Citizens of Jogbah Clan in District #4, Grand Bassa County and scores of kinsmen from surrounding towns and villages have expressed strong opposition to the expansion of the Equatorial Oil Palm Company at a well-attended meeting recently.
The meeting was held under the auspices of the President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Gbehzohngar M. Findley, following reports of heightened tension between the Equatorial Oil Palm Company and citizens, who strongly oppose the company’s expansion.
Recently, it was reported that police were deployed in the area to restore calm after violence erupted over an Executive Order authorizing the re-survey of the land occupied by the company. The re-survey has already taken place but the citizens seem unhappy with the process which will see them vacate their ancestral land.
At the meeting held in the Town of Qwrakpo-jilian, the citizens through their spokesperson Mike Collah expressed the hope that the visit of Pro-Tempore Findley who is also Senior Senator of the county, to the area would help address the dilemma they faced over their land.
In a two-page position statement, Mr. Collah decried what he called inhumane treatment meted out against them by EPO and the national Government.
According to Mr. Collah, since the company started operations in 1960, it has failed to improve the living conditions of the people. “EPO can boast of nothing in terms of education, clinics or hand-pumps in our towns”, explained the citizens’ spokesman.
Instead, Mr. Collah accused EPO of contaminating their creeks which serve as source of clean drinking water. For these and other reasons, Mr. Collah said, they (citizens) have resolved that EPO abandons all attempts to expand and stays within its operational area.
In response, Pro-Temp Findley called for calm amongst the citizens and promised to intervene in the saga, but observed that there has been serious misunderstanding about the survey. He said the National Legislature authorized the survey but with a caveat that the citizens must be involved in the process. “No lawmaker can stop a survey under our laws; only the court and the Executive can stop a survey. But I can assure you that this problem will be solved.” Pro-Temp Findley averred.
Sen. Findley assured the citizens that he would organize a meeting within ten days between President Sirleaf and representatives of the aggrieved citizens to settle the matter once and for all.
Meanwhile, Pro-Temp Findley has said that allegations of police brutality against the people of District #4 will be fully investigated and individuals found guilty will be penalized.
He also said those responsible for contaminating creeks which serve as sources of drinking water will be made to construct hand-pumps for the citizens.