A 5-month investigation by Elfredah Kevin-Alerechi and Kevin Woke revealed how SIAT Nigeria Limited is grabbing host communities' lands and paying them only six hundred Naira (N600) per hectare annually. This is three times less the amount of what land owners typically pay to neighbouring villages to buy a ridge of farmland for a farming season. The company's operations have contaminated the streams and rivers that serve as the majority's supply of drinking water.
In October 2019, Emmanuel Emeka, a fisherman in Mgbu-Anyim village had gone to fish at the mini- Onua, mini-Igwe and mini-Igbu rivers in Elele Alimini of Rivers State, only to see dead fishes floating on the surface of the river. SIAT Nigeria Limited, a Belgian company, has polluted the river with its fertilisers and chemicals used for weed and pest control, he alleged.
Emeka claimed he stopped fishing in the river because, after spending hours exploring it, he would always come up empty-handed. "While SIAT controls pests, they destroy our own," he added.
To provide for himself, his wife, and their sole child, who is now 5 years old, he mostly relies on his daily catch from the river. However, because of the pollution created by SIAT, he is currently jobless and looking for work. "I sell some (fish) and eat some," he says, recalling the good times before SIAT's pollution, which he discovered began around 2017.
The majority of inhabitants in Elele Alimini primarily drank water from the mini-Igwe and mini-Igbu rivers. While farmers soak and wash their cassava in the river, fishermen catch fish from the river for consumption and to make profit. The reporters' visit to the community proved that some of the company's palm plantation is located directly behind the rivers, close by.
Emmanuel Emeka, Fisherman behind mini- Onua Ngbuanyim river. A river linking community farmlands grab by SIAT
palm plantation/ Elfredah Kevin-Alerechi
Emeka said: "Between 2012 to 2013 when the company(SIAT) came, everything was okay. We were still fishing in the river. But from 2017 to 2020, everywhere was polluted.
The decline in fish populations in the river prompted some elderly people in the community to look into and identify the source. According to Emeka, they discovered that the chemical SIAT sprayed on their palm trees and the ground to control weeds, pests, and increase yields is the main culprit.
Sa SIAT nv, a Belgian agro-industrial business that specialises in the production of palm oil, is the sole owner of SIAT Nigeria Ltd. (SNL). A total of 16,000 hectares of land were gathered in the communities of Elele and Ubima for oil palm plantations when the business acquired Risonpalm in 2011 from the Rivers State Government. According to the company's profile on its website, 5,718 hectares were harvested from Elele and 9,513 hectares were harvested from Ubima in Rivers State. Since its establishment in Nigeria and other African nations, the corporation has made several billions of euros while occupying about 66,331 ha for the production of palm oil and rubber. For instance, SIAT group reported a revenue of 173 million euros in 2021. Unfortunately, despite acquiring the land of host communities and harming the environment in Africa, the firm has not adhered to its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitments .