatives made demands for inter alia the rehabilitation of community roads, improved access to clean drinking water, extension of the electricity grid, and contribution to the community schools. Community acceptance of Wilmar was contingent on those demands being incorporated into the Fundamental Terms, which communities are assuming have been included, but in reality is absent. Community consent was therefore gained under false pretences.
The group is praying RSPO to compel Wilmar to abide by the roundtable's principles as in Criterion 2.2. It is also praying that the company be made to negotiate appropriately with the landlord communities. Wilmar’s claims that compensations have been paid to the state government on behalf of the communities is not consistent with the Law. The Land Use Act No.6, of 1978 (Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) place rural lands under the powers of the Local Governments.
The Act further demands that compensation claims should be dully compiled following negotiations with the owners of the land, and therefore payments should be made directly to the owners of the land.
Wilmar has not followed this process and the suggestion that compensations belonging to the communities have already been paid to the state government amounts to a cover-up which is intended to avoid the main issues (i.e. making payments to the rightful owners of the land).
Hence, it is finally recommended that Wilmar’s certification be kept on hold until all the relevant municipal laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are complied with abi-initio. ENDS