Ogoni people on Thursday called on the Rivers State Government to discontinue the alleged forced acquisition of their land for banana farm project.
Speaking on behalf of the people, the National Coordinator of Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Mr. Celestine Akpobari, also urged the state government to pay landowners, whose land had already been taken, for the plantation.
According to him, over 30,000 landowners have already lost their land via the forced acquisition.
Akpobari, who spoke with reporters in Port Harcourt on Thursday, argued that rather than acquiring more land, the state government should encourage farmers through the provision of improved varieties of suckers and tractors.
Akpobari also regretted that the state government paid some traditional rulers for the land instead of the real owners.
He said, “If government wants to promote the farming of banana, it should provide improved varieties of banana suckers for the farmers in Ogoni. Government should also provide improved farming instruments like tractors.
“Apart from that, government can provide a market for these farmers to sell their products. It should stop the forceful acquisition of land from our farmers.”
Ogoni people, Akpobari added, had been battling with the scarcity of land to cultivate their crops following the environmental degradation caused by oil exploitation in the area.
He said, “When you take land from 30,000 local farmers for banana plantation, especially in an area where UNEP reported that the majority of the land had been destroyed, you end up denying the people the right to feed.”
Meanwhile, a non-governmental group, Social Action, has urged the state government to stop any further move to acquire forcibly acquired Ogoni land.
The group’s Head of Communications, Vivian Bellonwu, also challenged the state government to explain how a commercial venture undertaken by a foreign investor had satisfied the interest of the people under the Land Use Act to warrant the alleged seizure of land in Ogoni.
Bellonwu, however, called on the Federal Government to enforce the Environmental Impact Assessment law of 1992 with regard to the proposed commercial banana plantation in Ogoniland.
She also urged the Federal Government to work towards the immediate implementation of the 2011 UNEP report on Ogoniland.