The Cameroon government has decided to suspend the land tenure contract signed between the government and Neo Industry Ltd. covering a land surface of 26,000 hectares.
The decision follows protests by the traditional chiefs of Ntoumou and Mvae calling on the government to rescind the decision by the Minister of Public Property, Surveys and Land Tenure of March 27, 2020 provisionally renting out the said land to the cocoa processing company.
In a decision signed on August 14, 2020 and addressed to the Senior Divisional Officer of the Ntem Valley, the same Minister of Public Property, Surveys and Land Tenure, Eyebe Ayissi, who signed the earlier decision, announced the suspension.
He said, “I have the honour to let you know that I have suspended until further notice, the effects of the provisional rents contract signed on March 27, 2020 between the state of Cameroon and Neo Industry Ltd. for the development of cocoa plantations in Nlono, Messama and Zaminkan in Ntem Valley Division, South Region.
“This is in conformity with the pertinent recommendations of the report following your consultations with a view to arriving at a consensual and dynamic solution that would appease the local populations,” he said.
It should be noted that the said land was declared public property to be used for the interest of the general public by a decision of former Prime Minister Philemon Yang Number 000258/Mindcaf/Sg/D141 of July 3, 2012.
But the traditional chiefs of the area had protested citing an earlier Decision number 000009/Y.18/Mindcaf/D300 of December 29, 2005 which stipulated that only the President of the Republic has the powers to grant land concessions of more than 100 hectares.
Neo Industry is a cocoa processing outfit which owns a 58 billion FCFA (about US$116 million) cocoa processing factory in Kekem in the West of the country. It is owned by Bamileke businessman Emmanuel Neossi.
Though environmentalists have hailed the decision of the government to rescind the concession gladdened by the fact that it would contribute towards protecting the forest reserves of the Ntem Valley, the decision is more political/tribal than for the interest of nature conservation.
Lawyers and Cameroonians siding with Neo Industry hold that the entire surface area that was declared by former Prime Minister Philemon Yang Decision Number 000258/Mindcaf/Sg/D141 of July 3, 2012 was 66,430 hectares.
Of this total area, 30,000 hectares had already been ceded to some elites ostensibly intended to be used in creating a plantation and 10,000 hectares to unidentified individuals.
“Of the three concessionaires allocated the 66,430 hectres appropriated by the state, only Neo Industry has a clearly defined investment project ready to take off.
“Nobody knows what the other concessionaires intend to do with their own land. Why is it that the chiefs are only protesting against Neo Industry?,” questioned Prosper Simo, a Bamileke indigène in Yaounde.
“The answer is not far-fetched. The indigenes are targeting Neossi Emmanuel because he is a Bamileke.
“They would rather cede their lands to foreigners such as Chinese and the French than give it to a compatriot who is from the tribe the ruling class hates most”, Simo added.
While environmentalists celebrate, the focus is now on the 40,000 hectares of land ceded to Ntem Valley indigenes to see what environmentally-friendly projects they are going to conceive and execute there.
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