Following the controversy generated by the proposed Cross River Super highway project, the Federal government through the Ministry of Environment in July 2017 gave the Cross State government 23 conditions to fulfill before embarking on the project. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, the state governor and his cohorts; as well as supposed reputable media agencies jumped into jubilation as if the project has been approved, without the conditions which are to be met before project commencement.
One of the key conditions is that, the Cross River state government identifies all proximate communities to the road corridor within the established area of influence as well as the Project Affected Persons (PAPS) and ensures that every community/PAP is regularly consulted throughout the project lifespan. This follows the condition that the Cross River State government, ensures that the initial land clearing of the road corridor that was carried out without due inventory of the third party properties/farmlands is revisited, to adequately compensate the Project Affected Persons (PAPS) in line with National and International standards of practice on resettlement and restoration plans. This shall be done prior to project commencement. However, at the time of writing this article, no community along this axis of the proposed highway where clearing and destruction have taken place, is yet to see a government or an independent assent valuer/assessor to take stock and value their losses for compensation. Interestingly, the EIA as presented by the State government to the Federal Ministry of Environment, claims to have N700 million for the compensation of over 98 communities to be displaced by the project as compensation. But, how did the state government arrive at such compensation cost without actually visiting, reviewing, consulting and taking field estimation of the people’s assets? The Cross River state government is yet to publically disclose any evidence or plan of compliance even after the expiration of three (3) months and two (2) weeks.
These conditions and more were spelt out by the Federal Ministry of Environment during the handover of the conditionally-approved EIA report to the Deputy Governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ivara Esu. The Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, said that all conditions must be met before a final approval is given to the EIA report to signal commencement of work. The Director of Environmental Impact Assessment, John A. Alonge who made this known to all Nigerians, said the ministry has already changed the route to guide the state government on the Super highway project. He also explained that the road construction would not pass through the National Park, as part of international best practices and the nation’s climate change agenda. To him, state government cannot take more than 70 metres of the 20kilometres earlier proposed in the plan, stressing that the ministry has rejected three (3) EIA reports on the highway, “We are on the fourth report.”
Let it be known, that if the Cross River State governor fails to present practical evidence, on steps to ensure that the poor community people of cross river state which this project would displace, are catered for and adequately compensated, and the Ministry of Environment goes ahead to approve the project, all the deaths and community lashed that emanates from people losing their homes and livelihood would be a burden those responsible. There are already two existing roads that leads to the same route…the options are clear!!!
Save Nigeria the stress of bad leaders and blind followers. May posterity continue to bring its judgment upon us and our generation to come.
Smart Chukwuma Amaefula