Controversy over Cross River’s Super highway as work begins without Environmental Impact Assessment

Photo: thenewsnigeria.com.ng
Photo: thenewsnigeria.com.ng

Following commencement of work, without environmental impact assessment, on a controversial superhighway by the Cross River State Government, about 60,000 indigenous people face threats just as bulldozers are already destroying priceless forest reserves.

Cross River is host to the largest remaining rainforests of Nigeria and one of the largest bio-diversity forests in the world, serving as home to highly threatened species, including the Cross River gorilla, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, drill monkeys, 1,568 plant species of which 77 are endangered medicinal plants and orvhids.

The highway, six-lane wide and 260km long, is planned to lead from a yet-to-be-built Bakassi deep-sea port in Calabar, all the way to Benue State via Akamkpa and Ikom and cutting through several protected forests reserves and abutting the western boundary of the Cross River National Park – the Oban Division. 

Raising alarm, an international green foundation, the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Nigeria, warns that the bulldozers moving against public opinion, will cut through five forest reserves and a mountain wildlife with serious ramification on the bio diversity of the forests and the socio-economic lives of the 60,000 indigenous people living within and around the forests, including natives of Akpabuyo, Bakassi, Akamkpa, Yakurr, Obubra, Etung, Ikom, Boki and Bekwara local government areas. 

Already the bulldozers have entered the Ekuri-Eyeyeng, Etara and Okuni areas; clearing and felling trees. Yet up till mid-March 2016, there was no publication of any Environmental Impact Assessment as mandated by the Nigerian constitution before the commencement of a project of such magnitude. 

As announced by the Cross River State Government, the super highway, which is 260km long, will have a 10km right-of-way on both sides of the highway, meaning that a total of 20km-wide land corridor along the superhighway route falls under the land being revoked by the state government.

This also means that the over 185 communities within the affected land corridor are subject to displacement and sudden loss of access to their land. 

A chilling timeline

 A factsheet released by Heinrich Boll exposes a chilling timeline. Shortly after he was sworn in as governor of Cross River State in May 2015, Benedict Ayade a plan to construct a superhighway as well as a deep seaport in pristine mangroves.

In September 2015 a groundbreaking ceremony and visit by President Buhari was postponed because of non-existence of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Within this period there was a re-routing of the highway to move it outside the National Park.

On January 22, 2016, the State, through a notice published in the government-owned newspaper, Weekend Chronicle, announced revocation of all occupancy titles within a 20-kilometre wide corridor of land along the 260-kilometre route.

The state revoked the rights of occupancy within a 20-kilometre – belt, which cuts through protected forests areas within and outside the National Park, including Cross River South, Oban Group, Ukpon River and Afi River Forest Reserves; Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary; plus the Mangrove Reserve, where Government has revoked land titles, giving it the right to fall trees, clear farms or displace communities.

It was further gathered from the factsheet that in comparison, other express roads of similar sizes in Nigeria have revoked such rights of occupancy but only within a 100 metres (0.1 kilometre) strip, not 20 kilometres. Federal highways are built to standards of the Federal Highways Act of 1971 with a total road right-of-way extending to 50 metres on each side of the centerline.

In February 2016 bulldozers moved into the Ekuri-Eyeyeng, Etara and Okuni areas, clearing and falling trees. In protest, communities in Old and New Ekuri prevented bulldozers from logging in their forest. Government reacted by sending more bulldozers into Katchuan, Irruan, Borum, Boje, Iso Bendeghe and Nsadop in Boki.

The Superhighway has triggered a public debate as to whether or not the Cross River State Government should be embarking on such a project in the first place. There are already two federal highways connecting Calabar to Benue.

Constructed about 40 years ago, there are in need of expansion and rehabilitation in many places, yet they serve the majority of towns and villages in the state.

Environmentalists argue that these two existing highways can serve the same economic purpose as the superhighway. In their opinion, the state could have instead refurbished and expanded the federal roads and later make claims to the Federal Government, as did Rivers and Lagos States.

Zero due process

What some critics find more disturbing is the haste the Cross River government has applied to the project from the onset, arguing that this haste may have negatively impacted the quality of thought driving the Superhighway. The Heinrich Boll factsheet states that:

“The Nigerian Environmental Impact Assessment Act of 1992 mandates federal, state and local governments and private companies to carry out a detailed EIA on environmentally threatening projects. There is no public record of an EIA being initiated for the superhighway. There has been no public notice to access the document as required by Section 24, EIA Act 1992. In other countries, a professional Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for road construction projects of this magnitude would require four to five years to complete.

“State Procurement Law No 15(2011) requires a bidding process for this kind of project, but none was carried out. Neither did the State Bureau of Public Procurements in accordance to Section 9 (h) embark on a review and evaluation.”

It was further gathered that due process at state level would have required the submission and publication of an engineering plan or blue print for the super highway before forest clearing commenced.

According to the notice of revocation of rights of occupancy published by the state government, bullet point 4 reads: “And notice is hereby given that government intends to enter and use the said land at the expiration of six (6) weeks from the date of this notice”.

Having published the notice January 22, 2016, Heinrich Boll said no work should have commenced before March 4, but that clearing of the forest began in February.

In his reaction to the Superhighway controversy, Christian Ita, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ayade, confirmed that bulldozers were indeed clearing forests, adding that the clearing will soon stopped because no contract has been signed for the Superhighway.

Mr. Ita told PREMIUM TIMES that ongoing works were being carried out by a state-owned company called INFRACROSS, a special purpose vehicle which is responsible for such infrastructure development in the state.

“There is a lot of illiteracy about this project. No contract has been awarded. There is an EIA, but that EIA is just for the groundbreaking. The Minister for Environment, Amina Mohammed, came to Cross River and confirmed that our EIA is at an advanced stage,” Mr.  Ita said.

Asked to comment on the lack of due process, Mr. Ita said:

“The truth of the matter is that some NGOs have been paid to ridicule and kill this project. Let’s not play politics with development please. Is it that we don’t need infrastructure? 

“The forest you are protecting, who owns the forest? The forest is ours. But we are not insensitive. For every tree destroyed, two more will be planted. And for people living in those areas, government is conducting enumeration to know who is affected.”

President Buhari performed the groundbreaking ceremony for the project on October 20, 2015, expressing the hope that the road would create a new vista of business opportunities for Cross River and the nation at large.

He commended Governor Ayade for his vision and foresight in conceptualising the project.
 


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  • amazing2012

    These people needs psychological evaluation. They complain of lack of development which everybody acknowledge and now they are complaining about damaging forest. They want the Jos to stop so that they will have reason to keep agitating !

    • Rumournaire

      International norm is that even for a project that would benefit the community, you must still carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment. As the article points out, the objective of the new highway could also be met by upgrading the existing roads, without necessarily destroying so much forest reserves. That is the educated approach to development!

      • Hans Oreva

        abeg shutup jor!! be talking nonsense anyhow

        • Rumournaire

          When your doctor tells you which foods and habits to avoid for the sake of your health, I hope you tell him “shutup jor”.

          I have one advice for you: You don’t have to contribute to every discussion online. You should know the limits of your knowledge and stay clear of exposing your ignorance on specialised subject matters. Environmental preservation is not beer-parlour talk – It is serious business that requires informed minds to discuss! Just sit quietly and learn at the feet of those with the requisite knowledge!

          • Hans Oreva

            again you are still making useless noise… talking about environmental assessment; how many environmental assessment did the US do, when building their federal railways to connect all the states? after fucking shit up they turn gullible people like you to hate the same development they did just for the sake of chimps…are we not big enough to have a highway plus controlled reserve? just talking nonsense anyhow…you see development but are worried about non-factors mtchew

          • Rumournaire

            You cannot be helped because your comment only further shows that you are out of your depth. You are not addressing the issue – which is not surprising because you are not sufficiently informed. You used very uncouth language in your response. This is the last response you will get from me as I have no resources for those who hide behind anonymity to use gutter language online. Over and out.

      • I did It 4 Love.

        Hello, don’t try to educate our illiterate e rats here because they will never understand the impact of destroying our environment.
        We have sophisticated zoo in UK and they will continue to obtain visa and pay to see African beautiful animals.

        We are enemies of ourselves.

      • Onike24

        It’s funny CNN in inside Africa just highlighted the Bio diversity in that part of Nigeria, the tourism that it could generate especially the ability to see the Mandrill monkeys in their own habitat is staggering. Illiteracy is a huge problem in Nigeria and going by the education system it’s going to get worse.

      • amazing2012

        i agree with you. the irony on this issue is that may be someone some where was giving the money for this assessment and want to go away with it. Because i am sure they educated enough to know about the environmental assessment and its implication. thank you.

  • 9ja needs a new leader

    “Even if you give BUHARI 20 years to prepare, it would still be beyond his capacity.

    The complexities and issues involved in ruling a country like Nigeria are huge.

    Leading such a complex country is an intellectual issue and Buhari doesn’t have

    the intellectual capacity to comprehend what it means to govern the country”.

    …………Professor Ben Nwabueze

    (March 16th, 2016)…………..

    • Nwa_Africa

      Then ask your Ben Nwabueze why he could not contest for the President of Nigeria?

      • Rumournaire

        Indeed, talk is cheap, and there are thousands of armchair critics out there. They would criticise every leader but would never offer themselves or their ideas.

        • Nwa_Africa

          Don`t mind them as they are just notice me kind of people………………………………………

      • Edward Ehighe

        @disqus_f1VtF45rd7:disqus

        Is Muhamadu Buhari not eating humble pie now,
        and begging Nigerians not to lose total faith in him? But the same Buhari
        had come into power on 29th May, 2015; strutting with supercilious gaits
        of Hercules who’s come to rescue Nigeria and to rescue the world. Thinking
        people screamed havoc at the time but the self-destructive populace did not
        take heed that an empty-headed fascist has been enthroned over Nigeria. When
        later on, specifically on 30th September, the rest of the world took note that a totally
        immoral man has been sworn into office as president of Nigeria, and has since assembled
        a clutch of notorious thieves as Ministers and aides, it was too late. Nigeria was already
        in 24 hour electricity blackout, with all investments on the Stock Market burnt.

      • Point of Order

        @disqus_f1VtF45rd7:disqus: ELECTION IN NIGERIA DOES NOT SUGGEST KNOWLEDGE OR ETHICS BECAUSE
        90% OF NIGERIAN VOTERS ARE ILLITERATES AND UNENLIGHTENED FOLKS WHO WILL VOTE
        AS INSTRUCTED BY ANYONE WHO’S STOLEN ENOUGH TO FEED THEM BEFORE POLLS OPEN.

    • Ha

      Talkless of leading a country, Nwabueze could not successfully lead his group at the National Conference instead, he lied that he was ill. He thought that was a strategy for some underground move. He made some changes to the constitution with the connivance of Jonathan thinking everyone was as dull as he was and blindly adopt the resolutions. He later became a laughing stock. Now he has the gut to accuse somebody who is managing the whole country including Nwabueze himself.

  • Asuquo Etinan-Uduak

    WHY IS PREMIUM TIMES SUPPORTING PRESIDENT BUHARI FOR GOD’S SAKE?
    LIKE NOW PREMIUM TIMES HAS CHANGED THE TOPIC TO CROSS RIVERS STATE.
    IS CROSS RIVERS STATE THE CAUSE OF NATIONWIDE BLACKOUT AT EASTER IN NIGERIA?
    MUHAMADU BUHARI IS THE REAL BAD ISSUE IN NIGERIA TODAY; NOT CROSS-RIVERS STATE.

  • Hans Oreva

    let6 this people go sleep one corner jor… those communities would be better off with access to the super highway, we want to develop while others are fighting for chimps and flowers to develop mtchew…lets be like other western countries that developed and worry about these things after

    • Ha

      The best comment

  • Olasope

    It was on 30th September 2015
    that President Buhari announced himself as an immoral outlaw. Buhari announced RAJI
    FASHOLA as a Minister of the federal government to block the progression of Fashola’s
    arraignment, conviction and sentencing to prison for stealing. President Buhari acted with
    an outright intent to obstruct justice. For on 3rd September, twenty seven days earlier the
    Independent Corrupt Practices Commission [I.C.P.C] had issued a full page public notice
    in all newspapers that Raji Fashola is a financial criminal scheduled for interrogation.
    From then on, the rest of the world wrote off Muhamadu Buhari as a fake reformer.

    • W.W.W

      Olasope:

      But Professor Wole Soyinka is the last man standing behind Buhari despite the alarm bells rung by global media,
      like The Economist newspaper of London, the Washington Post and the New York Times, all of which editorialized
      in the last four months that Buhari has no informed economic policy or a strategic military plan to defend Nigeria
      against terrorist militias. The U.S News followed up on February 11th saying Nigeria has fallen under Buhari
      and has become the world’s most corrupt country.

      Professor Wole Soyinka, meantime, suggests irrelevancy.
      Over against a syndrome of anomie in Nigeria, Wole Soyinka calls on the general public to come and lend
      a paraplegic Muhamadu Buhari some crutches. Soyinka calls for an economic conference of the public,
      as if economics has ever been a solution to anomie. With supporters like Wole Soyinka, fumbling Buhari
      feels more able to become complacent and sit ensconced in the presidential villa; doing nothing good.

      • O’Jose

        …My people……it’s not looking good yet O……Buhari is losing goodwill……
        ….more than he’s gaining it…..and now, after 9 months…..he has negatives ……
        numbering enough to write a book……….from his blunders overseas…..to….
        …this huge suspicion… that he’s just another Fulani Islamist hegemonist and….
        northern tribalist……but, that’s a smelly body odor to carry around…….if…..
        …..it includes jumping the window of parliament to forge appropriation bills……..
        and winking at the genocide of Shiite Muslims… …..as well as the murders….
        ………….committed daily by the mad and maddening Fulani herdsmen……….

      • Ha

        Yes, under Jonathan we saw the most informed economic policy ever and the most sophisticated strategic military plan that had crashed terrorism completely. Jonathan has handed over a safe and secured country free of corruption. All the current prosecutions are mere witch- hunting. Thank you W.W.W. May the almighty do to you what Jonathan has done to Nigeria. Please say Amen.

    • Williams Johnson Fortune

      Many are really daft. I thought I’ve seen enough until Olasope proved me wrong. What is the correlation between construction and Fashola? How on earth did many of us degraded to this level?

  • Engineer O. Smith

    You see. I like what I see here. Now that the issue is science, most contributors have nothing to say.
    Environmental impact assessment is too technical for the contributors here to understand. Hahahaha!
    Premium Times can even use this page to know how many science students and graduates contribute here.

    • DTN20000

      Big Question For all Nigerians

      • When – since you were born – did Nigeria EVER experience 6-month petrol
      scarcity as happening under Muhamadu Buhari’s presidency beginning January
      and officially assured to last until June this year; and if the answer is NEVER, is
      Nigeria therefore less worse in March 2015 than it is today – with no electricity
      supply nationwide and in effect no water to drink for lack of the electrical power
      to pump potable water to the general public by State Water Corporations?

      • New Nigerian

        Sorry. No more rent seeking, even if the pipeline to the refineries are cut. Nigerians know why there is scarcity and who the economic saboteurs are.

      • Williams Johnson Fortune

        Your comment is very odd to the subject under discussion. Are you sure you really know what you are doing at your age?

      • Eyo

        You’re suffering from political depression. Weting concern River road with Buhari. This Na River matter. If you don’t have anything important to say let nobody hear yiu

  • New Nigerian

    A band of 20 km as right of way along the length of the proposed highway is excessive. Environmental impact assessment should be done and it could be carried out speedily using satellite imagery and drones – so this critical element should not be missed – Findings should be factored into the path the road takes, so as to ensure that negative impact on the flora and fauna,and priced habitats are reduced. Eco tourism should also be factored into the grand plan with allowance made for exits and access roads to famed habitats.

  • Rommel

    How on earth does anyone want me to believe that such a project would be adopted without EIA? knowing the Nigerian factor, someone somewhere wants to become a millionaire out of this and is ready to mobilize people in the name failure to do EIA,no contractor worth his salt can undertake such a project without the necessary clearances and this project may not have been conceived today,it would be necessary though to hear from the Cross River state authorities,emotions should be removed from this.

    • moonwalker

      rommel you comments are ususl instructive but sadly you are commenting on sometthing you know nothing about. the project is a huge and sad scam and it stems from the fact that in Nigeria when you are a governor you become a demigod otherwise. This is the most insane project ever thought up in nigeria. 10km on each side is true and no one is talking. the intention is to sell the wood and land to pay for the road. No due process has been done. the govenor and jis brother just do anything they want. Cross river State big men depend on Government for patronage. hardly any has ever made anything outside government. The former governor imoke should be blamed for foisting this juvenile on the people. I know Cross River enough so dont give opinions on something you know nothing about

  • S. A. Maigari

    Is this a news story or an opinion piece? Which of the so-called advanced countries have built their high ways without cutting through forests? They even cut through mountains and lay huge pipes for speed trains to pass through. Development cost so much, including causing environmental degradation and other ills. It is a people’s choice, develop or remain static and primitive.

  • Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    I wonder what should government do to develop Cross Rivers State,if people are complaining about the super-higway-project which the cross Rivers State government embarked on? People are very difficult to satisfy.If government is working people would complain,if government is idle do nothing to improve their lives,

    • Obuol Dunn

      So tell me please where you think 700 billion naira will come from for this project – through the richest rainforest Nigeria has left? There is no World Bank or Federal money. There is no proof of ANY foreign investment, so why would a private sector Nigerian-based company want to spent this sort of money on an infrastructure project which wouldn’t make them any money? Why is a strip 20km wide needed for a 50m wide road? Why has NO EIA been done of ANY type and why has no survey been done on the ground. Anyone with an IQ of more than 50 should be able to put these together and realise that the plan isn’t for a superhighway but a logging operation to make a few people very rich. No superhighway can ever come out of what we have at the moment. How can it be anything but a tissue of lies? The timber value of the forest inside this massive 20km strip is worth multiple billions, there will be tracks all right but only enough to remove the timber and destroy the forest and the lives of the people who depend on it.

  • Toughie Man

    The CRS govt is building a highway and not an airway. For any road construction to be carried out successfully structures must go for the road to stand. Let’s leave sentiments aside and concentrate on the project. Whether it was a small footpath the environmentalists will always conduct their ‘alarming’ reports and quote all the sources in to support their claims, whether out of context or not.