I write this article to bring to light conspiracy that is behind the continued pursuit by the Cross River State Government to construct a super highway.
In truth, there is no real intention to construct the super highway. For one very simple reason, the deep sea port for which the highway is being constructed is not feasible in the location for which it is proposed. A visit to the site of the proposed deep sea port screams CONSPIRACY. The site is too shallow for a boat not to mention a ship. And the cost for dredging (even if it were possible) makes the construction  non-viable. Only a visit can help the doubting mind understand the magnitude of the insincerity that beclouds the intention by the Cross River State Government.
There are other questions that have not been answered in relation to the construction of the seaport. Why is the seaport not pursued alongside the highway? When will the construction of the seaport commence? Why the silence on the seaport? How much will it cost? Why is Governor Ben Ayade considering a new seaport when the existing federal port is barely ?
Furthermore, the state does not have the money to construct the highway. So, why is the state governor bent on constructing the highway amidst huge foreign and local indebtedness? The proposed N200 billion for the construction of the highway is not only outrageous, but also the submitted EIA lacks detailed design for the highway; and only superficial estimates can be assumed. In the end, the real cost could double the proposed cost and then the project gets abandoned and the cleared land becomes plantation of the ruling class. Now, that is the conspiracy; a conspiracy against the people.
Already, 100s of hectares of forest – source of livelihood form many communities – in Cross River state have been cleared for plantations.
The idea that the super highway is signatory project that is planned to take the state out of the woods is scam. Only the gullible will believe that. The super highway project is many things but laudable. There is no economic, social, and environmental justification for constructing this ‘hard to travel highway.’
The super highway project is about personal gain. It is about selfish land grab. It is about forest logging for the millions of dollars in timber sales. It is about claiming lands for personal plantation. It is about denying indigenous people the right to enjoy their God given wealth; a wealth that the state governor and his cronies want to possess. It is about impoverishing the people. It is about buying debt that will keep the people in generational indebtedness. It is about oppression and unsustainable development. It is about destroying the last remaining rainforests in Nigeria. It is about economically non-viable project that will be abandoned even before it commences. It is about the destruction of rich rainforest biodiversity and throwing an ecosystem out of balance.
As a professor of environmental biology, Senator Ayade should know that planting trees in place of a rich biologically diverse forest is far from the same. A forest is not about trees but about the seen and unseen natural capital. So the claim by his senior special assistant that about 5 million trees have been planted in the last two years and that for every tree felled, ten will be planted only confirms the plan for logging the natural forest.
Unfortunately, the federal government seems to be in on it. One wonders if it is because President Muhammadu Buhari had in October 2015 commissioned the project. If the federal government feels trapped, it can easily retrace its actions; denounce the commissioning and mandate that the right thing be done. The 23 conditions given for a provisional approval in June, 2017 should have been a strong way to take action? Nearly 5 months after, the conditions that were expected to be met in 2 weeks have not been met. Yet, there hasn’t been a statement from the Federal Ministry of Environment on the matter. In fact, the silence is resoundingly loud. Could the officials in the ministry be compromised? Could it be connected with “the Rosewood Racket” scandal?
For those that do not know about the Rosewood racket scandal, 10,000 containers of rosewood log illegally left Nigeria to China between March 2015 and September 2017, according to Environmental Investigation Agency.
Without fear of contradiction, the conspiracy is to log the forest and then claim to replant without actually doing so. The conspiracy is to clear vast areas of forest without evaluation so that communities that own these forests, farmlands and properties can’t make claims. The conspiracy is to divert money and make the state pay. The conspiracy is that there is no real plan to construct a super highway.
This super highway tale is just another sad story of how the ruling class is using government structures to oppress the people. There is grave injustice going on with the super highway in Cross River state against indigenous people. With hundreds of thousands of people expected to be displaced, there is no real plan for relocation and compensation by the Cross River State Government. Large expanses of forest have been cleared and not one person has been paid any form of compensation.
This is a criminal conspiracy and has to be stopped.

Emmanuel Unaegbu, senior programs manager at CLIMATTERS, writes from Abuja