By David Odama
Environmental Consultants in Cross River State have said that the Governor Ben Ayade’s 276 km Superhighway signature project is fake.
The Consultants made this known to Journalists in a one day sensitisation workshop organised by Peace Point Action (PPA) in Calabar, Cross River State. They added that the 276km dual capacity double lane highway, stretching from Bakassi in southern Cross River State to katsina Ala in Benue State was not realisable adding that the project was not a product of consensus,
“The decision making process that saw to its initiation on the first place wasn’t participatory, it did not respect the rule of law particularly in the aspect of having a sound EIA, broad-based consultation with stakeholders.
Mr. Odey Oyama who is an Executive Director of Rainforest Resource Development Centre (RRDC) said, “There is no accountability as it borders on how much timber has been felled and there is no transparency – the superhighway has weakened rather than strengthened the supply of governance.
The road to Governor Ayade’s hometown
“The project has oppressed (rather than strengthened the demand for governance). My submission is that the superhighway is not a development issue at all. It has failed every criteria of development.
“The superhighway requires further dialogue. It has to do with governance issues requiring further dialogue” Oyama stated.
He regretted the high spate of deforestation currently going on in some parts of the state under the guise of constructing 276 Kilometers super highway.
Oyama stressed that if the rate of deforestation in the state is not curtail and allowed to continue unabated as it is the case currently, Cross River may stand the chance of losing her vast rain forest before the year 2040.
He alleged that the proposed Superhighway is a gimmick by the administration of Prof. Ben Ayade to create access into the hinter land of the state so as to have access to exploit the timbers for his own economic gains.
He blamed the governor for failing to follow due process when he conceived the idea to construct the superhighway project adding that the right thing was not done by the administration of Governor Ayade before kick-starting the road project.
The executive director accused the administration for bulldozing peoples economic trees and crops under the guise of doing super highway without following the due process nor making adequate consultation with the landlord communities before commencing bulldozing the rainforest owned by the communities and Cross River National Park.
The environmentalist said Governor Ayade’s action was against the law of Federal Republic of Nigeria, “Why should they bulldoze farms ranging from cocoa, cassava, yams plantains and several economic crops before they start talking of compensation?”
“Apart from economic trees and land lost as a result of bulldozing the land purported to be used for construction of the super highway, many communities have also lost their artifacts and their ancestral history due to destruction and bulldozing of their communities”, Oyama lamented.
Also in his submissions, another Environmental Consultant, Mr. Tony Atah, said that the Superhighway being one of the first major project of the Prof. Ben Ayade’s administration should have united the people but rather, brought doubts and pains in the minds of many due to lose of their vast acres of land and tree crops.
“The Superhighway is not a development issue at all. Rather, a governance issue. If we are not able to sit down as Cross Riverians and discuss, understand what it is all about, we may spend our money without achieving anything”.
Pamela Brade an advocate on Cross River Superhighway questioned the sincerity of Governor Ayade for proposing to construct a road ten kilometers to the right and ten kilometers to the left. She reasoned that such will rather wipe out villages that should have benefited from the super highway project.
Comrade Edem Edem of Green Code, who answered questions on the journey so far doubted the sincerity of the governor which had estimated that the superhighway will cost about N800 billion but now reduced to N200 billion expressing worry where such an amount of money will come from for the project
He submitted that, “the superhighway project will not bring any meaningful development to Cross River State”. For him, public officials will only succeed in “assigning the converted lands to themselves and foreign companies after the logging of trees within 20km of the land”.