The Road is designed to run through last remaining rain forests in Nigeria; destroying the forests, communal livelihood, and forest bio-diversity. Clearing of the forests (Etara/Eyeyen and Okoni rainforest) is already ongoing heading to Ekuri community forest. No Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been done or reported publically. Compensation Agreement and Technical Report for the project is yet to be agreed upon or accessed by the public or community people.
In a breach of the entire Environmental Impact Assessment Act of 1992 which mandate the Federal, State and Local governments to carry out a detailed EIA on such environmentally threatening project, none of such assessment has been done. Where claims of having an EIA exist, no public consultation and opportunity for comment (in line with Section 7 of EIA Act 1992) was observed; neither was there a public notice to access the document was made (section 24, EIA Act 1992). For such magnitude of projects, embarking on a standard EIA may take up to 4 – 5years.
According to the “Notice of Revocation of Rights of Occupancy for Public Purpose Land Use Act 1987 published on the 22nd January 2016, by the Government of Cross River” and signed by Elder (Dr.) John O. Iyang (Commissioner for Land and Urban Development, CRS), bullet point 4 in quote reads – “…And notice is hereby given that government intends to enter and use the said land at the expiration of 6 (six) weeks from the date of this notice”. After the ground breaking ceremony by President Buhari in October 30, 2015, for the construction of the super high way up to 1st March 2016, clearing has already commenced; without compensation or relocation arrangements in place. The rural communities were not served this notice. By virtue of this revocation, communities within the right of way can be displaced at any time leading to future community conflict over resources.
No engineering plan or Blue Print for the Super Highway is available, even when forest clearing has commenced. Against the state Procurements law No 15 (2011) this project was not subject to any bidding process, neither did the State Bureau of Public Procurements in accordance to Section 9(h) embark on a review, evaluation and recommend project proposal and feasibility studies and oversee the procurement process for PPP projects on behalf of the public.
While Mr. President travels around the world to announce his crusade against corruption and impunity, his inattention to the conspiracy and gross breach of Nigeria laws through the continued clearing of forest for the super highway and the total negligence of due-process put Nigeria and the Cross River State Assembly members in disgraceful and hypocritical light.
In recommendation, first there is need for all indigenes and stakeholders in cross river state and Nigeria at large to urge the governor to provide answers to the posing questions, since he will not allow for openness, transparency or engage the populace on his signature project.
Secondly, there is a need to balance bio-diversity conservation and the need for development. The Federal government through the Minister of Environment and Mr. President should as matter of urgency take more proactive steps via sanction to stop the Cross River state government from further destruction of the last existing rain forest.
The National Assembly and the Cross River State Assembly, should interfere and stop the forest clearing the process as the EIA Act 1992 as well as other environmental acts such as the Federal Environment Protection Agency Act, CAP F10 and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency Act no25 2007 are in breach. These laws are enforceable to Federal, States and Local Government.
The Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade should as a matter of humility and care for his people, stop the destruction of the last existing rainforest, or better re-route his super highway away from the rain forest. In this light, he should also ensure a review of the 20kmX260km right of way.
The Cross Rivers State House of Assembly should as a matter of courage and integrity take decisive actions to stop and sanction the clearing process of the super highway project, as it makes rubbish the Cross River State’s Law.
Against displacing we the good people of rain forest regions, the Government of Cross Rivers should embark on more sustainable and realist projects like Off-Grid Electricity solutions i.e. solar powered irrigation for farming, solar and small hydro lighting, textile factory, gas farms etc, which will make the people more economically viable. The universities and state educational system need upgrades, the state hospitals can be improved to international standards.
Finally, what is the use of signature projects if they do not impact sustainably in the lives of the people? While we must improve our electoral process, we must be careful of those we elect as our leader before they lead us to our graves.
God bless Governor Ben Ayade, God bless the beautiful people of Cross River State, God bless Nigeria.
By Smart Chukwuma Amaefula, Environmentalist and President, CLIMATTERS, Abuja
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