Oil palm firm, group clash over land grab
Published: 18 Nov 2012
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AllVoices.com | 18 November 2012
"So far we have acquired 35, 000 hectares of land and we would complete the development in about four years,' says Chairman of Wilmar International, Mr. Kuok. "We are willing to develop as much land as the government can give us and we will develop it at a speed and quality that has never been seen before." The World Bank is said to be supporting the development of an out-grower scheme on 20,000 ha as part of the project.

by AkanimoReports 

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 Cross River State, 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.

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Cross River private sector investmenta portfolio hits $2bn

The Sun | 14 November 2012

by JUDEX OKORO, Calabar

Special Adviser to the Cross River State Government, Mr. Gerald Adah, has disclosed that investment portfolio of various companies operating in the state in the last five years has risen to about $2 billion. Adah, who made this disclosure during the inauguration of the Calaro, Ibiae and Biase Oil Palm Plantations in Akamkpa local government area, to be managed by Wilmar International Limited in collaboration with PZ Cussons, said during the period under review, over 300 companies have visited the state to prospect business.

He described the inauguration of the oil palm plantation as a major milestone in the vision of attracting foreign direct investment to the state and country. He said: “In the past two years, the state’s engagements with Wilmar has been in the aspects of acquisition of at least 50,000 hectares of agricultural land for primary production of Oil Palm, as well as the establishment of an Oil Palm Processing/Refining Facility at an estimated project cost of $400 million.

“While the proposed investment is valued at $400 million, the direct benefits accruing to the State include; employment of over 20,000 persons on an average payroll of N3.2 billion annually; Out-growers support scheme for another 20,000 hectares, leveraging on the World Bank support, Corporate-Social Responsibility in terms of standard schools and hospitals for employees, dependants and host communities,” Adah stated. Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, said “The federal government is concerned about changing the fortunes of agriculture and making it worthwhile business for both large and small scale investors.”

Adesina said “in the oil palm value chain many things were wrong that need the enabling environment of the government and commitment of the private sector operators to correct. “The goal of oil palm value chain of the ministry is to increase oil production to satisfy local demand and eventually export as well as to increase the productivity of farmers and create employment,” he added. Earlier in his remarks, Governor Liyel Imoke, said the inauguration of Wilmar West Africa in the state would not only transform the economy of host communities but also enhance its production of oil palm, thus making the state the largest producer of oil palm in the country.

Imoke said the agricultural sector in the country today has been much maligned over the years and plagued with a lot of challenges related to enhancing the capacity of farmers and in recognition of the need to refocus the sector in the state and to increase productivity had to shift attention to identifying and attracting meaningful and constructive investment to the sector. He said, “We in the state believe this approach is critical to the realization of our strategy as the top agrarian economy in the country as well ensuring the continued viability and sustainability of government and private estates in the state.

Our intention is create a cluster of agricultural productivity unmatched by any other state in Nigeria. The partnership between Cross River State and Wilmar is the first major result of this strategic realignment if our agricultural industry. “In recent years, we have witnessed significant increase in the global demand for oil palm. This singular commodity has a myriad of uses and applications for both domestic and industrial consumption and it accounts for a substantial proportion of the country’s agriculture production, thus leading the charge in the growth of the industry in Nigeria.”

Speaking on the project, Chairman of Wilmar International, Mr. Kuok, said “the project is part of a joint venture with PZ Cussons to revive the oil palm industry in Nigeria, by investing in the entire palm oil value chain, including plantation, palm oil mill, refinery, among others.” He said, “This country has the market, land, labour and climatic condition to develop very successful large scale palm oil industry. Our vision is to together with PZ Cussons help build deliver a world class palm oil industry and plantation and processing plant as good as the best in Indonesia and Malaysia.

“Such a project would bring enormous benefit to the country by creating employment and saving tremendous foreign exchange. So far we have acquired 35, 000 hectares of land and we would complete the development in about four years. We are willing to develop as much land as the government can give us and we will develop it at a speed and quality that has never been seen before. “We also assure the government and all concerned parties that we would do the development in compliance with all sustainability requirements.”

On his part, the Chairman PZ Cussons, Prof Emmanuel Edozien, said, “Today we are witnessing an important milestone in our national investment drive that would stimulate economic diversification, agricultural transformation and rural based economic development. The investment in Calaro, Ibiae and Biase oil palm plantations, is part of a new joint partnership venture between PZ Cussons and Wilmar International of Singapore and aims to harness our God given natural resources in Nigeria and actualize the collective dream of strong local contents and far reaching backward integration that would conserve precious foreign exchange earnings and create rural employment.

“Furthermore the investment has brought in the much needed direct foreign investment and would entrench current laudable changes in our agricultural methods and farm practises geared towards international standards. This would be beneficial to the local communities while also ensuring attractive returns from capital to the investors. It is indeed a catalyst par excellence for agricultural transformation.”
Source:All Voices