Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has warned against illegal activities in the forests saying that nobody has the right to trespass into the forest reserves in the state and begin to do things that are inimical to public health, public welfare, and public interest.
Speaking while playing host to members of Okpamakhin Initiative who paid him a courtesy visit in the Government House, Benin City, the Governor Oshiomhole government must always be on the side of the people, and if individuals abuse public interest, it is the duty of government to call such individuals to order.
He said: “I listened to your complaint and promised to look into it. I have carried out investigations thereafter, and I found that like you rightly said, the land that was given to Iyayi was purely for him to regenerate and to farm, not for him sublet, not to talk of selling it to another party, and that party selling. But we have since revoked it, and I have ordered that Okomu should be stopped from planting or interfering because there is a public authority, there is a public interest.
“In addition to all the issues you mentioned about preservation and protecting special species, and all the other interests, it is also the fact that there are laws of the land. Nobody has the right to just trespass into the forest and begin to do things that are inimical to public health, public welfare, and then public interest.”
He said, “So, in spite of this order, they are still doing some illegal activities in the forest, we will have to review the measures we have already put in place and reinforce them, but be assured that if they are still working there, they don’t have our approval. Convey this fact to the community, and the Chief of Staff will cause a letter to be written to Okomu to draw their attention that we are aware that contrary to our previous communication, they are still carrying out illegal activities in that forest. We will do what has to be done to protect the public interest.
According to Oshiomhole, “The constitution is very clear about ownership of land, and the fact that land is vested in the government of the state, and when the state has revoked, you can’t proceed to speculate, and do the sort of things you said the people are still doing. So, that culture of impunity is at the heart of the anti-corruption war that Buhari is fighting, and for which I am a strong subscriber and a believer.
“So, convey to your communities that I appreciate them, that we have revoked, and it stands revoked, and that Okomu does not have the right to trespass that forest, and that they should not allow anybody to violate the forest.”
Earlier in his address, the spokesman of Okpamakhin Initiative, Comrade Anthony Erha said, “Part of the land was given many years ago to Iyayi Group of Companies. And most of the land was acquired while Governor Igbinedion was in office. Most of the land, we got to know, was given to Iyayi for regeneration, having deforested the land through excessive logging.
“About two and half years ago, we were surprised that that same land and so many others were sold to A and Hartman Limited which in turn sold it to Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc for the establishment of palm plantation.
“Sir, we came here in March 2014 to protest to you and you wrote us that you were going to look into the case. Sir, your looking into that case, and even writing us has gone to show what is largely believed that you are a man of justice and that you and your government are very environment-friendly.”
Mr. Erha added, “because they destroyed all the fringes of the forest, today that forest is very fragile. Perhaps, sir, I would like to tell you some of the species and animals that are there. We have the one they call the white-coated monkey that has the closest relationship and same brain structure with humans, and we also have the African forest elephant that is only found in Edo State in the whole world. Now, we had those in the forest and tourists come from all over the country to see them.”