News / 18 February 2013

Partner in dire straits

The work of the partners of Both ENDS can be dangerous. The story of Odey Oyama, director of the Rainforest Resource Development Centre in Calabar, Cross River State in Nigeria, gives proof to this. Since a few weeks he is hiding. Just in time he heard – indirectly – that he is wanted, and three weeks ago the police suddenly invaded his house. Odey is afraid to return to his family. It seems that his work has engendered too much resistance[1]. He writes to us: "Absolutely without any warrant whatsoever, men and officers of the police forced their way into my residence on Sunday January 27th, 2013, through one of my bedrooms. Previously I had actually reported to the police that I was in need of protection by reason of some of the things I heard and perceived around. "

Support to communities

Odey works with communities in his state that have to deal with large land purchases of palm oil producers. In this case it is Wilmar, an Asian palm oil giant. Odey noted that the establishment of the plantation IBIAE of Wilmar in the Cross River State did not get the permission of the local population. About 1000 families live in and around Idoma, Betem, Igbofia and Akpet Ehom, abbreviated IBIAE. On 12 November 2012 the official opening of the plantation IBIAE took place, in the presence of the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture (representing President Goodluck Johnson) and Cross River governor Liyel Imoke. The latter promised an astronomical number of 20,000 jobs that the plantation would yield. It was said that, in the course of 2012, the inhabitants of four villages were heard, but according to Odey only the ‘chiefs’ gave their support to this project.



To steer palm oil processes in the right direction, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been established. And ‘sustainable’ also means that land is acquired and used in a fair way and with consent of the local population. Since it doesn’t seem to be the case here, Odey made a complaint to the RSPO. And that is what apparently offended someone. Odey told many organizations about his bad situation and together we try to get a lawyer to talk with the police. But whether it is going to help?


Africa as a new prey

The major palm oil producers see Africa as a new hunting ground for land. In Asia, this isn’t that easy anymore. Indonesia and Malaysia threaten to prevent the expensing of palm oil plantations in forest areas. But last week the highest boss of Indonesia, president Yudhoyono, visited Nigeria. And the Indonesians don’t keep it a secret that they are looking for as much Nigerian land as possible [2]. Kuok Khoon Hong, the big boss of Wilmar, of course totally agrees: “I’m prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Africa. The time for that continent has come.” And he also said: “The major area we are going into is Nigeria.” Would that be the future for Africa, a similar attack on the habitat of people and the environment by mega-palm oil production just as in Asia? And should people like Odey, who work in the interests of populations that are confronted with palm oil plantations, keep hiding?


[1] article Cross River Watch

[2] article Xinhuanet


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