An unusual traffic logjam was experienced by motorists for hours along some major streets in Calabar, Cross River State Capital on Wednesday as a group of women and some youths embarked on a street protest to express their concern over reports that Environmental Impact Assessment EIA report for the construction of a 260 km superhighway is not accepted in the Federal Ministry of Environment.
They carried banners and placards with inscriptions such as; “Cross Riverians say no to conspiracy against superhighway”, “Superhighway our dream for a better tomorrow”, “our economic development depends on the superhighway”, “You can’t hate us and love our forest”.
The protesters denounced what they described as conspiracy by some International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and their local collaborators against the project. They therefore, urged the Federal Government to disregard the antics of the NGOs and ensure timely approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for commencement of construction work on the superhighway.
President National Youth Council of Nigeria, Cross River State Council, Comrade Ndiyo Ndiyo, who addressed the protesters described as unfair treatment of the state’s EIA report, warned: “We want everybody including the International community and the Federal Ministry of Environment to know that the youths of Cross River State say no one should play politics with our developmental efforts! Nobody should sacrifice Cross River State for selfish gains!” “When they developed Abuja was there no forest? When they developed China, didn’t they tamper with their forest? What about other developed countries? Did they develop them without touching their forest? So why is Cross River State’s case different? We hereby pass vote of confidence on the project.”
Ndiyo called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the approval of the EIA for the project, even as he demanded that the state be paid compensation for preserving its forest over the years.
On her part, Leader of the women group, Mrs. Vivian Imogbo said the need for the superhighway could not be overemphasized given the deplorable state of the only existing highway, which is a federal road. “We want superhighway because the only federal highway that we have is in very bad state. Our women who travel on that road to different markets die on that road every day. Recently some of our Reverend Sisters died on that road. “Governor Ben Ayade knows what is good for us, that is why he initiated the superhighway project and our deep seaport project to ameliorate the untold hardship we face daily on the bad federal road in the state.”
Thirteen International Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), had petitioned the federal government, expressing concerns about the process, and content of the documents of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the project. Based in the American continent, Europe, and Africa, the NGOs in their petition to the federal government, listed twenty seven grounds on which they are faulting the EIA document for the proposed super highway presented by the state government to the federal ministry of environment. The petition addressed to the Minister of Environment, Hajia Amina Mohammed, dated May 25, 2016, entitled “Comments On The EIA Of The Proposed Calabar-Ikom-Katsina Ala Superhighway Project: Draft Report Submitted To The Federal Ministry Of Environment,” was signed by Fred Kwame, Africa Regional Head, WWF International, Switzerland; John Robinson, Executive Vice President, Wildlife Conservation Society, USA (United States of America); Hazell Thompson, Birdlife International, UK; Jonathan Bailie, Zoological Society of London, UK; Richard Bergl, North Carolina Zoo, USA; Russ Mittermeier, Conservation International, USA; Mark Rose, Fauna and Flora International, UK; Adeniyi Karunwi, Executive Director, Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Lagos; Tunde Morakinyo, Founder and Director, Iroko Foundation, UK; John Oates, Hunter College, City University of NY, USA; Ako Amadi, Executive Director, Community Conservation and Development Initiative (CCDI), Nigeria; and Zoe Parr, Consultant, Botswana.” In the petition made available to journalists in Calabar, the NGOs expressed their concerns over the EIA document, and demanded that a fresh EIA be done while communities are paid compensation by the state government for grabbing and clearing their lands in a manner they described as illegal.