LOCATION: Iguobazuwa Community, Ovia South West Local Goverment Area, Edo State.
  • Michelin invades Iguobazuwa High Forest , bulldozes prime forest.
  • 80% of indigenous people are forest dependent.
  • Community dispossessed of farmlands.
  • Pressure mounts as multinational Michelin compels community representatives to sign
  • Memorandum of Understanding without clear understanding.
Iguobazuwa, the administrative headquarters of Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State is an agrarian community with a population of about twenty thousand (20,000) people.
Over the years, the people had co-existed harmoniously until recently, when majority of the 80% forest dependent people were denied their source of livelihood, dispossessed of their farmlands, with large expanse of forest area allocated to a multi national company (Michelin) by Edo State Government for rubber plantation. Michelin’s professed ‘ongoing industrial development’ in the area is threatening and destroying farmlands, forest, forest life and biodiversity.
A working visit to the forest revealed that hundreds of hectares of forest concessions were allocated (probably without due process) to Michelin a couple of days to the end of the immediate past Edo State Government.
Evidence on ground also shows that some plantations have been approved without carrying out a full or accurate Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA.
It was also gathered that, apart from the depleting effects of industrial logging, conversion for agriculture (commercial and subsistence) and fire wood collection by the rural poor; forest fires– often purposely set by faceless people are major contributors to deforestation at the Iguobazuwa forest today.
In a chat with ERA’s Media Relations Officer, the Chairman Iguobazuwa Community Development Association ICDA, Mr. Gabriel Igbinigie revealed that the community people had once led a protest delegation to the current Edo State Commissioner for Environment Mrs. Sara Adetugbogboh over an alleged illegal concession of forest lands to Michelin Nigeria . He said ‘She reiterated that the present arrangement with Michelin was done by the past and not the current Government, adding that Michelin should go and resolve the differences by paying compensation to affected community members’.
Meanwhile, two leaders of the Iguobazuwa community development association Mr. A Omorogbe and Mr. Melody Enabulele who bared their minds on the issue, narrated their ordeal. Below are excerpts from their testimonies:
“We blame the state Government for this. We were not aware of the arrangement with Michelin to come and take over our forest and farmlands. They just told Michelin to come and meet us after it has been leased to them.”
“They (Michelin) have been coming with various groups to come and pressurize us to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, We do not know whether to sign or not”.
“We pay money to government before we can farm on our lands”.
However, community representatives drawn from ten villages within and around the geographical location of the Iguobazuwa high forest, seem to be undecided as they are scared it may lead to serious implications in the near future, believing it is tied to promises of availability of good road network, potable drinking water, employment benefits, provision of schools and health care delivery system by Michelin. The ten villages neighboring the vulnerable Iguobazuwa forest are: Aifesoba, Obosogbe, Ora, Amienghomwan, Iguoriakhi, Igueihase, Ugbokun, Okoro, Okokpon, and Obaretin with Iguobazuwa hosting and coordinating activities.
  • Trees felled should be regenerated by Michelin.
  • Forest dependent community people should be made aware of their rights under the law.
  • Full compensation should be made to affected community dwellers.
  • Strengthening of Local, State and National Forest Guards to enable them help more in preventing deforestation.
What You Can Do
Send letters to Edo State Government, Michelin, local and international human rights groups and the media demanding for proper investigation into forest concessions allocated to Michelin Nigeria few days to last administration’s exit; full compensation to all affected community people; regeneration of trees felled by Michelin; and protection and preservation of Iguobazuwa forest.
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