By Michael Egbejule
Benin City — The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Oscar Onyema, and others have undertaken a tour of facilities at the plantations of Okomu Oil Palm Company in Ovia North East and Ovia South West local councils of Edo State.
At end of the two-day tour, Mr. Onyema said he was very impressed with what he saw especially with the automated rubber factory and palm oil mill. He described the size of Okomu Oil as massive, pledging that NSE would try to create a utility link between quoted companies.
The company held a dinner party in honour of Onyema where he was presented with a Benin bronze cast.
Onyema promised to relay what he saw in Okomu to the Edo and federal governments. He called for increased support from all stakeholders to ensure that the company becomes a key player in the world palm trade.
The managing director of the company, Dr. Graham Hefer, assured shareholders of a rewarding future in their investment following its commitment to excellence, huge investment and recent expansion for increased productivity to meet global demands.
Hefer who said Okomu Oil is the highest employer of labour in Edo State, disclosed that the company has employed no fewer than 2,500 workers in its Extension 2 plantation in Ovia North East Local Council to complement government’s efforts in creating jobs to address youth unemployment.
Hefer explained that the expansion, which includes Extensions I and II, was to increase production of palm oil to meet and satisfy future demand, noting that the brand has become a household name in Nigeria.
Citing the company’s responsibility to its host communities, Hefer said it provides jobs as well as infrastructure like roads, electricity, schools, nurseries and clinics in areas that were previously isolated and under-utilized to improve the lives of its host communities.
Hefer listed some of the challenges in the agro-industry to include insecurity and social conflict over land.
He commended Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki for striving to create an enabling environment for business.
He added that the successes recorded by the company were due to the spirit demonstrated by the management team, stressing: “we have had excellent management team from the establishment of the plantations in Udo and Extension II in Ovia North East Local Council Area.”
Head, Agronomy, Socfin Group, Switzerland, Regis Helsmoortel, noted that though there has been rapid expansion of production in Malaysia and Indonesia, which now produces more than 85% of the world’s output, Okomu will in the near future occupy the number one position in Africa’s palm produce parket.
He said that for government to persuade both potential and current investors to invest in Edo State, it was imperative that it assures investors that their investments were safe.
Furthermore, Okomu wants to start building a new 60t/hr oil mill at Ext 2 in 2018, after completion of the necessary Environmental Impact Assessments worth N16 billion. This shows the company’s commitment to Edo State now and the future, he stated.
Helsmoortel cited the company’s track record and good management which, according to him, can consistently produce yields that are significantly high in quality compared to others in the industry.
Highlighting the achievements of the firm, Agriculture Coordinator, Okomu Oil Palm Company, Billy Ghansah, said a series of best management practices were crucial to the success recorded in the company.
He added that oil palm was a mainstay in the development of the economies of major producing areas which brings benefits to local communities particularly the hosts.