Not fewer than 23 communities from Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo State on Monday trooped out in protest against the State Government’s plan to lease Urhonigbe Forest Reserve to a private investor, SARO Oil Palm
The protesting communities therefore, appealed to Governor Godwin Obaseki to shelve the plan and save their heritages.
According to the communities drawn from Orhionmwon South, the forest serves as their only source of livelihood through subsistence farming, pointing out it was donated by their forefathers to the government in good faith, while other communities refused to make any land donation as a forest reserve. They, therefore, asked the governor to relocate the said investor elsewhere.
Spokesman of the protesters, Chief G.O Osadolor, who addressed journalists at the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Edo State Council, said “The Urhonigbe forest reserve is our only means of livelihood, where we do farming to sustain our family and children. Our children, most of who are graduates and have no job, engage in farming in the forest reserve.
“Many youths from Orhionmwon local government area, who are not interested in criminal activities, engaged in farming in the forest reserve as there is no employment after graduating from school”, he added.
Chief Osadolor explained that not all communities in the state have forest reserve, but that their forefathers were magnanimous to have donated their land as a forest reserve, stating that the widows and widowers from the communities are farming in the forest reserve for survival
He, however, lamented that while Fulani herdsmen kill and pursue indigenes from one side of the land to the other, the people from Delta State also encroached into the forest reserve, adding that the only area left for the communities “is the present forest reserve which government is planning to give to an oil palm investor”, adding that a part of the Urghonigbe forest had already been handed over to Presco Oil Palm Plc.
“We are begging Governor Godwin Obaseki to relocate SARO or any other oil palm investor to another local government that has virgin land. Orhionmwon does not have such land. The governor should not keep us in hunger and starvation.
“Mr Governor should note that we voted him into power because of the trust we have in him, and we anticipate he will always stand in our interest instead of planning to keep us in jeopardy”, Chief Osadolor stated.
He drew the government’s attention to the deplorable state of roads in Orhionmwon, the lack of electricity at the Council headquarters in Abudu, the moving of the NYSC Orientation camp from Abudu to Okada, and the recent attempt to move the School of Forestry Management, Sokponba Village in Orhionmwon to Fugar, Etsako Central local government area of the state.
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