By Jimmy Kalebe
Landowners in East Sepik have called on the national government to do away with special purpose business lease agreement (SPABL).
In a forum conducted by Turubu Eco Forestry yesterday, many landowners said they were not fully informed of the agreement and its implications. The landowners said much of their land had been alienated through SPABLs without their full consent for nearly a century. They feel this is “totally wrong and must be returned”.
Lawrence Wagreg, a clan leader and landowner representative, said many landowners in the province wanted the SPABL to stop while the national government continued with the Commission of Inquiry.
He commended the national government for commissioning an inquiry, saying the outcome of the inquiry should be in the interest of the landowners.
Wagreg said most of the SPABLs granted had not followed procedures and that had caused many landowning communities to lose their customary rights over their natural resources. He questioned why logging operations in parts of East Sepik were still progressing while the inquiry was in progress.
The landowners said they did not want the national government to grant new SPABLs in other areas but to look carefully into the recent ones and revoke them. The forum said past and present SPABLs should be reviewed.
The Beghiebone Landowners’ Association said through its representative, Augustine Mondu, problems related to SPABLs started with ill-informed decisions made by local landowners. He said free and informed consent was the key tool that most landowners in the country lacked. Mondu said if the people were told of the implications, they would be in a better position to make an informed decision before any major development took place on their land.