The Okomu Oil Palm Company in Edo State has suspended its operations in the aftermath of an incident described by management as a “terrorist attack”.
A worker in the company is said to have been killed by gunmen who invaded the company on Tuesday.
“For now, we are forced to shut down our operations to save lives from possible reprisal. We are already working with security agencies. For now the army has taken over the security of the plantation.
“The company will remain closed until the security situation improves,” the company’s managing director, Graham Hefer, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in an interview on Thursday.
Mr Hefer said there was invasion of the firm, leading to the death of an employee, the damage of an equipment and the setting ablaze of 20 hectares of its rubber plantation.
The managing director, who spoke through the company’s Communications Officer, Fidelis Olise, at the company’s headquarters in Okomu, near Iguobazuwa in Ovia North-East Local Government Area, said about six gunmen killed an unarmed excavator operator, threw his body into the trench before setting ablaze three of the company’s excavators.
“These gunmen, who we believe are terrorists fighting a political war, also set fire to the plantation destroying about 20 hectares of the rubber plantation.
“These are not herdsmen but terrorists who came into the plantation through the waterway and carried out a well-coordinated attack, wielding AK 47.
“These terrorists were real professionals the way and manner they ambushed our workers.
“We believe that this attack is politically motivated to create fears in our people who are peaceful and loyal subjects of the state government and the Benin Kingdom.
“This terrorist attack is not good for business, it is not good for Edo people and obviously not good for the Nigerian environment and its economy.”
The company said it would cost them about $100,000 (N50 million) to replant the 20 hectares and bring it up to its present years of maturity over the next seven years.
The Commissioner of Police in Edo State, Philip Ogbadu, confirmed the incident to NAN.
Mr Ogbadu said while a gunboat had been stationed on the Okomu river side, investigation into the incident was ongoing.
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