Exploitation by multinational companies in ECOWAS region must stop- FoEA
ECOWAS Parliament has been called upon to intervene in ending all forms of exploitation and human rights violation by multinational companies against plantation workers and farmers in the region.
Friends of the Earth Africa, FoEA, a network of Environmental and Social-Justice Organisation that operate at the grassroots level, made the call in a presentation at the ongoing ECOWAS Parliament 2022 First Ordinary Session in Abuja, Nigeria.
Friend of the Earth is an environmental campaigning community dedicated to the wellbeing and protection of the natural world and everyone in it.
The Coordinator Forest and Biodiversity Programme of the Friends of the Earth Africa, FoEA, Ms Rita Uwaka, who made the presentation before Community Parliament alleged that multinational companies especially that of oil palm came in the name of developing communities in the region but instead are forcefully taking over their lands and exploiting them.
Ms Uwaka who disclosed that most of the rural populace of the region have been overpowered by these companies also alleged that the local authorities who are supposed to protect them have been compromised by the multinational companies.
“There are more cases of labour exploitation and workers’ rights violation as a result of the operation of these agro-commodity companies.
“We are seeing workers, including pregnant women being ferried, transported in open trucks which had led to accidents and death.
“It is sad to note that among our delegates here, we have one of the community’s representatives who was knocked down by one of the tractors of these companies. Today, he cannot walk on his own.
“There are lots of violations in communities that are hosting these companies in different places and communities in Africa.
“Our struggle over the corporate takeover of our forest and lands is not a fight against development but a struggle to prevent further human rights violations, environmental damage and livelihood loss.
“As well as promote the development of millions of indigenous people and local communities with a focus on women and youth who depend on forest and farmlands for their day-to-day wellbeing.
“We call on the ECOWAS Parliament to support economic partnership agreements that respect the rights of local communities and indigenous people in Africa and protect and restore our environment”.
A Member of the ECOWAS Parliament, representing Sierra Leone at the Community Parliament, Honourable Shiaka Sama, while responding to the presentation by Friends of the Earth Africa, urged the Parliament to act urgently in addressing the menace, describing it as a new form of colonialism.
Honourable Sama, narrating his personal experience, disclosed that he was once a victim of harassments by these multinational companies adding that a lot of people have become landless in their own communities due to the actions of these multinationals.
“They have mounted illegal checkpoints on the lands of the people, preventing them from moving freely in their own communities.
“And these multinationals are very rich in a place like Africa where they have mass production; the people’s lives are in danger.
“They give bribes to local authorities; they instruct the police to arrest protesters; promises are not kept; the people realise that they have been robbed.
“I want to remind this house that most MPs here come from farming families so if we have multinational companies coming in and have taken our farmlands, we should act now.
“It is a shame to all of us who have known this as injustice and failed to take action because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice.
“Friends of the Earth have done so well at a time when no one stood up so that the world will know that there is injustice going on. I thank you for giving voice to the voiceless.
“This is a new form of colonialism and if we do not take our time, we are going to give up this continent,” Honourable Sama said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Uwaka speaking on action the organisation is taking against the odious action of the multinational companies, while addressing journalists after her engagement with the ECOWAS Parliament, disclosed that she was travelling to Brussels, Belgium to engage with the European Union Parliament to caution European companies in Africa who were engaged in such distasteful acts.
She said the FoE Africa delegation will also be going to Singapore, Asia to take its complaints to authorities there to also caution the Asian companies in Africa violating human rights.
One of the victims, Philip Orok from Mbarakom Community, from Cross Rivers state, southern Nigeria, who also shared his experience with journalists, explained how he was badly treated upon sustaining injuries on the plantation by the company he worked for.
“In June 2019, I went to work as a headman. After sharing work for my workers to supervise the work, I had an accident.
“The management brought their ambulance and dumped me in a hospital, until now they have not asked of me, to know if I am alive. My leg got bad.
“After ten months, I came back and went to them and when I confronted them, they used the security agencies to chase me, including my colleagues who spoke out for me.
“They load workers in the truck as if they load firewood, pregnant women. I was finally sacked without anything,” Orok said.
Friends of the Earth Is an international membership organisation, with membership spread across the world and its advocacy is focused on environmental issues, highlighting their social, political and human rights contexts.
The organization is also a bold voice for justice and the planet.