The problem of the Superhighway in respect of the ecological integrity of the rainforest ecosystem and the livelihoods of the affected people has been a matter of great concern globally. The sitting of the project in sensitive ecosystem is likely to cause damaging environmental and social consequences that may not be mitigatable. The legal requirements that mandatorily demand a full and authentic Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report has not been met adequately. International and local experts have declared all four attempts by the proponent at producing an acceptable EIA report as being deficient, non-compliant, fraudulent and environmentally defective. The Federal Ministry of Environment has recently issued the proponent 23 conditions to fulfill, before commencing the project. This conditional approval would appear to be outside the premise of the EIA Law, CAP. E12; the Land Use Act No. 6 of 1978 and, the National Park Service Act CAP. N65. Consequently, several unanswered questions and unaddressed issues pertaining to the project have arisen and are summarized below.
What is the development on the matter of payment of compensations in line with the provisions of the Land Use Act, to persons and communities that have already lost properties on the Superhighway project? This matter is contained in the 23 conditions issued by the Ministry of Environment to be fulfilled by the Cross River State government within two weeks which has long expired;
What is the final map of the superhighway project? Have the critical rainforest ecosystems and conservation territories been excluded?
The alignment of the superhighway project amounts to creating a road corridor through the only intact pristine rainforest estate of the Cross River State, contiguous with the rainforest of the Cameroon Republic. What assurance can the State government headed by Ben Ayade offer pertaining to preservation of the ecological integrity of the rainforest ecosystem in the present as well as the future?
Is there a possibility that the superhighway project is the beginning of the end of the Cross River State rainforest and its rich biodiversity?
To what extend is this project ensuring that people are not being displace; losing their livelihood and escalating the number of already existing communal land disputes in the state?
Outside the 23 conditions, must the Cross River State Government insist on borrowing and spending a N200billion which it does not have, on a super highway whose investment bankability is questionably heading for a loss? Why not invest in more pressing infrastructural needs exiting the state like; improving the schools and university infrastructures, soft loans for young business starters in the state, electricity projects especially in agricultural processing communities, security improvements considering the rising rate of cult clashes and armed robbery in the states; investing in the forest tourism; ranching, and aqua-culture, rail transports, carbon credits for forestation, etc. What is wrong in fixing the existing two (2) Federal government route that covers the same destination as the super highway; especially when the federal government re-reimburses the states that repair FG roads?
These and more questions deserve answers from the Cross River state government. There seem to be a widening communication gap between the people and state government especially when it comes to the choice developmental projects. If we must grow in peace as a people, then the feeling, thoughts and impact of developmental choices on affected the citizens need to be considered and satisfactorily taken care of before project take-off; else the government will only succeed in widening the inequality gap in the society; leading to more societal conflict and emerging crime, insurgency and anarchy.
Ogechi Nnabugwu is a Senior Programme Officer, Climate Transformation and Energy Remediation Society (CLIMATTERS), Abuja.
Email: [email protected]
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)