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Controversies Trail Governor Ayade’s Super Highway Project

Bulldozers have been at work clearing the bush and green forest that align the proposed route the 260km super highway project planned for execution by Governor Ben Ayade.

The Super Highway project is as laudable as it is desirable to be a much needed alternative road to compliment the single one in the state linking the southern part of the state to the north.

Expectations are that the road when completed is expected to reduce the travel hours from Calabar the state capital to Obudu where the Ranch Resort is located by up to 3hours instead of six hours as it is presently.

The cost of the project was put at over N600 Billion, which is a combination of the size of the state budget in the past six years.

Even more worrisome is the way the state government is going about the project at a time neither feasibility study nor environmental impact assessment has been fully done on it,

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor disclosed that current site clearing where hired bulldozers have been doing is undertaken through the recently enacted law from the state house of assembly establishing Infrastructure Company of Cross River State. Even at that, no formal contract bidding or award has been done.

Recently Federal Government directed Cross River State Government to do super highway in lines with Environmental roles.

The Minister for Environment, Mrs. Aminat Muhammad gave the directives at Nsan in Akamkpa local government area of Cross River State on a visit to the state to address issues raised by international and local communities on environmental issues over the construction of the Super highway across the Rain forest.

While lauding the super highway project of 260km, she urged the state government to also address the concerns of the communities involved by following due process.

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She said, “there is no much to say but let’s make sure we really keep the balance with environment and development .I can see how much the youths are in support of this project but the important thing is that the change for us is that we do things the right way.

“We are happy to hear from the commissioner for climate change that green police is important and that is why I am here because when we say we want to do development, it must not be at the cost of our environment and without the environment we cannot survive.

“Automatically, in the long term our children will not survive. They will not have what we have that was given to us by our parents on the generation before so we must protect the environment.

“Coming here is really to address the concerns of many others from the country, Cross River, from your

communities. Yes we are in support of development but we are also in support of doing it in the way that is sustainable and I think from our visit today we know that with the discussion with the Deputy Governor that we have agreed on what to do to make sure that this remains so.

She said development should not be politicized because it has to do with the future of generations that are yet to be born”.

She said, “are we communicating in the right way? many concerns that I have had today, having listen to the cross river state government, people don’t know you are doing something important so it is very important to hear what your intentions are but when people see burdoza taking down trees they know you have conditions to replace those trees by two or three times if you don’t know then you understand the anxieties of people.

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“I will just urge the government that what we know , let us share because knowledge does really means empowerment and empowerment will support what is a good cause . I heard today when the deputy govern talks about politicization of any issue and that is something we live with and I think that there is democracy I think that there are some things that goes pass polity and that is development, that is people’s future.

“So I urge you to reach out to communities and lay there fears and concerns, that is what we are here to do today and make sure that when we go back out and we can say to people that the right thing has been done and if it has not been done, it will be done”.

During a courtesy visit on him by the Minister, the Deputy Governor, Professor Ivara Esu said: “Our governor is an environmentalist, I am a soil scientist, and we are very concerned about climate change and other related environmental issues especially forestry development. So, we can’t be preachers of environmental conservation and do otherwise.”

Continuing he said: “We are passionate about environment and so we are very proud of the National Park because it’s our heritage. In addition, we have the highest rain forest in the country and we are the 25th biodiversity hotspot in the world and no way will we do anything to jeopardize this environmental conservation efforts.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Communication and Branding, Mr Donclaim Enamhe in an interaction with some news men said “the state government means well for the people of Cross River and cannot do anything to hamper the interest of the people.

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” This project will bring so much benefits to the state, the communities and the country and we should join hands as partners in progress to see it through. Certainly the environment will not be impacted negatively.

The Clan Head of Akampka Urban, Ntufam Paul Ogar, thanked the Minister for coming and assured the Minster and her team that the local government is in support of the construction of the super highway.

In his words, “I am speaking on behalf of the entire traditional rulers of Akampka local government. We are happy to receive you .we asks you to say a big thank you to the president for the ground breaking and we appreciate him. We are not politicians, we are traditional rulers and in appreciation to the governor of cross river Senator Ben Ayade, we are equally behind your administration, whatever you have to do we will comply”.

It is recalled that communities in Ekuri, Okokori, international and local NGOs had risen against the superhighway insisting that proper Environmental Social Impact Assessment is carried out”

Embarking on such huge project without due process; no EIA, no information about award of contract and the contractors involved as well as compensation for those who will be affected by the construction is what is causing the apprehensions in many quarters. Recently, event after the site clearing had begun without formal award of contract, the government came up with a publication in the national dailies notifying on the acquisition of Right of Way with 10 KM on both sides of the 260KM stretch of the road.