Our Ancestral Land Is Not For Sale, Edo Community Reminds Obaseki

OVER 45 forest bearing and agrarian communities of the Owan Forest Zone of Edo State, also called Okpamakhin, have declared that their ancestral rainforest reserve land is not meant for sale, consequently on which they have again called on the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, that the ceding of the land to private oil palm plantation owners and for cattle grazing, did not receive their blessing and cannot hold.
The strong worded statement was made at Uhonmora community, in Owan West Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, by the Okpamakhin Community Initiative, a Non-Government Organization (NGO) and pressure group, which represents the interest of Okpamakhin.
Those who signed the communiqué of the crowded meeting, which was attended by  the over 45 various communities, were Chief Asein Jamgbadi, Chief Reuben Aizenabor and Comrade Tony Erha for the Ora, Ozalla and Irhue clusters of communities (clans) respectively, added to Iuleha, Sobe and Akugbe clans of the forest zone, cutting across and beyond the state’s local government areas of Ovia North East, Owan West and Uhunmwode.
The statement further advised farmers and land users of the Owan BC 10 Forest Reserve and Iuleha/Ora/Ozalla Forest Reserve of the forest zone to disregard the letters that were circulated to some of the communities, calling on them to go to the headquarters of the state’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Benin City, to get payment of compensations on the 5,082 hectares on ancestral forest lands, which top officials of Edo State government had unduly given to one Fayus Nigeria Limited and themselves, for establishing oil palm plantation and grazing land.
Thus observing that the said letters from the state’s Agriculture Ministry only bore the letterhead of the ministry, without any signatures by its officials, the statement went critical that “it goes to illustrate what we have always said about the maneuverings of the Mr. Godwin Obaseki-led government, to enslave and dispossess us of our God-given lands, notwithstanding that the governor only holds to the land as a trust for our community, an obligation he has thus breached”.
The statement further quoted: “Still, this gives more credence to what we have always said that the ceding of our ancestral forest lands to powerful individuals and cronies of the current men of power in Edo Government House bespeaks land grabbing and impunity of the highest order. It is also a heinous crime against unsuspecting villagers, whose only sin was trusting Governor Obaseki and his government with their votes”.
While evoking their mandate to defend and preserve the ancestral lands of the communities “from predators” as the forefathers of the communities had always done, the communiqué observed that the land must also be bequeathed to their future generations.
“It is our livelihood and tangible means to the expression of our pasts, presence and futures”, it also professed.
The meeting also called on some persons within the communities, most of who are non-indigenes squatting on the lands, to stop immediately their double dealings of conniving with government to sell the land that had also given them succours, and at the same time proclaiming to support the communities, in their efforts to stop the land grab. It added that those connivers have no other choice than to be on the side of all the people of the communities.
Whilst Okpamakhin Community Initiative is a registered trustee with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and is dedicated to the protection of the Environment, Biodiversity, Livelihood and Local Community Sustainability, the name Okpamakhin that is a generic to the entire forested community, was derived from Prince Okpame, a heir of the old Bini kingdom, who before and during his later eventful reign as Oba Ozulua, developed the rainforest and local communities.